Turkish Women – How and Why They Are Different?

I remember when I was a law student, I traveled to Germany for a Harvard University law student conference. We rented a house with four of my girlfriends, and I was the only boy in the group. 

The German lady who was the landlord of the house that we rented in Heidelbergrefused to shake my hand to give me a gender equality lesson.

She shook my girlfriend’s hands first. She said something like “In Germany, women are first ”. 

I was puzzled to see how Turkish society was seen as a women-oppressed society. 

In front of this German lady, there were Turkish ladies with mini skirts in their 20s roaming Europe freely with a non-romantic boyfriend and they were attending an international law conference.

Yet, because of her prejudices, she was seeing oppressed Turkish women.

In Turkish society, Turkish women’s status is not worse or better than in European countries, yet their advantages and disadvantages are different.

We still have traditions that can be seen against gender equality from a Western perspective. Yet, Turkey is one of the first countries in the world to give women full rights. 

Turkey is the first country to have a women Constitutional Court President and a women fighter pilot in the world. 

Here is some solid data that can outline women’s roles in Turkey.

Jobs in TurkeyNumber of WomenPercentageNumber of MenPercentageSource
Judges270634,5%514765,5%Council of Judges and Prosecutors
Public Prosecutor3147,2%403492,8%Council of Judges and Prosecutors
Lawyers65.53345,72%77.79754,28%Union of Bar Association
Deputies in the Turkish Parliament10117,38%48082,62%Turkish Parliament 
University Students4.041.23249%4.178.28651%Council of Higher Education
University Teachers81.66145,36%98.40454,64%Council of Higher Education
Men and Women Percentages in Turkey

I have so much to tell you.

In this article, as a Turkish, I explain all the things about Turkish women, their life, how they look, what they wear, common characteristics, culture, and women’s rights in Turkey.

Turkish Women’s Facial Features

Turkish women are gorgeous women but it’s not because of their looks but due to their aura.

Turkey is at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, for this reason, it is common to see Turkish women with European, Asian, and Mediterranean looks. 

Generally speaking, Turkish women have round faces with feminine facial features, brown hair tones, and brown eyes. Eyes are not usually round but almond-shaped due to Asian ancestry.

Natural blonde hair is not common, yet a big portion of Turkish women dye their hair blonde.

Izmir is the city known to have the most beautiful women. This is due to two reasons. One is that Izmir is mostly settled with Turkish refugees from the Balkans and Europe after the First World War. Thus more people are more European looking. 

Second, Izmir is also known as the most liberal Turkish city with excellent beaches, thus nature and culture make women here happier, flirtatious, and more confident. 

You will also see many attractive women while walking in the high streets of Istanbul.

You can see the Central Asian Ancestry of my wife by her almond-shaped eyes.

What Do Turkish Women Look Like?

Turkish women mostly look the typical Mediterranean with Central Asian and European features. The average Turkish woman is between 1.55 and 1.70. 

According to Wikipedia, the average height of Turkish women are 161,9 m (531 ft 2 in).

Turkish women are usually brunettes with white to light brown skin color.

To have a better opinion, you can look up some finest examples of Turkish women like Azra Akin. She was crowned Miss World in 2002.

Keriman Halis was Turkey’s first Miss Universe. Her beauty is different from modern beauty, yet there is something classical and elegant about the way she looks.

Dilhan Eryurt, a woman from Izmir worked in NASA’s Apollo Program from 1961 to 1973. She then came back to Turkey and established the Astrophysics department at the prestigious Middle East Technical University. Later she became the Dean of Science and Arts Faculty.

General Characteristics of Turkish Women

Regarding Turkish women, everyone has their own perspective on them. Some label them as jealous, some as modest, and some as multi-talented. 

Turkish women have countless great qualities that can fascinate most people. It’s not a surprise that our culture has some effects on women’s personalities. 

Generally speaking, some Turkish women are very caring, loving, and selfless mothers.

Sabiha Gokcen is the first women fighter pilot in the world. The photo was taken on her Balkan tour in 1938. You may also know her from the Sabiha Gokcen International Airport named after her in Istanbul.

Turkey, in general, is a very family-oriented country. Additionally, the concept of motherhood is very important in Turkish culture. Especially in their 20s, women in Turkey are more likely to get married. 

Yet, in their 30s Turkish women are powerful enough to make more personal decisions and feel freer to reject roles defined by society.

People tend to believe that it’s hard to date Turkish women because they are very traditional.

Yet, other than being family-oriented, Turkish women are mostly not conservative, as for my personal experience Turkish women are more open-minded than Turkish men.

Samiye Cahit Morkaya – first Turkish woman car racer (A photo from the 1930s)

As long as they feel that they are understood, Turkish women can be the best partner in life.

Women who live in coastal areas and metropolitan areas are far more educated, flirtatious, and dress elegantly. Izmir, Eskisehir, and Antalya are known for the beauty of their girls. 

Yet, the difference does not lie with the place the women were born, the difference lies mostly in the more liberal cultures of these cities where women grew up.

Meral Aksener is the former interior minister of Turkey. Now she is the leader of the 2nd biggest opposition party in Turkey. In the picture, You can see Meral Aksener with my sister’s family.

Turkish Women’s Dating and Family Life

Every woman’s expectations of relationships are different. Yet, as a society Turkish people tend to share common traits.

One of the traits of Turkish society is to be very family-centric. The traditional cycle for Turkish women is going to school, graduating with a profession, getting married, and having kids. 

The same is true for Turkish men, the only difference for men, they need to serve in the military after graduation.

After the 1960s, education and having a profession is seen as a must, and being a housewife is not an option as it was in the days of my parents.

Today, if you are looking to share family life, Turkish women are great partners. Most Turkish women are very passionate and loyal in relationships. They also tend to be caring not just for you and your children, but also for your parents.

Living with an unmarried partner may be accepted by liberals, yet it would be considered shameful by most Turkish people.

Marriage is an important concept in Turkey. In Turkish culture, meeting and getting parents’ approval for a relationship is a very important step, because marriage is seen as a union of two families, not just two partners.

Family is the cornerstone of Turkish Society. (Photo of my family)

In Turkish culture, senior group homes are not widely accepted. For this reason, your partner may ask for her elder parent to live with you or in a house near you, so that she can take care of them.

Additionally, Turkish women tend to act as if they’re the mothers of their partners. The majority of Turkish men like this situation.

These are the good effects of a family-oriented culture. At first glance, these appear to be of fantastic quality. Yet, there are downsides.

Turkish women tend to attach too much value to their partners, and for this reason, jealousy is a common trait. 

Turkish parents can be overly protective of their children. They usually don’t have any bad intentions, but this can limit children’s ability to stand on their own feet.

Especially, women tend to live with their parents until they get married. It is not common for daughters or sons to leave their parent’s homes after they reach the legal age.

Only two reasons are common for leaving the parent’s home, education reasons or marriage.

Semiha Es – First Turkish War Reporter in 1950 during Korean War.

Living alone is getting more common these days, yet it is also common to live with your parents for Turkish men and women even if you are in your 30s. 

This situation is one of the major differences in Turkish society, and Turkish people do spend all their life either with their parent’s family or their own family, not living alone as individuals.

I’ve always found Turkish women so strong, adaptable, and strong-willed.

The first female Deputies in the Turkish Parliament were elected in the 8 February 1935 general elections.

Turkish Women’s Worklife – Turkish Cultural Difference in the Role of Women and Men

Turkish women work in many professions. They are political leaders, jet pilots, university professors, and judges.

There is no law banning women from becoming something in Turkey, and Turkish women can become anything they like their modern western counterparts.

Historically gender equality is more rooted in Turkish culture than in most cultures. Central Asian nomadic culture where men and women collaborate as equals with different duties.

Yet, the rules of the society are different due to Turkish traditions and therefore may seem to limit the freedom of Turkish women. 

Let me explain the classical roles of Turkish Women and Men and so that you can better understand Turkish people.

Turkish women are strong. (Picture of my sister.)

Turkish culture is hugely influenced by Turkic Central Asian Nomadic culture. 

In a nomadic lifestyle, women and men were both needed to work to survive. Men organized traveling to get more resources and hard work. Women organized everything about settling and managing resources.

Since nomadic times, in classical Turkish society home and family is the place where women rule. Men are obliged to manage outside relations, work, and provide for the family.

You can see this tradition also in the Ottoman palace. Sultan (King) ruled the dominion and external relations. 

On the other hand, the palace was ruled by the female ruler. Sultan’s mom ruled the harem and decided what Sultan should eat, who he should marry, and who he will sleep with at night.

You can even see work distribution in wars. Turkish women supply and manage resources while men fight on the frontlines.

Turkish Men and Women worked together to win the Turkish War of Independence. In a photo from 1923, the banner says “We won the Republic like this.”

Another example is the Turkish language. The Turkish language is gender-neutral. Turkish does not have feminine or masculine word separation, unlike most Latin Languages.

Also, nearly most Turkish titles are the same for women and men. For example, both King and Queen are called Sultan.

A picture from my pre-wedding ceremony. You can see modern and hijab styles in the picture. My wife is wearing a traditional Turkish dress.

What Do Women Wear in Turkey?

The majority of Turkish women wear casual clothing styles. Turkish women with religious views wear Abayas and headscarves. Elderly women also use headscarves to cover their white hair. 

Arabic-style black veils are non-existent in Turkey. 

Public nudity is not accepted, and there are no official dress codes. 

20 year ago Islamic clothing and headscarf was banned for government workers and students, now the ban has been lifted, regardless you won’t see radical religious dresses other than casual abayas and headscarves.

In most movies, Turkey is portrayed as a conservative country where every woman is covered.

Sometimes I watch a random Hollywood movie that takes place in Turkey. It might seem strange to you, but I can’t even recognize my own country.

According to my personal experience and surveys, 30% percent of women wear conservatively in Turkey. 

In big cities like Istanbul, Izmir, coastal areas, and holiday towns women majority of the women wear shorts, dresses, and crop-tops.

However, some cities or neighborhoods are more conservative than others. In those places, women usually don’t prefer wearing revealing clothes like mini skirts.

A Canadian Political Cartoon: Women were granted the right to vote in Turkey in 1930, but not in Quebec until 1940.

What are Women’s Rights in Turkey?

In Turkey, legally, women have the same rights as men. Only gender-based Turkish laws are positive discrimination laws to eliminate the disadvantages that women face. 

Our Republic’s Founding Father Mustafa Kemal’s reforms abolished Sharia Law and introduced the Turkish Civil which was based on the Swiss Civil Code (1926). 

By 1930, Turkish women were granted full political and equal civil rights. Since then gender equality is a major principle protected by the Turkish Constitution. 

These changes gave women the right to divorce, equal rights in inheritance, and having custody of their children.

Around the same time, religious clothing and polygamy were banned for men and women further ensuring gender equality by protecting Turkish society from conservative backslash.

The last thing, I would mention Turkey is a democracy and in terms of women’s rights, Turkey is in the European League. 

Yet, as the EU Report on Turkey outlines, Turkish democracy has much room to expand and improve not just for Turkish women but all individuals.

Yet Turkish democracy is a deep-rooted one, and I believe it will continue to improve as it did before.

Why Turkish Society is Different than Muslim Countries? 

You ask why Turkey was successful in granting women’s rights earlier than most European Countries.

Some people think gender equality was achieved in Turkey solely because of Ataturk’s reforms in the 1920s and 1930s. 

Yet, the introduction of reforms cannot change society, if the society is not ready for it.

Turkish feminism was established long before the Turkish Republic was founded. The official Turkish Feminist Movement began in 1908 with the establishment of the Ottoman Welfare Organisation of Women.

Can you see the banner with “Are British Women Worth Less Than Turkish Women?” ? – From a protest for equal pay in the UK circa the 1960s. Source

Even though Turkish people are majority Muslim, Turkish culture is very different from other Islamic countries. 

Turkish culture is a fusion of Central Asian, East Roman, Anatolian and Ottoman cultures. 

As I explained above with examples, in classical Turkish society Turkish men and women were equal partners with different but equally important roles in the Turkish family and Turkish society.

For these reasons, even though Turkey had Islamic influences, Turkey was one of the first countries to accept full women’s rights and gender equality reforms were successful.

Efe Genit

I am a father, a passionate traveler, and a Turkish lawyer. You can enjoy my guides and tips about Turkey that only Turkish locals would know.

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