Women, Advertising, & the Ottoman Empire
In this paper, I intend to look at the issues of advertising and women in the Ottoman Empire. I will identify how advertising forms had the ability of impacting women within in the Ottoman Empire as well as how the advertising forms had a general impact on Ottoman society as a whole. I will mainly focus on the nineteenth century and twentieth century in my analysis.
However, I will make reference to the conditions that preceded the context of my analysis.First, I want to elaborate on the context from which I begin my enquiry. The Ottoman Empire didn’t feel the true forces of modernization until around the nineteenth century. Some have identified the date at which the Ottoman regime faced political, financial, and social challenges associated with modernization as the 1830s. As the regime began to feel the impacts of modernization, the Sultan felt the pressures from European powers. Soon the military and the bureaucratic apparatus begin to show signs of strain. Of course, the challenges associated with modernization ultimately reached the society as a whole.At this time, there was a flood of mass-produced goods. Many of these goods came from different trade agreements that had recently been signed with the European states. The influx of goods and increased trade diminished the traditional guild methods of production as well as consumption throughout the Empire. At the time, the urban areas in the Empire could have been described as cosmopolitan. The major cities were a combination of minority groups, Europeans, Levantines, and a wealthy bureaucratic class who were largely accepting of European ways of living and European ideals.I mention this context in order to show how modernization had begun to affect the region. I also want to highlight how the cities within the Ottoman Empire were becoming highly diversified. In other words, the Empire was undergoing major shifts toward a more multiethnic character as well as shifts toward an acceptance of European or “Western” ways of living. At the turn of the twentieth century, the makeup of the Ottoman Empire was a mixture between Turkish Ottomans, Armenians, Jews, Muslims, Greeks, and Europeans. Complex cultural and religious groupings such as this inherently demand a market for a diverse range of roducts. Not until the 1860s did Western companies enter the Ottoman markets. However, when the Western influences entered the Ottoman realm, a tendency toward liberal economic policies had already been instituted along with quickly advancing cultural and social developments.Many scholars refer to the entrance of, for instance, Western marketing forces, as the systematic Westernization of urban spaces within the Empire (Duben & Behar 1991). During the times between the 1870s and 1914, multinational companies were fueling the process of globalization (Jones 2005). This transition in business practice (e. g. lobalization) was thought to move from the more advanced parts of the world to less industrial areas (Wilkins 2005). Of course, the Ottoman Empire was one of the first regions to be affected by globalization. Most scholarly surveys focus on the notion that Western companies operating in the Ottoman Empire are premised on the ideas of imperialism or dependency. However, these types of analysis are lacking in the appropriate scope. To actually understand the situation of the time from a perspective that moves beyond simple readings that claim imperialistic forces were at play, it is good to look at the Ottoman consumer culture.The consumer culture was perhaps best represented in the ways companies advertised their products. It is also important to look at who the buyers of these products were and what the perception of these buyers ultimately was. In this paper, I will be focusing on marketing and advertising in order to advance an analysis of the late-Ottoman Empire as something other than a casualty of modernization. I now wish to transition to my primary topic of women and advertising in the Ottoman Empire. I suppose one could term the era I am looking at “late-Ottoman” society.Though this term is not extremely helpful for the purposes of my paper, I believe it does accurately represent a series of notions held by Ottoman scholars, and it seems helpful to at least keep in mind. However, I will primarily be looking at women insofar as consumption or the emergence of modern goods impacted women and catered to the desires of women in the Empire. Given the modern emergence I discussed earlier, women were beginning to develop expectations and images of the modern lifestyle, and this was beginning to attract them.Not surprisingly, advertising around this time focused heavily on women’s attitudes toward this attractive new lifestyle. Since I am primarily concerned with women in my analysis, I will look at publications geared toward women. From these publications and advertisements, the areas of entertainment, wealth, food, education, etc. , will be uncovered for their respective changes that were brought about by modernization. In terms of gender, the twentieth century marked a time of tension as it pertained to perceptions of women, especially among the Ottoman elite.This occurred alongside many of the same issues associated with modernization I mentioned earlier. However, other areas of change were being displayed by changes in women’s education and the increased spread of modern ideals in the media. As women’s education was transforming, ideas were being raised in the popular media as to the concepts of gender. Some authors and scholars from the early 1900s even debated the modernization of the Ottoman Empire in terms of the relationship between women and the Empire itself.As in other parts of the world, the common themes relating to gender—marriage, women’s proper role, divorce, motherhood—were being politicized and debated. As a response to this shift, some scholars began to focus on the Ottoman state’s self-initiated reforms and how these reforms brought about things such as a women’s popular press. Of course, much information used in the debate about gender today is drawn from the popular images of the time, which originated from social avenues of life such as consumption.For instance, advertisements found in women’s journals showed evidence of how women were beginning to perceive, for example, roles of other upper-class women (Basci 2004). First, I think it is important to consider advertising itself in terms of its presence in the Ottoman Empire. Advertising was a brand new industry that had just come about in the early 1900s insofar as the Ottomans were concerned. Many of the first advertisements were specifically marketed to Ottoman women by merchants who were aware of their target demographic.The women depicted in these advertisements portrayed a largely unmediated image of consumers. These types of consumers were depicted as elite women who were educated to a degree (in that they read). Before the establishment of the Turkish republic, there were in excess of forty different women’s publications. Most of these women’s publications came about after 1908, when the reinstatement of the Ottoman constitution occurred. The reinstatement of the constitution, or the event that was referred to as the constitutional revolution, gave the Ottoman press and unprecedented amount of freedom.An article I referenced by Palin Basci looked at the feminist journal entitled Women’s World. This journal came about in 1913 and was in print for eight years. The journal was thought to represent a platform for discussing gender relations. Furthermore, it was believed that Women’s World was a symbol of a new type of world for Ottoman women (Cakir 1994). In fact, the publication was actually published by the Association for the Defense of Women’s Rights. For my enquiry, I want to look at this journal due to the particularly thorough amount of scholarly research that looks at this publication.Furthermore, Women’s World is believed to have been one of the most consistent and visible publications for women during the Ottoman period. The journal was also published by women. Within the journal there were editorial articles, stories, letters, translations, and advertisements. Basci argues that the advertisements in the publication, “contributed to, and were, in turn, shaped by the emergency of new avenues of power and participation for women” (Basci 2004, 37). After one year in publication, the weekly issue of Women’s World began to contain notices for goods and services that focused on a female consumer base.The types of goods being targeted to the readers were goods that would have been considered “natural” goods for the time for a female consumer. For example, these advertisements covered topics such as fashion, health, and beauty. Additionally, the featured advertisements were created in large part to appeal to women’s awareness of self-image issues. The other types of advertisements focused on issues relating to entertainment, leisure, food, wealth, and education. The types of advertisements commonly found in Women’s World portrayed women of all standings in life.The advertisements also had the effect of portraying women who were teachers, mothers, and wives as consumers of health books, movies, delicatessens, restaurants, legal services, and maid services. The advertisements also give insight into the broader questions of the time period, such as the consumption patterns of women, and how these patterns were influenced by an internationalized market. In the following, I will mainly focus on the issue of education, and how this theme played an important role in late-Ottoman advertising and its impacts on women.Many female readers of the popular publications of the time were being subject to further solicitation from educational publications. Interestingly, women were targeted by magazines that covered politically and social relevant issues that pertained to the development of the Empire. Basci points out that these advertisements ranged between books on womanhood and love, to issues of national interest and liberty. As an example, Women’s World advertised the journal entitled Ictihad, which was intended for individuals who supported the ideas of free thought, “liberty from oppression,” and intellectual evolution.One interesting trend that I would like to identify here is how the publications such as Ictihad (which stands for “opinions”) acknowledged how women should be interested in live beyond the home and ought to look toward the world and its customs and issues of significance. Within the publication, tutors of German, English, and French offered their services. In addition to these language opportunities for Ottoman women, different ads advertised classes in painting, photography, and music. The ads often expressed a desire in catering to both Muslim and non-Muslim women, which is also an interesting point to consider.Just prior to the emergence of these type of ads as well as following the introduction of these ads, activities such as arts, piano, and languages were becoming increasingly viewed as lady-like and sophisticated. Many of the available tutors in the advertisements were non-Muslim, which may have posed an issue in the times preceding. Of course, all of these ideas of education and gaining the skills of refinement had an effect on Ottoman society as a whole, in that it complicated the common female conventions that had existed for many years. Furthermore, the skills being taught were emphasizing Western ideas and techniques.In terms of music lessons, Western music and instruments were being used. Common religious and folk songs were being taught in introductory courses, which would have been looked down upon in times prior. Perhaps most importantly, the skill of mastering a European language was viewed as more socially important than being well-versed at the Arabic language or Koranic scholarship. I mention these examples to emphasize how once conservative Islamic regions were beginning to favor European ideas and skills over the historically important skills such as Islamic scholarship.Another interesting thing to note is that the tutors offering their services in Women’s publications were not only female. Some male tutors were offering their services to women, which radically disrupted the conventions of Ottoman women. For instance, most upper-class Ottoman women carried a stereotypical notion that they lived segregated lives. Furthermore, men would sometimes seek the services of women who advertised services in the women’s publications. Some Ottoman women began offering their services as domestic maids until they married.In total, I want to portray how the Muslim women who read women’s publications around the turn of the twentieth century were exposed to and encouraged to engage with the world around them. They were encouraged to depart from their common domestic spheres and experience what the world had to offer. Of these women, as portrayed by the types of ads in the common publications, many were interested in education as well as issues relating to philosophy, war, and ethnicity. Furthermore, the actual existence of independent women’s publications symbolizes a significant shift in Ottoman society.The publications symbolize a type of woman who was clearly engaged in the social, economic, and political dimensions around her. A past emphasis on male driven advertisement targeting was now switching toward a focus on women and their relation to the larger Ottoman markets and urban lifestyles. Women were starting to manage their own money to a degree and desired to learn new languages. Also, women became actively involved in equipping the homes with phones and electricity. These women were also likely to attend a drama performance by themselves or have their portrait taken by a photographer listed in the women’s publications.Perhaps most importantly, the advertisements offered to Ottoman women signaled the ability for Ottoman women to take full advantage of modern conveniences. Rather than living domestic lives and concerning themselves with child-rearing, women had the time and freedom to engage in activities such as volunteering and socializing. As female socializing became more prevalent, new forms of entertainment and leisure were created. New forms of leisure included fine dining, dramatic entertainment, musical concerts, etc.What I found particularly interesting was the degree to which advertising in late-Ottoman society linked Ottoman women to European lifestyles. Ottoman women were directly exposed to European customs and European styles. Still, women were largely subjected to forms of exclusion within the Empire. For instance, even though women were engaging in a way of life that resembled the European lifestyle, Ottoman women were still given separate forms of transportation, rooms specifically for women, and women’s matinees. Still, the increased presence of women in all aspects of Ottoman life brought about questions bout instituting a new dress code. It is important to remember that women’s increased visibility and participation was not fully accepted by all. In many ways, the visibility of women led to greater scrutiny of women and greater debate over the appropriate social boundaries in the Empire. Pelin Basci also points out in her article that Ottoman modernity brought about the association of guilt and decadence with modern consumer practices. The guilt was a result of consumerism during a time in which the Empire’s military was undergoing great losses. As the Empire lost militarily, it also lost territorially.Thus, men and women within the Empire began to accuse one another of irresponsibility related to spending money on consumer goods and leisure activities. Some writers (e. g. Karaosmanolu) believed that women’s engagement with modern lifestyles marked the descent of the Ottoman Empire into corruption and moral chaos. The article by Basci points out a cartoon that I actually came across in another article on this issue. The cartoon portrays the Ottomon nation as a pure and virginal woman who becomes threatened by the gluttony and lust of European influences (Brummet 1998).Many male writers at the decline of the Empire attributed the female attraction to modern lifestyles as catastrophic to the society. However, men also blamed each other, accusing their fellow men of indulging in the lust and gluttony associated with entertainment and leisure. These men believed that leisure had ultimately distracted them from paying attention to their home and their country. By loosing focus on the home, they believed that they allowed women to gain too much freedom in economics and politics.Despite the accusations thrown at either side, it seems certain that advertising played a significant role in determining women’s perceptions toward modernity. Women’s publications literally offered them new and intriguing ways of experiencing life and growing personally. However, it is possible that publications such as Women’s World merely revealed a marketplace that was already largely composed of Muslim women who were contracting and offering modern services in a market that was already buzzing with competition.The dynamic between modern consumer culture and women seemed to be based on women’s economic influence as well their political influences. One example of this was the women’s boycott on Austrian goods as a response to Austria-Hungary’s annexation of Bosnia-Herzegovina (Quataert 1983). In terms of the influences that motivated advertisers, it is important to mention that women’s increased economic and political activities was being recognized by merchants. This led to aggressive marketing campaigns targeted directly toward women. The competition to secure the female market led to tensions between players in the markets.One of these tensions could be represented as a general tension between Muslim and non-Muslim businesses. From these religious tensions, certain religious symbols often entered ads in the women’s publications, such as the crescent and star. Other companies focused on nationalistic issues, and emphasized their pride with national issues and with women who purchase domestic products such as food and oil. Some non-Muslim companies took advantage of advertising to emphasize how money spent with Muslim companies would ultimately return to use as guns and bullets in war.In its attempts to overcome social disintegration, the environment in the Ottoman Empire fostered a milieu of economic nationalism, particularly among Muslims. This fact may have also led to greater ethnosocial tensions in the society (Balabanis 2001). I highlight this point to demonstrate how advertising played a role in pitting Muslims against non-Muslims. Either way, both saw a common enemy in the Western companies. Paradoxically, this enemy was also a friend of sorts. Ultimately, advertisements targeted toward women can best be seen for their propensity toward a common conflict.This conflict is the conflict between the spread of the modern lifestyle and the ads themselves, which seemed to portray contempt for the overall lack of female participation in the social life of the country. This fact seems to indicate to me that the involvement by women in the social, economic, and political spheres may have not been as pronounced as scholars seem to argue. Granted, it may have increased to a degree, but I see no evidence that this increase was substantial enough to be deemed a descent into “moral chaos. Still, it is clear that late-Ottoman advertising did seek to appeal to a new type of woman. This woman had a type of agency, and was willing to make her own choices. This was wanted to play an active role in shaping her interactions with the outside world and establishing herself as a viable consumer. It is now believed that the period between the revolution (1908) and World War I marked a time of significant female visibility. Increased visibility came alongside new platforms for women to assert themselves in issues of political and social importance.Since many issues of political and social importance were seen to relate to consumption, women were also establishing firm connections with avenues of consumption and leisure. Ultimately, advertising in the late-Ottoman Empire seemed to be united by a cohesive theme. That theme is, in my opinion, one of heightened self-awareness. As women became more aware of their political and social powers, women also became aware of the disparities between the different classes, especially the classes of women.Works Cited Basci, Pelin. ‘The New Woman’: Fashion, Beauty, and Health in Women’s World. ” International Journal of Turkish Studies 11 (2005). 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