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Gender, Violence and Power in Contemporary Turkish Media

As Liesbet van Zoonen argues, media representation has always been an important battleground for contemporary feminism, in the sense that feminists are “not only engaged in a material struggle about equal rights and opportunities for women, but also in a symbolic conflict about definitions of femininity (and by omission masculinity)” (van Zoonen, 1999, p. 12). In this field, questions of gender, interconnected with power, culture and violence, are striking. As Cucklanz and Moorti argue, media representations may be used as a “vantage point from which to examine that ways in which gendered violence is now apprehended; media portrayals shed light on the dominant understandings of the concept and also reveal the particular contestations and anxieties that prevail around the topic” (Cucklanz & Moorti 2009: 2). However, as Jenny Kitzinger (2004) also argues, even though media recognition has helped to acknowledge the existence of previously invisible experiences, survivors’ experiences have been “appropriated” and their lives have been made into a “public property” by the media. Thus, Kitzinger calls media recognition a “double-edged sword”, since “silence and invisibility is not the only way in which power can operate” (Ibid: 47). The media makes visible women’s experiences of violence, but it is the media’s stories, chosen and interpreted for different purposes.

The ways in which women were represented in the media has always been a concern for feminists in Turkey, and with the growing LGBTI rights movement the representation of LGBTI have also been given growing attention. The media has appeared to be an arena where the reconfirmation of stereotypes and reproduction of subordination were both visible and had great impact, but also an arena where hegemonic conceptions and oppression were contested. As a case in point, in 2006, MEDIZ, a women’s media-watch project, held a conference, carried out research and published a book on “Sexism in the Media”, which demonstrated that the representation and visibility of women in the media was alarmingly low in terms of numbers, and likewise sexist in terms of content (MEDIZ 2006). Since then, the discussion among activists and academics, and in the media, has continued. At about the same time, initiated a project: The publication Gender Based Journalism, one of the outcomes of the meetings and workshops taking place within the project, covers a wide range of issues of relevance when addressing women’s rights violations in the media – and also when ‘showing how the present practice of journalism may be transformed’ (Alankuş 2007)..

A few years later (2009), initiated a systematic counting of cases of violence against women, which have had an impact on policy making on the issue in Turkey. Thus the discussions on gender, violence and power in the media in Turkey were not at that time and are still not today limited to that of representation. Instead the interconnection of different actors on and in relation to the media arena have been a feminist concern, including initiatives that would indeed work towards changing journalism as a practice.

In line with approach, the organizers/editors Åsa Eldén and Berna Ekal carried out joint research project between 2010-2013, The aim was to understand how the media in Turkey depicts men’s violence and the interaction between media, the women’s movement and politicians (see e.g. Eldén & Ekal 2015). At the end of this project in 2013, we held a conference that was also published a book – Men’s violence, visibility and the media, working on the media with a critical sociological gaze as a cultural arena at which conceptions and understandings are shaped, and focus on how stories about gender and violence are told (Ekal & Eldén 2014). The conference discussed gendered violence on the media arena from different angles; the growing visibility, popular culture as entertainment/education/debate, and in the interaction with the state.

Workshop at the Swedish Research Institute (26/10/2018)

The aim of this present workshop, Gender, Violence and Power in Contemporary Turkish Media taking place at the Swedish Research Institute in Istanbul on 26 October 2018 is to further the findings of this 2013 conference and revisit and revise the questions asked and analysis done five years ago.

The questions that we would like to deal with include, but are not limited to, the following (all with a focus on Turkey)

  • How do media become an arena for discussions about gendered violence, that brings together different actors like feminists, media professionals and/or public authorities?

  • How do women and LGBTI rights activists cope with gendered violence in online media? Is the visibility of gendered violence in the media somehow connected to changes in journalism as a practice?

  • What is the role of popular media like talk shows and series in the construction of a common understanding of gendered violence?

  • How do feminists counteract the making of survivors as ‘public media property’?

Abstracts and proposals

The papers presented in the workshop will be considered for the special issue Gender, Violence and Power in Contemporary Turkish Media to be published in European Journal of Turkish Studies (EJTS) Spring 2019.

Please send in your title and 250 words abstract before July 15th.


Berna Ekal, Istanbul Altınbaş University, <berna (dot) simsek (at) altinbas (dot) edu (dot) tr>

Åsa Eldén, Stockholm University Institute for Turkish Studies, <asa (dot) elden (at) su (dot) se


Alankuş, Sevda (2007a) (ed) Gender Based Journalism. bianet.

Cucklanz, Lisa M and Sujata Moorti (2009) Local Violence, Global Media. Feminist Analyses of Gendered Representations. New York: Peter Lang.

Ekal, Berna and Åsa Eldén (2014) Erkek Şiddeti, Görünürlük ve Medya (Men’s Violence, Visibility and the Media), Istanbul: KAYA.

Eldén, Åsa and Berna Ekal (2015) “From Icons to Emblematic Cases. The Media and Murders of Women in Turkey” Middle East Journal of Culture and Communication 8:124-145.

Kitzinger, Jenny (2004) Framing Abuse. Media Influence and Public Understanding of Sexual Violence against Children. London & Ann Arbor, MI: Pluto Press.

MEDIZ (2006) End to sexism in the media!/Medya cinsiyetçiliğe son!, Istanbul: MEDIZ.

van Zoonen, Liesbet (1999) Feminist Media Studies. London: Sage.

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