To work or not to work : women's experiences in Mexico and Turkey

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Bespinar-Ekici, Fatma Umut, 1973-

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This dissertation aims to show how three institutions, i.e. the family, the labor market and the state have shaped women’s work experiences in Mexico and Turkey. Although Mexico and Turkey have certain similarities in terms of economic structure and policies, the socio-cultural dynamics influencing the main social institutions shape women’s work experiences diversely in these two countries. This study is based on a comparative etnographic research conducted in Mexico and Turkey in 2005. The main research questions posed in this study is "What are the main structural, institutional and social factors which explain women's working experiences that Mexico and Turkey exhibit even though they have similar economic structures?" I found that the combined effect of class and gender ideology matter in women’s work experiences in many ways. Women from different classes have different levels and ways of connectivity to their families; their gender values, the power relations and the flow of resources within their families show significant differences. Women’s from different classes work in different segments of the labor market; the problems they face show diversity. They have different levels of access –from full to none- to their labor rights and social benefits. Gender ideology is very influential: women’s values, expectations, power dynamics, negotiations within the family, the organization of workplace and state policies are shaped by gender ideology. However, gender ideology is neither universal in Mexico nor in Turkey. Women from different classes experience, interpret, select, negotiate and resist the value systems of gender ideology according to their social positions. The main contrast between Mexico and Turkey is visible among working class and upper middle classes. In Turkey, family honor is an important issue in women deciding to work or not to work, and in their working experiences and strategies. “Conditional protection” is a form of family support that is common among working class women in Turkey. The emphasis on social responsibility of working among Turkish women is a difference between upper middle class women in two countries. Middle class women have similar priorities based on the idealization of motherhood in both countries.




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