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2016, Cilt 6, Sayı 3, Sayfa(lar) 317-325
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DOI: 10.5961/jhes.2016.168
An Examination of the Opinions of the University Students About Feminism and Gender Roles
Ayşegül UNUTKAN1, Sultan GÜÇLÜ2, Emel ELEM1, Safiye YILMAZ3
1Dumlupınar University, Kütahya School of Health, Department of Midwifery, Kütahya, Turkey
2Dumlupınar University, Kütahya School of Health, Department of Nursing, Kütahya, Turkey
3Mersin Private Orta Doğu Hospital, Newborn Intensive Care Unit, Mersin, Turkey
Keywords: Feminism, Gender, Gender discrimination, University students, Education
Abstract
Gender discrimination adversely affected women in all areas of social life, especially in the fields of education, work, marriage and family life. Feminism has emerged to draw attention to the these impacts of gender discrimination and to reduce it's negative consequences. Social transformation is necessary to ensure gender justice. One of the important steps for achieving this transformation is to educate the youth and increase their awareness. This study was conducted with the aim to determine Dumlupinar University, School of Health students' opinions on feminism and gender roles. The population of this study consists of 1293 students. Sample is comprised of 846 students who accepted to enrolled in the study. Data have been collected with using a questionnaire and assessed with percentiles, Kruskal-Walls and Mann-Whitney U-Tests. 43.3% of students defined feminism as “a style of thought that advocates women are more superior than men” and 31.9% of them as “a style of thought that advocates the equity of social opportunity”. It was identified that male students have more traditional opinions on gender roles related to work, social, marriage and family life. This study has revealed that male students have more conventional opinions in the fields of in working and married life, while the male and female students have egalatirian opinions in the propositions about social life and family life. Besides, the results of the study have revealed that opinions of students on gender roles related to work, social, marriage and family life exhibit statistically significant differences among the departments for all of the statements given. It was observed that midwifery students have more egalitarian views. Also, it was determined that upper class students have more egalitarian opinions. As a result of our study, it has been seen that university students still have a traditional perspective on social gender roles. According to the results of the questionnaire we can state that the youth do not understand feminism with all its aspects and digest it. Therefore, the awareness of the university students about feminism and gender should be increased. It is also considered to be useful the creation of student groups advocating gender equity in universities.
  • Top
  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Methods
  • Results
  • Disscussion
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • Introduction
    Women’s empowerment is considered as one of the main means of achieving sustainable development, economic growth and even peace and security (Zihnioğlu, 2013). However, gender inequalities reinforced by religion and tradition and sustained throughout history by patriarchal worldview constitute a major obstacle to the empowerment of women (Kağıtçıbaşı, 2012). These inequalities encompass many inland women in many fields, such as education, marriage and family life, working life, participation in social life, politics and decision-making, and utilization of health services. The basis of gender inequalities lies in the gender roles gained during human socialization throughout history (Akın & Demirel, 2003; Coşkun & Özdilek, 2012). For the first time, American psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Robert Stoller described the concept of gender. Stoller used the concepts of gender and gender in his 1965 book ‘Biological Gender and Gender’ (Ecevit & Kalkıner, 2012). The concept of gender expresses innate, genetic, physiological and biological characteristics of man and woman (Akın & Demirel, 2003; Coşkun & Özdilek, 2012). Gender is defined as the roles, responsibilities and behaviors that society imposes on women and men as different from biological gender (Akın,2007; Bora, 2012; Coşkun & Özdilek, 2012). Gender divisions shape the lives of both men and women, and thus, this diversity has more meaning than just difference (Akın & Demirel, 2003). These differences, which justify gender inequality and discrimination are sustained and reinforced by the production of ‘femininity’ and ‘masculinity’ patterns in general (Bora, 2012). This role patterns dictates how men and women should act. Undoubtedly, most of the women are affected by this dis- crimination. The power, dignity and property distribution are not made by individual virtues but by being ‘women’ or ‘men’ (Akın & Demirel, 2003; Demirbilek, 2007). As a matter of fact, when the results of discrimination are evaluated, it is seen that women cannot participate in decision-making mechanisms, they cannot benefit from public opportunities, they must live in unhealthy conditions, they cannot have proper housing and they are subjected to violence (Akın, 2007; Demirbilek, 2007). The main determinants of gender discrimination that cause these outcomes are education levels, income levels and occupations or jobs of women (Bora, 2012; Coşkun & Özdilek, 2012; Şimşek, 2011). According to the statistics of the Turkish Statistical Institute (2014), still the rate of illiterate women in Turkey is 9.4%. Looking at income distribution in the world, it can be seen that women have only one-tenth of the world income and only one percent of the goods on the earth despite having half of the working population and meeting two-thirds of the workload. For this reason, in 1995 the 4th World Conference on Women included the phrase ‘feminization of poverty’. (Şener, 2009). Women’s participation in working life in Turkey is only 31.1% and with this rate Turkey is among the countries where participation in the labor force is low among the United Nations (TNSA, 2013). Similarly, as women’s representation in politics (Demirbilek, 2007) in Finland, Norway, Romania and Cuban parliament, and in a country being a sample in terms of women’s welfare level, 47% of the parliament is women while in our country this rate is only 17.8 % of new term parliament (TBMM, 2015). As seen, gender inequality is seriously affecting the welfare of women in a country.

    Feminist thinking has emerged to draw attention to the effects of gender inequality on the status of women and to explain the secondary position of women (Ecevit & Kalkiner, 2012; Durudoğan, 2012). Feminism first emerged in the 1960s when women demanded equal rights with men (Durudoğan, 2012). While the first wave feminists focused on the concept of equality, the second wave feminists pointed out that the social and religious structure of the 1970s should be examined for women to have equal rights. In Turkey, feminist movements began in the 1980s. Feminist thinkers, on the one hand, have been pioneers of the women’s movements while fighting against the discourse of the male-dominated system, and undoubtedly have had great struggles today in the development of women’s status (Ecevit & Kalkıner, 2012).

    Feminism allows society to look at women’s points of view (Lewis, 2004). Even though many rights are legally granted to women today, women cannot use these rights because of social norms. So these rights cannot go beyond paper. A social transformation is needed to prevent gender inequalities and discrimination. In other words, individuals of all ages and genders should be made aware of the social role patterns and the inequalities that they cause and they should gain an egalitarian perspective (Coşkun & Özdilek, 2012). For these reasons, it is important to uncover the opinions of university youth who are in the process of preparing for the future by completing their social development regarding gender and feminism in order to achieve sustainable development and healthy generations.

    For this reason, in our country where the traditional and social structure is kept in great order, it will be appropriate to make plans for determining the pre-existing positive/negative judgments of the students and for changing the negative judgments. From this point of view, this study aims to determine the opinions of students of Health School about gender and feminism. With the obtained information, the aim is to identify the current points of view of the university students, who are architects of the future, about gender inequalities and to make proposals to raise awareness about preventing inequalities.

  • Top
  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Methods
  • Results
  • Disscussion
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • Methods
    The student’s universe was composed of 1293 students studying at Kütahya Health School. In this study, no sample was selected and it was aimed to reach the whole of the universe. 76.8% were women, and 23.2% were males who accepted to participate this cross-sectional study. 846 students constituted 65.4% of the universe. The data collection tool was developed by the researchers investigating in related literature (Pınar, Eroğlu & Taşkın, 2008; Vefikuluçay, Zeyneloğlu, Eroğlu & Taşkın, 2007; Yılmaz et al., 2009). In the first part of the questionnaire, there were 22 items about the socio-demographic characteristics of students and their opinions about feminism and in the second part there were items about the opinions about gender roles. The analysis of the data was done with the IBM SPSS 21.0 statistical program. The normality tests of the data set were checked from the Kolmogorov-Simirnov and Shapiro Wilk tests. The Shapiro Wilks test are used when the number of observations is less than 29, and the Kolmogorov- Simirnov (Lilliefors) test is used when there are more than 29 observations (Kalaycı, 2008). Since the data was 846, the Kolmogorov-Simirnov (Lilliefors) test was examined and the significance value of the data was found to be 0.000. Since this value is smaller than 0.05, it can be said that the normal distribution did not correspond to the data. Non-parametric tests were used because no homogeneous distribution was observed in the number of subjects in the study groups. The Mann Whitney-U test was used to compare two independent groups, whereas the Kruskall Wallis test was preferred when more than two independent groups were compared.
  • Top
  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Methods
  • Results
  • Disscussion
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • Results
    Of the 846 students who participated in the study, 76.8% were female and 23.2% were male. 31.1% of the students were trained in midwifery, 31.3% in nursing and 37.6% in physiotherapy and rehabilitation department. When asked about their opinions about feminism, 43.9% of them thought that they were superior to men, 31.9% of them had the idea of social opportunity equalization and 17.1% of them believed that they were male enemies. While 73.8% of the students stated that they would not support a feminist group, 62.1% stated that they could participate in a march that advocates women’s rights.

    Table 1 shows the distribution of the participants’ opinions about their working life and social life proposals according to their gender. For the proposition that “Politics is more of a man’s job”, 56.4% of men stated that they agreed. For the proposition that” Women should not work without permission from their husbands”, 44.6% of men also indicated that they agreed. For the proposition that “Widowed and divorced women are not the only ones living,” 44.1% of men stated that they agreed and for the item of “Protection in pregnancy should be primarily the responsibility of the woman” 25.8% of the women showed that they agreed. For the proposition that “Women patients should not be examined by a man doctor” 31.3% of the men stated that they agreed, while 90.9% of the women revealed that they did not agree with this recommendation (Table 1).


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    Table 1: Students’ Opinions Regarding Propositions on Working Lives and Social Life According to Sexes

    In Table 2, the distribution of the participants’ views on the marital and family life depending on gender is provided. 15.9% of men agreed with the proposition that “It is normal for a married man to deceive his wife”, while “40.8% of women stated that they agreed with the proposition that a woman should be a virgin to whom a man marry”. 96.6% of the women did not agree with the proposition that “The hereditary inheritance only has the right of male children” while 42.1% of the men stated that they agreed with the proposition that “Budget must always be in the hands of man or money coming home should be in hands of men” (Table 2).


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    Table 2: Views of Students on Propositions Related to Marriage and Family Life According to Sexes

    In Table 3, the opinions of the students participating in the study on gender roles were compared in relation to their gender and parental education. A statistically significant difference was found between male and female students in terms of their working life, social life, marriage and family life (p <.05). Given the average order, it was seen that men had more traditional opinions than women. A statistically significant difference was found between the items related to social life, marriage and family life and the education levels of the students’ mothers (p <.05). When the average of order was taken into consideration, it was seen that the children of the mothers with loweducation- level had a more conventional stance. There was no statistically significant difference between the propositions about gender roles and the level of education of the fathers of the students (p> .05) (Table 3).


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    Table 3: U-Test Results of Views on Social Gender Roles according to Sex and Parents Education

    In Table 4, the students’ attitudes towards gender roles were compared in relation to their departments and classes. A statistically significant difference was found between the departments in terms of working life, social life, marriage and family life (p <.05). Given the average orders, it was seen that the midwifery students had a more egalitarian perspective than the students studying in the other sections. A statistically significant difference was also found between the items regarding working life, social life and marital life (p<.05). When the average of the rank order was considered, it was seen that the senior students had a more egalitarian perspective than the students educated in the other classes (Table 4).


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    Table 4: Kruskal Wallis Test Results of Views on Gender Roles according to Departments and Classes of Students

  • Top
  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Methods
  • Results
  • Disscussion
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • Discussion
    Gender differences shape the lives of both men and women, and as a result, this diversity is much more than just gender differences (Akın & Demirel, 2003; Bora, 2012; Coşkun & Özdilek, 2012; Şimşek, 2011). Therefore, the way in which women and men participate in social life is influenced by the gender of representation and visibility, and women often suffer from these perceptions that support the patriarchal order (Coskun & Özdilek, 2012). Working life is at the forefront of areas where patriarchalism, supported and protected by gender role patterns (Özçatal, 2011). Women receiving permission from their spouse to work, and their work in lower status and lower income come as a reflection on the working life of the sexist approach (Adak, 2007; Bora, 2012; Vefikuluçay et al., 2007).

    According to Turkish Demographic and Health Survey (TDHS) data, 17.0% of married women do not work because their spouses do not allow them (TDHS, 2013). However, even if women work in the gender-based division of labor, they are still responsible for domestic work. Women have to work in jobs that have more flexible working hours and therefore lower wages to avoid disrupting their responsibilities (Bora, 2012). The occupations that they prefer are within the categories of female jobs such as teaching, secretarial, nursing, which are extensions of home jobs that protect this sexist job sharing (Adak, 2007). In the process of socialization, women who have been trained primarily as spouses and mothers and have internalized these roles, have become the spare parts of the working life by missing the opportunities to rise to higher positions for the sake of being a good wife and mother (Bora, 2012; Özçatal, 2011).

    In our study, when the opinions of students about their working life were examined, it became salient that nearly half of the male students stated women should have permission from their husbands to work. It was observed that male students had more traditional attitudes than female students in most items related to working life. In Çıtak’s study with 796 participants in 2008, it was found that the attitudes of female participants to women’s work were more positive than men as similar to our study. Additionally, Pınar et al. (2008) found that most female students did not agree with the view that “if the woman is more wealthy than her husband, she condescends her husband, so man’s economic power should be higher” (77.0%). Similar findings were obtained in other studies, as well (e.g. Vefikuluçay et al., 2007; Yilmaz et al.,2009).

    Another discrimination women are exposed to in the working life is preventing women from participating decision making mechanisms (Çakır, 2008). When women’s representation in politics is considered, we see that the majority is only in the form of ‘voting’ (Ecevit & Kalkıner, 2012). An examination of the countries where the level of women’s welfare is high (Finland, Sweden, Norway, Romania, Cuba) shows that the ratio of women’s representation in parliament is 47.0%. On the other hand, we see that in some African and Arab countries where women are invisible, the representation of women is too little to be seen in parliament (Demirbilek, 2007; Sullivan, 2003). In the parliamentary elections held in Turkey in 2015, although 98 women were elected as deputies, it was still not as desired though having been seen in previous years (TGNA, 2015). When we look at the opinions of the students about poli- tics participation in our study, 56.4% of the men stated that they agreed with the proposition that “Politics is more a man’s business”. In Vefikuluçay et al.’s (2009) study done with the senior students, it was found that 88.9% of the female students and 63.2% of the male students did not agree with that proposition in the same study.

    The societal points of view about gender dictates how women should ‘dress up, talk and act’ in society. Therefore, the freedom of women to make decisions about their own lives is taken from their hands (Demirbilek, 2007). The social status of women who are constantly being controlled is negatively affected and consequently, women live in the shadow of men in society (Akın & Demirel, 2003, Bora, 2012). When the items about social life are examined in our study, it is seen that the majority (69.7%) of the male students agreed with the proposition that “it is not right for women to go out alone in the evenings”. In Vefikuluçay et al.’s (2007) study carried out at Hacettepe University, 30.4% of male students stated that they agreed with that proposition. In another study, most of the students stated that they did not agree with that proposition (female: 95.1% male: 75.2%) (Vefikuluçay et al., 2007).

    Gender discrimination is not only limited to social life but also affects women’s access to health services (Coşkun & Özdilek, 2012; Şahiner & Akyüz, 2010). As a matter of fact, 31.1% of the male students in our study stated that they agreed with the proposition that “female patients should not be examined by male doctors”. Similarly, in a study conducted in Eastern and Southeastern Anatolia regions, it was stated that women could not go to the hospital without permission from their spouses, they could not be examined by a male doctor and could not benefit from family planning services. In the same study, it was noted that the men living in that region believed that they were smarter (60.2%) than women and that their husbands could beat them if wives did not obey their husbands (56.7%) (Kitiş & Bilgici, 2007). In our study, the findings demonstrated that 33.8% of male students agreed with the proposition that “if a woman deserves, her husband may violence her”. Likewise, 27.7% of male students were found to agree with the proposition that “if a woman is beaten by her wife, she should hide this situation”. In Yılmaz et al.’s (2009) study, similar findings in support of our research findings were found. As seen, men adopt and support gender discrimination that brings them power in the family and society. Family life is the antagonism as the structure in which these discriminations are most seen and nourished (Adak, 2007). Imbalances in income distribution are among the most important indicators of this situation. The fact that the public sphere is attributed to man and the family life is attributed to women leads to the exclusion of women from their learning and working life and thus leads them to get lower income. Besides, women are not given the authority to spend their income. When the propositions related to income distribution in our study are examined in this study, it is seen that more than half (42.1%) of the male students agreed with the proposition that “the budget must always be in the hands of male arrangements or money coming home”, which supports the problem we mentioned above. Female students have a more egalitarian approach than male students and the difference between them is statistically significant.

    Another discrimination related to marriage and family life is the control of female sexuality (Gürsoy, 2015). The tight control of women’s sexuality is antagonistic as the distinctive feature of all patriarchal societies as it is in Turkish society (Kardam, 2004). In these societies, sexuality is seen as an expected and appreciated activity for the male while being associated with the marriage for the female. The virginity control, which has become a tool to control the sexuality of women, has lifted the woman’s right to speak on her body causing physical and mental problems in their fathers, causing suicides and honor killings (Gürsoy, 2015; Özan, Aras, Şemin & Orçin, 2004; Şimşek, 2011). 40.8% of the female students who participated in the study and 70.8% of the male students had statements on virginity’s importance, which has attracted our attention. Another study conducted by Civil and Yildiz (2010) with male university students revealed that almost all of the students were single, 60.5% found virginity very important. While 31% had active sexual lives, they pointed out that there could be an equality between men and women regarding sexuality and that virginity was important for women. According to TDHS 2013 data, 73.0% of the women agreed with the statement that ‘women should be virgins when they marry’. In another study on virginal membrane, women stated that “if it is lost, the life is too bad to live” which reveals the extent of the pressure put on women (Akın& Özvarış, 2004).

    In our study, it was observed that male students had more traditional attitudes than female students in their work life, social life, marriage and family life proposals. Similar findings were obtained in other studies (Vefikuluçay et al., 2007; Yilmaz et al., 2009). In addition, differences were found between the departments in terms of working life, social life, marriage and family life. It was seen that midwifery students had a more egalitarian perspective than the students studying in the other departments. In addition, as the class level increased, the students were more likely to have a more egalitarian perspective. It was believed that the difference stem from that the midwifery students were composed only of female students and that the higher the class was, the higher the social consciousness levels of the students were.

    When students were asked about their views on feminism, it was revealed that only 31.9% chose the definition that “the way of thinking that advocates social equal opportunity”, whereas 43.3% opted for the definition that “the way of thinking that women are superior to men”. In addition, the majority (73.8%) of the students stated that they would not support a feminist group, while a majority (62.1%) indicated that they could participate in a march that advocates women’s rights. These findings clearly demonstrated that students did not have any knowledge of feminism. It was anticipated that students would meet with feminism in university life, be able to look at women’s point of view in all living spaces in the future and become a chain of change to ensure gender justice. This study is an important work for finding out the views of university students, which will shape the future of gender roles and provide resources for possible interventions in this regard.

  • Top
  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Methods
  • Results
  • Discussion
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • Conclusion
    When the views of all participating students regarding gender roles were examined, it was shown that male students had more traditional attitudes than female students. When the findings were evaluated, it is regrettable to see that the university students have not yet recovered from their gender roles. However, it should not be forgotten that this problem and its solutions originate at a point where social dynamics are in the process of change, that it is a change process, and that it can create change (Coskun & Özdilek, 2012). Undoubtedly, education, which is the most important area of secondary socialization, is the first step (Bora, 2012; Zihnioğlu, 2012). It is important that the discrimination in this area is not reproduced but turned into a place where anti-discrimination ideas and attitudes are sprouting (Bora, 2012).

    In order to achieve this, it would be appropriate to provide training for university students to raise their awareness on the subject, to allow students to discuss the topic during symposiums, to create student communities advocating gender justice, and to share the topic with peer education. In addition, it is suggested that the courses on gender inequalities should not be limited to the relevant departments but should be given to all professions.

    The limitations of this study were that the sample consisted only of health college students and that the number of women in the sample was high. It is proposed that future studies should include all university students and be stratified by sex. It is also recommended that studies on the effects of interventions providing gender transformation are conducted.

  • Top
  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Methods
  • Results
  • Discussion
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • References

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  • Top
  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Methods
  • Results
  • Discussion
  • Conclusion
  • References
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