Academic journal article Kadin/Woman 2000

A Comparative Analysis of Familialist Modernisation and Gender Inequality: Turkey and Japan/Aile Temelli Modernlesme Ve Toplumsal Cinsiyet Esitsizligi Uzerine Karsilastirmali Analiz: Turkiye Ve Japonya Ornegi

Academic journal article Kadin/Woman 2000

A Comparative Analysis of Familialist Modernisation and Gender Inequality: Turkey and Japan/Aile Temelli Modernlesme Ve Toplumsal Cinsiyet Esitsizligi Uzerine Karsilastirmali Analiz: Turkiye Ve Japonya Ornegi

Article excerpt

Introduction

Notwithstanding geographical distance, cultural differences and different courses of industrialisation, Turkey and Japan have some common historical backgrounds which could make a comparative study of women's social positions quite interesting. Firstly, both were among the few countries which were never colonised and initiated their modernisation projects in response to the pressures of the Western powers. Secondly, women's emancipation was an integral part of early modernisation projects in both countries. Thirdly, both played a leading role in each region, the Middle East and East Asia, in terms of modernisation, industrialisation and women's emancipation between the late 19th century and the early 20th century. Fourthly, both opted a familialist welfare model as they were intensely integrated into global capitalist economy. Lastly, each country is one of the lowest-ranked countries in gender equality indexes today. In other words, Turkey and Japan are among the countries where gender inequality persists in a considerable way in spite of their successful attempt for early modernisation, women's emancipation as well as economic development.

This paper examines how the experiences of Turkey and Japan converge and diverge in their struggles for a new gender order in modern society from a feminist political-economic perspective. Currently, they are among the low ranked countries in various gender equality indexes. For example, Turkey and Japan ranked 130th and 110th respectively out of 149 countries in the 2018 gender gap report of the World Economic Forum, regressing from their rankings a decade ago (WEF, 2018: 139, 277). Shapes of radar area of gender-gap measurements are almost identical for two countries. Turkey made remarkable progresses in health and education in the last decades. Japan has no or negligible gender gaps in those areas. Yet they perform poorly against women in the areas of economic participation and political empowerment.

Gender inequality is a persistently universal phenomenon yet its form varies by time, place and social group. It is shaped by socioeconomic dynamics and political negotiations. In this recognition, a feminist political-economic approach pays particular attentions to an interconnection of systems of inequality, historical contingencies and personal troubles when it tries to understand women's subordination. This paper attempts to contextualise women's troubles in Turkey and Japan by local history of modernisation, a role of the state, and socioeconomic dynamics of each country. Understanding the roles of macro powers in women's particular hardship provides us with valuable insights while studying women's agency certainly helps a deeper understanding of intricate micro politics of patriarchy. In her Forward to Kumari Jawardena's classic, Feminism and Nationalism in the Third World, Rafia Zakaria (2016) warns against contemporary feminism critiquing away from state policies and turning to the individual woman and her empowerment in these neoliberal and post-feminist times.

The Second Wave feminism raised powerful feminist consciousness and produced theories which accounted women's subordination as a structural and political problem. When it comes to women in non-Western countries, however, their oppression was, and is still frequently, deliberated in cultural terms. This current of thought largely derives from neo-modernisation theory. Classic modernisation theory assumed social change as an overall universal historical movement from "traditional" to "modern" (So, 1990). When global political-economic developments, such as NICs' rapid economic growth without a consolidation of democracy and gender equality, challenged its major assumptions, many scholars sought an explanation in Asian cultures, especially religions, as an obstacle to 'true' modernisation (So, 1990). In particular, a cultural approach to women's subordination in non-Western societies was embraced not only by the neo-modernist scholarship but also by the Western liberalists who upheld cultural relativism as well as Asian nationalist scholars who defended distinctiveness of their own cultures (Erturk, 1991). …

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