Leaving Footprints in Houston: Answers to Questions on Women and the Gülen Movement

Abstract

Feminists question the extent to which M. Fethullah Gülen, the Gülen movement, and individuals inspired by the movement promote women’s status, self-determination, and equal professional opportunity with men in Turkish culture characterized by patriarchal gender norms. Two major critiques are that gender norms in the Gülen movement reflect limits on women’s professional equality found in wider Turkish culture and that most women comply with little questioning of these norms. This article offers practice theory-based interpretations of life histories from Turkish women inspired by Mr. Gülen living in Houston, Texas during 2004. These provide examples of women in the movement who question cultural and religious beliefs about gender, if informally, and seek to expand possibilities for themselves in professional and personal life. Although one of Mr. Gülen’s most influential ideas is that individuals contribute to changing society by their everyday lives, continued study will show whether the life choices of women affect wide-spread gender norms in the movement’s future.

by Dr. Ali Ünsal