The Appearance of Women in Turkey

Second Category – The Appearance of Women in Turkey

The tweets in this category each place expectations on women in Turkish society, including maintaining a particular body shape, looking well-groomed and smelling nice. The eight tweets in this category included each of those expectations, and are grouped into the following subcategories:

•                Having an ‘Ideal’ Body – Expectations about looking ‘ideal’

•                Being Well-Groomed – Expectations about looking well-groomed

The tweets will be analysed by using sub-headings for each sub category respectively.

Having an ‘Ideal’ Body – Expectations about looking ‘ideal’

The four tweets in this subcategory mention the expectations for women to have an ideal body, according to the operative social standards and perceptions.

Tweet 1

Women should be between 155 cm and 170 cm in height. Women who are between 185 and 190 cm look like the Eiffel Tower. (Female)

The user of Tweet 1 says that ‘a woman should be between 155 cm and 170 cm tall. Women who are between 185 and 190 cm look like the Eiffel Tower’. Eiffel Tower was for a long time the tallest structure in Europe at about 300 m. The post implies that women should not be as tall as described in the tweet.

Tweet 2

Ideal body size for women is around 34-36, guys. Women cannot be size 42; I mean, they should not be more than 38 at most. People who advocate the contrary are chubby. (Female)

Tweet 3

#happyfullfiguredwomanday women should be a bit curvy; others are like a bag of bones. (Female)

Tweet 4

Women should eat less and be slim. There are pods of whales everywhere these days. (Male)

These tweets mention the same issue about certain aspects of women’s bodies. The tweets define how women’s bodies should be, expressing restrictive ideas about the size and body shapes of women. Those indicate that women should be slim rather than over-weight, using derogatory language. In Tweet 4, women who are somewhat overweight are assimilated to whales. This increases the negative impact and discriminatory nature of the tweet. The expression ‘bag of bones’ in Tweet 3 regulates women’s bodies from the other perspective, stating that women should not have too slim a body by using this negative phrase.

Being Well-Groomed – Expectations about looking well-groomed


The four tweets in this subcategory invoke expectations that women should look good and be well-groomed as perceived socially.


Tweet 1

Women should smell of perfume, not cigarettes. If a woman smokes, she is in the forefront with 3-0.  (Male)

Tweet 2

Women should smell like perfume but you smell like a stinking cigarette. (Male)

The authors of these tweets believe that women should not smell of cigarettes but should smell perfume. Tweet 2 calls out to someone who smokes cigarettes, saying ‘you smell like a stinking cigarette’. According to tweet, if a woman smokes cigarettes, she will have less chance of a relationship with the user.

Tweet 3

Women should know how to wear lipstick. (Male)

Tweet 4

Women should be well-groomed. Women should be dignified. Women should be good-looking. (Male)

These tweets indicate that women should always look good and appear beautiful, to meet the social ideal of beauty. From Tweet 3, it can be observed that women are always expected to be seen in makeup. Furthermore, Tweet 4 suggests that women should be well-groomed and dignified; he identifies dignity with personal appearance. This shows that how society evaluates women according to their appearances rather than their other qualities.


To conclude, the tweets analysed in this section demonstrate the underlying significance of the situation and perception of women in Turkey, setting out men’s expectations for women to have an ideal body and specifying certain norms of appearance and behaviour. For women or men to comment on and regulate the bodies of women in this way helps to create and sustain patriarchal society.




Third Category

The Expected Behaviour of Women in Turkey

The tweets in this category, concerning women’s behaviour deals with various expectations placed on women in society, including such specific behaviours as being demure and decent. These 14 Tweets cover various social norms for women in Turkish society, grouped into the following subcategories:

•                    Specific Behaviours – Expectations from women to be decent and demure


•                    Lifestyle – Consuming less alcohol than men


•                    Style of Speech – Not using slang


The Tweets will be analysed by using headings within each subcategory respectively.


Specific Behaviours – Expectations from women to be decent and demure


The 8 tweets in this subcategory mention such specific behavioural characteristics as being decent, demure, well-behaved and graceful.


Tweet 1

Women should be demure and dignified. (Female)


Tweet 2

Women should be decent! They should be well-behaved, honest, respectful and loyal. A woman should be a lady and should know what to say and what not to say. (Female)

Tweet 3

Women should not deviate from elegance. A woman can state her opinions while remaining a lady. #womenaretalking (Female)

The tweets above claim that all women should be honourable, demure and elegant, and should behave earnestly and politely. This leads them to live under social rules and limitations that constrain them from pursuing their goals and expressing their identities. A related value is associated with ‘being demure’ by the author of Tweet 2. As stated in the previous paragraph, this Twitter post also signifies the importance of morality for women. According to patriarchal society, ‘being demure’, protecting themselves from communicating with too many people by talking too much, reduces the possibility of a non-marital relationship with a man. Consequently, it is thought by some that being demure protects the chastity of woman.

Tweet 4

Women should be honourable

Their words should include propriety and morals

They should not stain their honour

They should hold only the hands of their men. (Male)

Tweet 5

Men should protect their wives as entrusted to them by God, Women should feel ashamed about opening their veil to someone who does not belong in their ‘private’ sphere. (Male)

Tweet 6

Women should be virtuous, otherwise they don’t deserve to be married. (Male)

These tweets above emphasise for women to be earnest and to protect their chastity and honour in terms of the relationship between men and women. The author of Tweet 4 states that women should only have a relationship with their husband throughout their lives, or else they can be labelled socially as dishonourable. Moreover, the author of Tweet 5 defines ‘preserving their private’ for someone as wearing a veil, and thinks that women should feel guilty if they do not do so in public. In Tweet 6, if a woman cannot be consistently moral, they do not deserve to marry anyone. The underlying meaning of these Twitter posts suggests how religion has shaped patriarchal Turkish culture; among the virtues articulated in the Qur’an, one of those most emphasised is chastity (Yaran, 2005). Also, any relationship between men and women apart from the marriage is identified as adultery (Holy Qur’an, 6/151). Therefore, society sees women who have a relationship outside of marriage as immoral and loose women. The ideas embedded in those tweets may have arisen from such sources.

Tweet 7

Women should give their eye teeth for their chastity. (Female)

According to the author of Tweet 7, women must do everything they to keep their chastity. The idiom used, ‘give their eye teeth for their chastity’ emphasises the necessity of being honourable and protecting their virtue. This (female) user expects women to do everything in their power to keep their chastity.


Tweet 8

Women should present herself like a cemetery for strangers but like a garden for the men they love. (Female)


The author of Tweet 8 thinks that if a woman behaves in too warm and friendly a way to another person, especially to a man, society considers the woman to be dishonourable. The user describes being cold and serious using the metaphor of ‘a cemetery’ because they are associated with seriousness as they remind people of death. However, the author of the post also wants women to behave in a warm, welcoming way to their boyfriends or husbands, ‘like a garden’. The latter term brings to mind the plants, flowers and creatures that live and grow in such places. Thus, The author of the tweet uses this word to describe the way women should show affection towards the men whom they love. Nevertheless,


the tweet expresses the social norm that women can be like a garden only for ‘their’ men, and not for others, because of the necessity to protect their dignity.


The notions of honour dignity, honour, chastity and virtue can be often named differently as to cultures and societies and also, it can be interpreted with gender patterns (Peristiany, 1966). The patriarchal control mechanisms on the sexuality of women conflict with the protection of women rights and gender equality. To control the sexuality and body of women is one of the feature of male dominant societies. The role expected from the women in a patriarchal society is that they should protect their purity. Women in their early ages learn from their families how to proctect their bodies and the importance for that. Therefore, they have worry and shame for relations with opposite sex. ( cinsellik-ve-insan-haklari) This shows that how the social control is dominant on the sexuality of women.


Men who are the head of household and the owner of the property can control and direct the sexuality of women in the family, the fertility of women and all of their life spaces (Kahraman, 2010). It is expected from women that they should not desire the sexuality and they should react to only their husband. Women abstain from to say to men what they find sexually stimulatory and they do not reject to their men although they are not stimulated for the intercourse. They tend to avoid from the manners which increase their pleasure, therefore, their sexual function can be affected negatively ( ). One reason for the male control on the sexuality of women is the cultural factor. In Turkey, there is a perception in the society to prove the passivity of women in their private lives. According to this perception, if a woman hide her sexuality and have a “shame “, she can be treated as a virtuous woman. However, the society do not accept the validity of the same condition for men; namely, men do not need to hide their sexuality and they cannot be treated as a virtueless if they do something seen sexually “shame” for the society. (Peristiany, 1966)






Lifestyle – Consuming less alcohol than men

The three tweets in this subcategory express expectations held by men about women’s consumption of alcoholic beverages. It can be understood from Twitter posts in this subcategory that men expect women to consume less alcohol, or only specific types of alcoholic drinks. According to these men, since women are weak and fragile, they cannot consume drinks higher in alcohol or consume as much in public as men do.


Tweet 1

Women should not smell of raki; they should smell of peace by performing an ablution. They should be praying repeatedly rather than swearing … absolute propriety. (Male)

Tweet 1 indicates that women should not smell of raki (a traditional alcoholic drink) and that, contrary to this, they should smell of peace by preparing to pray. There is no direct meaning of ‘smelling of peace’. However, the user used this phrase to connect women with prayer and decency. From the rest of the post, the user expects women to perform ablutions so they ‘smell of peace’ and expects them to pray.

Tweet 2

Woman should drink a half-pint glass of beer. God please protect me from women who drink a pint glass of beer. (Male)

The author of Tweet 2 thinks that women should drink only a half-pint glass of beer and comments that ‘God, please protect me from women who drink a pint glass of beer’. According to this Twitter post, women who drink beer by the pint glass are to be avoided.


Tweet 3

Drinking raki is suitable only for truck drivers. Women should be elegant. (Male)

The author of Tweet 3 states that women should not drink raki; if they drink raki, they cannot be elegant, but are more like truck drivers. In Turkey, truck drivers are stereotyped as very masculine men. Therefore, in relation to this Twitter post, it can be said that as women are expected to be elegant, they should drink beverages that are appropriate for them and that do not make them seem like men.


Speech Style – Not using slang

The two tweets in this subcategory express expectations that women should not use slang words in public.

Tweet 1

My sisters! You cannot swear anyway. Women should be a resource of kindness and elegance. (Male)

The author of Tweet 1 states that women should not swear or use bad words as men do, since they should be always kind and elegant in public. Because our public behaviour involves the presentation of the self (as proposed by Goffman, 2009), using slang words involves a presentation of the self, which is seen as inappropriate for women. The ideal audience is understood to consist of men (Bağlı, 2011)., and one sense in which they watch women is to be guardians of their morals. This Twitter post therefore offers a good example of the regulation of women’s behaviour regarding the presentation of the self.

To conclude this section, these tweets contain underlying understandings of the meanings of the behaviour of women in Turkey, especially regarding being demure and morally pure, and not engaging in specific actions (e.g. smoking, drinking and swearing), which are assigned to men. According to Goffman (2009), women are prevented from being or expressing themselves in society as they are faced with shame. Therefore, under the hegemony of a male-dominated culture like Turkey, women are expected to behave according to the norms of their gender, so as to not be stigmatised or experience discrimination in society.



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