Autonomy and Dependence in the Family: Turkey and Sweden in Critical Perspective

By Rita Liljeström; Elisabeth Özdalga | Go to book overview
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Family Work in Working Class Households in Turkey 1

HALE BOLAK

There is still a relative scarcity of culturally situated studies of the interrelationship between paid work and the allocation of family work in households where women are gainfully employed. This is particularly true of how women strategize to negotiate the contradictions of being full-time workers inside and outside the home. Critical mediators of how this negotiation takes place include relationship dynamics, cultural constructions of gender, access to kin and other support systems, household composition, and situational imperatives, including work schedules. These factors inform women's expectations about, and the negotiation of, family work. Analyses of the complex lives of urban women from specific Middle Eastern contexts are particularly needed to problematize the notion of “working women” and Orientalist accounts of “cultural difference.” Thus, in this article, I address the negotiation of family work in the households of blue-collar women in urban Turkey from a perspective that highlights the structural, cultural, and symbolic barriers to equality.

Although full-time paid employment by women is generally associated with greater involvement by husbands in family work, women generally have the greater role in family work and the greater overall combined burden of domestic and paid work. International comparative research suggests that there is no simple and direct relationship between increased labour participation by women and change in domestic relationships. In fact, entrenched gender ideologies, such as the sharp segregation of male and female spheres in Japan, can be a major obstacle to change (Stockman, Bonney and Xuewen 1995).

There has been a growing emphasis on the symbolic and gendered meanings of paid and unpaid work. In the nineties, the most productive lines of research have focused on the relationships between how people understand family work, perceived fairness of allocation, and relationship satisfaction. Men's and women's beliefs about who should be responsible for what, their agreement on the relative importance of female earnings, and the extent to which they perceive the responsibilities of breadwinning and family work to be interconnected, have emerged as some of the factors that influence men's involvement in family work in dual-earner households. For example, Hochschild's (1989) concept of the “economy of gratitude” has been used as a critical mediator of men's participation in family work (Pyke 1994). Unfortunately, there are still relatively few qualitative and longitudinal case studies exploring household dynamics, the subtleties of marital negotiations, and the strategies and choices men and women make to cope with the demands of their situation.

1 A previous version of this article has been published in Gender and Society, see Bolak 1997.

Hale Bolak

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