Western feminists, islam, and career opportunities for Austrian Turkish Women

In a debate organized by dieStandard.at, both Gülhiri Aytaç, business scholar, and Tülay Tuncel, vocational school teacher, agreed that Western feminists are overly arrogant in their desire to “convert” women from other cultures. However, agreement between the two women was much more difficult to attain on the subject of religion.

While Tuncel, who is also integration speaker for the young organization of the Austrian Social-Democratic Party (SPÖ), called for solidarity among European feminists to fight attempts to legitimize Sharia law, Aytaç called this position exaggerated as religion can also be used positively to promote women’s rights. Moreover, Aytaç maintained that if women with Turkish origins statistically more often stay at home and do not work, this is not due to religious pressure, but rather to personal preference. Tuncel countered this position by saying that professional women are often not well regarded in such families, and that she has had a number of female students who wear a headscarf but who are not especially religious.

In the end, one of the main reasons for which a professional career for women with Turkish origins can be difficult is the lack of positive role models. Both women highlight the role of the media in perpetuating a negative image of Austrian Turkish women, often focusing solely on issues such as oppression or the headscarf.