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Staging Queer Marxism in the Age of State Feminism: Gender, Sexuality, and the Nation in Huseyin Rahmi Gurpinar's Kadin Erkeklesince (When Woman Becomes Masculine) (1).

The rise of European dramatic forms in the Ottoman Empire beginning in the nineteenth century was a process that reflected the turbulent political environment, which would culminate in the transition from the Empire to the nation-state in 1923. In this period, the governing elite, dissident intellectuals, and members of different ethnic groups utilized the theatre to propagate diverse and at times conflicting political views and desires for the future. Moreover, fantasies of modernization and Europeanization rendered the theatre a site where individuals rehearsed and performed new modes of Ottoman and Turkish subjectivity not only on- but also offstage. Gender and sexuality were often at the core of the processes through which people negotiated the politics of belonging in and through the theatre.

The plays about queer sexualities make up a relatively small yet critical body of work from this period. For the purposes of this essay, I use the term "queer" not to refer to the contemporary Western European and North American categories of sexuality but rather as an analytical tool to study the structures of feeling, practices of pleasure, and modes of identification that are "at odds with the normal, the legitimate, the dominant" in gendered and sexualized ways. (2) While exploring the politics of gender and sexuality during a time of transformation, the early examples of queer Turkish dramatic literature often presented scathing critiques of the broader sociopolitical environment as well. The queer (3) canonical novelist Huseyin Rahmi Gurpinar's 1932 problem play (4) Kadin Erkeklesince (When Woman Becomes Masculine) presents a vital vantage point from which to study these dynamics.

Huseyin Rahmi Gurpinar (1866-1944) is among the most prolific and popular figures in the Turkish literary canon. His works in diverse genres were guided by the authors desire to educate his readers with his "high philosophy" (yuksek felsefe): an amalgamation of elements from Marx, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Darwin, and Enlightenment philosophy, combined with a profound sense of queer negativity. The best known of Gurpinar's plays, Kadin Erkeklesince tells the story of Nebahat, a heterosexual and female-presenting feminist who identifies as male. Contrary to the dominant conceptions of female masculinity, which focus on the practices of embodiment, (5) Nebahat's performance of female masculinity is defined by his linguistic self-identification and, more importantly, his self-positioning within labor relations. This is a radical queer feminist strategy to resist phallogocentric violence and patriarchal capitalism. It is radical in the sense that, unlike most mainstream Ottoman and early Republican Turkish feminists, Nebahat does not seek to overcome gender inequality through legal and institutional reforms. Instead, he rejects the law and aims to undermine the very foundation of his oppression by erasing the binary gender paradigm. As a parodic form of everyday activism, Nebahat's articulation of female masculinity exposes the performative constitution of normative gender identities and shows that labor relations are at the core of such processes. In the end, Nebahat's performance of masculinity leads to the death of his child, signifying the demise of both heterofuturity and a queerly gendered future. The play thus features a poignant critique of "state feminism," which was a fundamental element of Turkish politics during the country's formative years (1923-1938), and explores the conditions of (im)possibility of a queer Marxist feminism.

In this essay, I will study the complex politics of Kadin Erkeklesince and the play's significance for the queer Turkish dramatic canon as well as for the histories of queer negativity, radical feminism, and queer Marxism. I use the term "queer Turkish dramatic canon" to refer to plays in Turkish that explore queer sexualities and identifications. Other early examples of such works include texts by Sahabeddin Suleyman and Ibnurrefik Ahmet Nuri Sekizinci. In the scholarship on Turkish theatre, late Ottoman and early Republican queer plays have either received very limited scholarly interest or, as in the case of Kadin Erkeklesince, they have been studied without their explicitly queer elements being acknowledged. Gurpinar's play provides an important opportunity to explore this neglected body of work The case of Kadin Erkeklesince also demonstrates how queer intellectuals, who experienced the transition from the Ottoman Empire to the Republic of Turkey, used theatre to challenge the hegemonic politics of gender and sexuality as well as the broader sociopolitical dynamics in the country. The play is important for the history of Turkish theatre not only because of its rare queer subject matter but also because of its production history. Censorship has almost always been a problem in Ottoman and Turkish theatre, and the single-party era (1923-1945) was a particularly difficult period. (6) Nevertheless, Kadin Erkeklesince shows that the public theatre still produced works that were explicitly critical of the government and the socioeconomic atmosphere--which is in stark contrast with the current situation under the professedly democratic regime of Adalet ve Kalkinma Partisi (Justice and Development Party). (7) The case of Kadin Erkeklesince thus demonstrates that in a context where theatre functioned as a venue for learning and experimenting with the norms of citizenship, the infrastructure provided by the state could also be used by dissident figures. These processes, however, depended on complex negotiations among playwrights, directors, and theatre administrators. In the case of Kadin Erkeklesince, a number of factors may have facilitated these negotiations, including not only Gurpinar's status as a canonical literary figure but also the play's ambivalent ending and complicated politics as well as the productions indirect promotion of state feminism by casting iconic figures associated with that political project.

Beyond the history of Turkish theatre, Kadin Erkeklesince is also of significance for the histories of radical feminism and queer Marxism in and beyond Turkey. As the play criticizes the recuperation of feminism by the nation-state project and shows the limitations of legal reforms in the field of gender equality from a Marxist perspective, it explores queer feminist alternatives to the political hegemony. Kadin Erkeklesince thus demonstrates how criticisms of cis-heteropatriarchal capitalism emerged outside of current or former Communist countries as well as Western Europe and North America, the regions that now dominate the academic discourse on gender and sexuality. The play thus presents an opportunity to review and revise the largely Euro- and US-centric histories of queer Marxism and radical feminism. While Kadin Erkeklesince shows how theatre served as a venue for queer political critique in early Republican Turkey, the play's reception exposes the limits of such endeavors.

Gender and Sexuality in Ottoman and Turkish Theatre

Kadin Erkeklesince is a problem play that presents a queer narrative to criticize gender politics in Turkey's formative years. Because theatre has played a crucial role in the debates on gender as well as the heterosexualization of public culture in the context of Ottoman and Turkish Europeanization and nation-building reforms, it is necessary to acknowledge this historical background to understand the play's historical significance and its politics. Theatres role in the promotion of state feminism is also crucial for discerning the complex politics of Kadin Erkeklesince's initial production.

In the regions of the Ottoman Empire that would later form the nation-state of Turkey, the development of theatre was grounded in the Europeanization reforms that began in the late eighteenth century. The popularity of theatre peaked during the Tanzimat Period (1839-1876), an era of administrative and institutional reforms aiming to protect the Empire from European colonial powers and from the ethnic nationalist movements within its borders. The first professional performances in the Empire were staged by European troupes, followed by productions by local elite amateur groups, mostly Armenians and members of other non-Muslim minorities. After the mid-1840s, the Ottoman presence in theatre increased with new companies staging adaptations of European plays and original works. Ottoman political and intellectual elites perceived theatre as a medium that would allow them to address a broader public as they propagated the norms of Europeanization and different strands of nationalism. This use of theatre for explicitly political purposes was significant in the context of low literacy rates. (8) As the state continued to control theatre by building and demolishing theatre venues, sponsoring producers, censoring plays, and passing regulations, theatre emerged as an important ideological state apparatus, an institution that facilitated the production and control of political subjects in ways that are discursive and performative. (9) An exemplary Tanzimat space, theatre became a key part of the Ottoman "civilizing process," where audiences rehearsed and performed a new form of Ottoman subjectivity in ways that are gendered and sexualized. (10)

The politics of gender and sexuality in Ottoman theatre reflected the broader sociopolitical dynamics in the Empire. With the Tanzimat bureaucratic reforms, social positions came to be transferred from father to son, and educated men of modest backgrounds increasingly failed to attain social mobility by means of marriage. (11) In response to these developments, the reformists affiliated with the Young Ottoman movement used theatre and literature to promote a discourse of romantic love, which would emancipate individuals from the sociopolitical constraints on their matrimonial prospects and contribute to the separation of the private and the public in the third quarter of the nineteenth century. (12) While many of these plays reflected the influence of the French romantics, the themes of love and marriage gained new political significance in Ottoman theatre.

Especially after the 1860s, Ottoman modernization reforms posited women as important social actors who would facilitate the desired social transformation and raise future generations according to their ideals. (13) Public debates on women's status and their participation in social life, particularly as they pertained to Muslim women living in big cities, gained prominence. (14) This was also a time when feminism began to gain a following among both male and female intellectuals. Theatre emerged as a crucial site for these debates. With the Tanzimat, women began to write plays which reflected debates in the emergent feminist movement while also engaging with explicitly political themes such as nationalism, liberty, and constitutional monarchy. (15) Ironically, however, women's theatre attendance remained a controversial issue for a long time. Moreover, Muslim women were banned from acting. The first Muslim female actors would adopt non-Muslim names to be able to perform. (16) When Afife Jale, widely acknowledged as the first female actor to perform under a Muslim name, started her career in 1920, she became the target of police raids and lost her job at Darulbedayi-i Osmani--the imperial theatre established in Istanbul in 1914 that later became the Istanbul City Theater.

Women's relationship with the theatre changed following the inception of the Republic of Turkey. The country's formative years (1923-1938), also known as the "Kemalist Period" after Turkey's founding president Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, were characterized by a centralized secular Europeanization and nation-building program. In many ways, the Kemalist reforms built on the heritage of the Ottoman Europeanization reforms. Nevertheless, the official line of historiography defined the inception of the Republic as a radical and revolutionary break from the Empire. (17) These tensions were particularly visible in gender politics. The new regime put even more emphasis on women's role as vital agents who could serve as men's comrades in creating a powerful nation-state. Moreover, especially Muslim women's participation in social life and the visibility of their bodies, purged of the sartorial codes associated with religion, was expected to serve as an embodied marker of the difference between the Empire and the Republic. In the face of such concerns, the regime not only allowed but also encouraged women's presence in the theatre--both in the audience and on the stage. The stigma on female actors did not completely disappear. Nevertheless, thanks to their hypervisibility, combined with the pedagogical expectations from theatre, female actors emerged as role models. This was especially true for the first Muslim female actors affiliated with Darulbedayi, such as Neyyire Neyir and Bedia Muvahhit, (18) both cast members in Kadin Erkeklesince's initial production. Acquiring the status of professionals, women actors and other performers thus also became prominent symbols of Kemalist state feminism.

The "Kemalist woman" as a subject position was defined at the intersection of multiple and conflicting roles. The ideal female citizen was to be a properly trained mother and wife, an educated professional at work, a socially active woman involved in clubs and associations, and a feminine woman dancing at balls. (19) While fulfilling these duties, women also had to adhere to the codes of respectability and honor (namus). To help women in performing these roles, the government appropriated some demands of the feminist movement and granted women certain civil and political rights as well as educational and professional opportunities. This political strategy, later termed "state feminism," (20) ostensibly promoted women's equal citizenship. Nevertheless, these policies paid little attention to the domestic sphere or labor relations. Men were officially recognized as the head of the household and married women needed permission from their husbands to work outside the home. Even with the new policies, women's domestic labor remained invisible and naturalized. Although the government took some legal measures to protect women's rights, policy implementation remains a problem to this day. The government also suppressed active feminist politics. (21) As women's rights were increasingly defined as gifts from the nation's founding father, Ataturk, feminist political activism diminished throughout the 1930s, and the once-vibrant Ottoman and early Republican feminist movements gradually disappeared from public memory.

The Kemalist reforms did provide new opportunities, particularly for young, urban, middle-class Muslim women, while also serving the regime's interests. The new educational opportunities facilitated women's ideological indoctrination and adorned them with the tastes and skills necessary to transform their households and their bodies. Many of these women became ardent supporters of the regime. Always primarily mothers in the hegemonic public imaginary, women were now receiving scientific knowledge they would use to raise healthy future generations. Their domestic labor was thus transformed to accord with the new norms and expectations. On the international level, recognizing women's rights to political participation helped the single-party regime cultivate a democratic image. (22) In the aftermath of devastating wars and atrocious population policies, women's participation in the workforce was also crucial for the creation of a strong economy and the transfer of wealth from the non-Muslim population to Muslim citizens. State feminism facilitated these economic developments by providing Muslim women with opportunities to become professionals, entrepreneurs, and qualified laborers. A similar process characterized changes in the theatre. Muslim female actors were not only symbols of secular Europeanization. They also gradually replaced non-Muslim, mostly Armenian female theatre professionals whom the Turkish critics condemned for their accents. (23) Thus, Kemalist state feminism served the ethnic and religious transformation of the cultural industry while undermining the involvement of non-Muslim artists in the creation of a national culture.

The development of theatre in the late Ottoman Empire and Kemalist Turkey was also entangled with the heterosexualization of public culture. Especially between the mid-fifteenth century and the first two decades of the seventeenth century, young men were objects of desire for the Ottoman elite and same-sex love occupied a vital role in literature and performance. (24) The dancing boys, known as koceks, were the performers most closely associated with this homoerotic culture. (25) Other performance genres, most notably shadow theatre, also featured queer elements, ranging from same-sex relationships to cross-dressing. By the late nineteenth-century, however, the earlier sexual discourse had disintegrated. There were two main reasons for this transformation. First, the strict orthodox dogma that defined same-sex practices and desires as abominable gained power in the Ottoman Middle East. Second, sexuality emerged as a concern in the encounters between Europe and the Ottoman Middle East between the mid-eighteenth and the mid-nineteenth centuries. (26) While European travelers presented the Ottoman homoerotic culture as a source of shame, Ottoman travelers who visited Europe countered such Orientalist narratives by criticizing Europeans for a perceived loss of sexual morals. (27) The Occidentalist Ottoman intellectuals thus also propagated heterosexist norms and conservative discourses in the Empire.

When the Europeanization efforts gained speed during the Tanzimat and further intensified with the inception of the Republic, the heterosexualization of public culture accelerated. As same-sex desires were stigmatized, (28) kocek performances were banned (29) and Karagoz was censored and transformed. (30) Theatre contributed to the heterosexualization of public culture by replacing these performance genres and their homosocial venues. Nevertheless, some late Ottoman and early Republican playwrights also engaged with explicitly queer topics, often to criticize gender relations and broader sociopolitical dynamics during a period of rapid sociopolitical transformation.

The first notable example of an original play in Turkish about same-sex desire was Sahabeddin Suleyman's lesbian drama Cikmaz Sokak (The Dead End), published in 1909. (31) Written in the relatively liberal political environment that characterized the early years of the Second Constitutional Era (1908-1920), Cikmaz Sokak narrates the story of Refika, a young woman who marries an elderly pasha to attain class mobility. As she seeks to satisfy her sexual and romantic desires without violating the family honor, Refika ends up having lesbian affairs. The play thus brings a queer perspective on marriage and social mobility, which had been a vital theme in Ottoman theatre since the Tanzimat. Cikmaz Sokak created great controversy in literary circles and cost Suleyman his job as a French teacher. (32) The play was not staged until a 2009 production by the feminist company Tiyatro Boyali Kus (Theatre Painted Bird) under their series Feminist Dramaturjiyle Okuma Tiyatrosu (Stage Readings with Feminist Dramaturgy), directed by Jale Karabekir.

An even lesser known play is the 1931 farce Nakis (The Deficient) by Ibnurrefik Ahmet Nuri Sekizinci (1874-1935). (33) The play narrates the adventures of a female-presenting intersex person who undergoes gender affirmation surgery. After the protagonist begins to publicly identify and present as male, their sexual promiscuity and the frustration of their former spouse create a bourgeois comedy that lightheartedly criticizes gender relations. While exploring the broader sociopolitical dynamics, such works provided visibility to queer phenomena, although this visibility was mitigated by the politics of censorship as well as the demands and expectations of mainstream audiences and critics.

Perhaps the most important example of the early queer dramatic literature in Turkish was Gurpinar's Kadtn Erkeklesince. This 1932 problem play about female masculinity is a rare example of a work from this period that was written by a queer playwright and deals with an explicitly queer topic. What makes the play even more interesting is its queer Marxist perspective and its exploration of radical feminism, which grew out of Gurpinar's "high philosophy" as well as his complex queer embodiments and identifications.

Gurpinar and His High Philosophy

One of the most popular and productive figures in the Turkish dramatic and literary canon, Gurpinar was born in Istanbul in 1866. Following the traumatic loss of his mother at the age of four, the author briefly lived with his father, Mehmed Sait Pasha, in Crete. When Gurpinar was six, his father remarried and sent him to Istanbul to be raised by his grandmother and his aunts. Many of his biographers note that the author came to embody the behavior, conversational styles, and habits of this last generation of Ottoman women, who nurtured him until the age of twenty:
He spent his childhood among the ladies of old Istanbul. Even though
more than a century has passed, he strongly preserves the impact of
that life in his gestures. Like a sophisticated, elegant Istanbulite
lady following the customs, he usually clasps his hands either on his
knees or his chest while sitting. When he laughs, the fingers on one of
his hands join together, forming a beautiful shield that covers his
mouth. His laughter is petite, silent, and elegant. After it disappears
from his lips, his laugh continues in his eyes for some more time.
Here is another remnant of his childhood spent among women: he
masterfully knits lace, embroiders pillows, and makes whitework
embroidery. (34)

An excellent homemaker, Gurpinar was also known for his jams and ice creams. Even though his public self-identification as well as his sartorial and cosmetic practices were masculine, Gurpinar's performance of gender can be understood in terms of an anachronistic male femininity. The author's everyday repertoire (35) was not simply inherited from elderly women who were dear to him but also retained a memory of them at a time when this generation of women were disappearing--not only because the individuals were dying but also because the gendered norms of embodiment were changing. As a child, Gurpinar also consciously imitated the foul-mouthed working-class women whom he observed from his window in fascination. Later, these queer performances that he staged in solitude in his room found their way into his writing. (36) As he publicly acknowledged in interviews as well as some of his novels, storytelling was also a skill that Gurpinar learned from the amateur and semi-professional female storytellers of his youth, and their voices echoed in his works. (37) As such, the practice of writing was part of the author's queer performance of gender.

Gurpinar's queerness was not limited to his nonnormative repertoire. The traumatic loss of his mother from tuberculosis also resulted in hypochondria and mysophobia, themes he explored in some of his works. Gurpinar believed that sex was a dangerous habit, especially for people with weaker bodies, the kind he perceived himself to be. (38) He thought that he managed to avoid an early death "thanks to an incredibly strict abstinence in all respects" and proudly announced his asexuality by claiming that ascetics and stoics might have committed more sin than he had. (39) Living with the constant fear of death, the author refused to marry or to invest in futurity through adoption. As he passed middle age, Gurpinar's lifelong antisociality culminated in a reclusive lifestyle in an island mansion where he lived with a widowed aunt, her daughter, and his friend Colonel Hulusi Bey. The two men were very close and neither of them had ever married. Hulusi Bey was also the first reader of Gurpinar's works and acted as his agent. (40) While some contemporary critics define them as a couple, I would rather not speculate about the sexual or romantic nature of their relationship. Nevertheless, this was still a queer relationship in the sense that the two men resisted the hegemonic social norms, created an alternative household, and enjoyed a nonnormative form of intimacy.

Gurpinar published his first novel Sik (The Dandy) in 1888, which brought him great success at the age of fifteen. The satirical novel dealt with a popular theme in Turkish literature at the time: urban, middle-class, Muslim Turkish men's desire and failure to perform European masculinity. The story of the dandy, which he continued to explore in several other works, was "not only the story of the corruption brought by extreme Westernization but also that of the son who could not manage to become a man, the feminized or castrated man, the hybrid-gendered female-man." (41) Although Gurpinar did not deviate from the norm and presented the dandy as an object of criticism, these heterosexual yet queer characters also provided him with an opportunity to explore the performative nature of gender. This exploration would reach its peak in Kadin Erkeklesince, where it would serve as a vehicle of queer Marxist political critique. Gurpinar's interest in ubiquitous performance was not limited to gender. In many of his novels, essays, and even plays--including Kadin Erkeklesince--Gurpinar refers to Ottoman performance genres as well as works from the European dramatic canon, most notably Moliere, to describe everyday relationships. With constant and explicit references to artistic performances, Gurpinar alludes to the ways in which everyday life is rehearsed and staged, with its costumes and sets.

Gurpinar's interest in questions of performativity and his love for the performing arts also informed his style. The author adopted the humorous tone of Ottoman popular performances, especially the story-tellers known as meddah and the shadow theatre Karagoz. He thus incorporated elements of Ottoman performances into the new literary and performance genres associated with Europeanization: the novel and the play. This strategy helped him reach a broad public, a crucial achievement for an intellectual who took pride in writing for the people. (42) Alongside Ottoman performances, Gurpinar was also strongly influenced by realism and naturalism. He was known for basing his works on real-life events. The residents of Gurpinar's mansion served as de facto research assistants, updating him on the latest gossip as well as the political developments. (43) Nevertheless, the author's fondness for deus ex machina and the lengthy interventions he made in some of his works would make it difficult to describe Gurpinar as a representative of realism or naturalism. (44)

Except for the few years he spent as a civil servant, Gurpinar earned his living solely by writing, emerging as an important figure in the Turkish dramatic and literary canon. His reviews and essays on theatre, where he argued the need for a "national theatre" (milli tiyatro), were published in eminent periodicals. In the early years of Darulbedayi, the author served on the company's literary council (edebi kurul). (45) In comparison to his more than fifty novels and short story collections, however, Gurpinar's work in the field of dramatic literature remained rather modest. The author wrote his first play, Gulbahar Hanim, at the age of twelve, but the draft was lost in a fire. Once he established his literary career, he wrote seven more plays, two of which were published in his novels as works written by the characters. (46) These plays, like his novels and essays, reflected Gurpinar's self-appointed pedagogical mission: using comedy to pull ordinary people toward what he called a "high philosophy." (47)

As an heir to the Enlightenment, Gurpinar was a firm believer in rationality, and he devoted his life to educating the masses so that they could use their reason to end their oppression. In that regard, he perceived theatres to be a particularly powerful tool and presented the socialist and anarchist workers who frequented theaters in Europe as an example. (48) The author's struggle for social and economic justice, however, was not driven by hope. His "high philosophy" incorporated elements from Marxism, Nietzschean morality, Schopenhauerian pessimism, and both biological and individualist social Darwinism. The author believed that humans are inherently selfish and evil, and the world is a site of violent and frustrating competition. (49) Those who are in power exploit the vulnerable masses. Law and justice, for Gurpinar, are mere illusions that serve to legitimize such greedy exploitation. (50) This theme gains an explicitly gendered dimension in Kadin Erkeklesince and a number of his other works. Gurpinar's stories of female domestic workers and women in Istanbul's working-class neighborhoods demonstrate how social, economic, and sexual violence are entangled and how they operate intersectionally.

According to Gurpinar, popular morality, like the law, legitimizes and reproduces oppression. Moreover, both disciplinary systems also create irresolvable dilemmas by imposing laws that contradict biological instincts. The author repeatedly argued that monogamy is against nature, yet it is imposed by popular morality and the law. (51) This clash often results in a hypocritical pretense of adherence to social norms while discreetly violating them, an attitude that Gurpinar heavily criticized. (52) For this reason, he neither writes about idealized love nor does he narrate stories of long-lasting relationships or marriages based on profound love. (53) To him, love is no different from "a trap of nature to ensure procreation," (54) a temporary state of illness that he never experienced. (55) Instead, Gurpinar narrates the stories of elderly cuckolds, spouses driven to murder by jealousy, parents who cause the deaths of their own children, people who cheat on their spouses with their stepchildren, and even women who castrate their husbands and feed the cooked penis to their mistresses. In his works, sex and desire are not so much about survival and futurity as they are about disaster and decline, and every heteronormative family carries the kernel of its own destruction. The author's claim that his works were inspired by real-life events, supported by his use of realist and naturalist techniques, provided a quasi-social scientific basis to these claims.

Telling the stories of shattered families with great skill and joy, Gurpinar's plays, novels, and short stories came to be imbued with a sense of queer negativity. This queer positionality is mainly associated with the antirelational or antisocial thesis in queer theory. Growing out of Leo Bersani's critique of the sanitization of sexuality, (56) queer antirelationality evolved into a position against the reproduction of society and investment in futurity, primarily associated with the work of Lee Edelman. Following other feminist and queer theorists like Lauren Berlant, (57) Edelman shows how the image of the innocent child has come to represent the dominant culture and its reproduction, and "remains the perpetual horizon of every acknowledged politics, the fantasmatic beneficiary of every political intervention." (58) He thus proposes a queer politics and ethics that are against the figure of the child and the future that it represents. Others, like Jack Halberstam and Jose Esteban Munoz, have questioned Edelman's work for being an essentially white gay male political project, arguing that the possibility of a future is predicated on a position of privilege and that queers of color especially cannot afford to lose hope. (59)

Gurpinar's work, which predates the debate on queer negativity by a century, was produced in a vastly different cultural context in terms of sexual categories and frameworks as well as race relations. Unlike the North American scholars, Gurpinar does not address a queer readership or attempt to define a political vision for queer subjects. Nor does he pay much attention to sex and the constitution of queer subjectivity. (60) Instead, Gurpinar's political project, situated in his own queer subjectivity, seeks to undermine the fantasies of heteronormative family, reproductive futurity, and even romantic sociality by focusing on the impossibility of monogamous relationships. This subjectivity cannot be thought separately from his misanthropy and antisociality, or the sociopolitical context in which he was writing.

In his call to other individuals who identify on the LGBTQ spectrum, Edelman famously says: "Fuck the social order and the Child in whose name we're collectively terrorized; fuck Annie; fuck the waif from Les Mis; fuck the poor, innocent kid on the Net; fuck Laws both with capital Is and with small; fuck the whole network of Symbolic relations and the future that serves as its prop." (61) Gurpinar's children, by contrast, are all already fucked. They are born into a corrupt and exploitative social order in consequence of a heterosexual union that can only be sustained by hypocrisy or has already dissolved. While many (but not all) of these children project an image of innocence, this image is not used as a weapon against queers or other minoritarian subjects who are marginalized in the hegemonic order of things. The innocence associated with children just makes the oppressive nature of social relations and the violence of the heteronormative family--as well as its ultimate impossibility and demise--even more spectacular. As such, the figure of the child supports Gurpinar's queer critique. Among his plays, this theme is particularly powerful in Kadin Erkeklesince, where queer negativity is entangled with Marxist feminist political critique.

Queer Marxism on the Kemalist Stage

Kadin Erkeklesince was initially one of the side stories in Gurpinar's 1930 novel UtanmazAdam (The Shameless Man). The novel narrates the life of Avnussalah, a Nietzschean antihero who makes a living by exploiting the hypocritical morals of middle-class Istanbulites. Interestingly, Avnussalah finds his match in an unabashedly bisexual man who, instead of yielding to blackmailing, tells him that the only way he would pay Avnussalah any money would be in exchange for procuring men. When he was presented with the opportunity to write a play for Darulbedayi, however, Gurpinar chose to develop another queer side story from the novel. The result was a problem play about women's increasing participation in the workforce.

The main characters of Kadin Erkeklesince are three couples. Ali Tevfik and his wife Mebrure are a precariously middle-class couple in their fifties. They rely on Memduha, a rich orphan girl living under Ali Tevfik's legal guardianship, to make ends meet. Mebrure wants her son Ali Sureyya to marry Memduha but neither party is interested in this prospect. Memduha meets another young man, Mesut Galip, with whom she elopes. Ali Sureyya also marries in secret, to a young secretary named Nebahat--a heterosexual and female-presenting feminist who self-identifies as male. As in many of Gurpinar's works, at the center of the play is the conflict between what the author defines as the old mindset (eski kafa) and the new one (yeni kafa). (62) The old mindset represents not only the traditions or folk beliefs but often also the dominant social norms and moral frameworks. Similarly, the new mindset is not so much about the Ottoman or Kemalist reforms but about what Gurpinar imagines to be on the horizon. In many cases, the new mindset is characterized by a Nietzschean critique of morality, and its defenders are social outcasts or criminals much like the character of Avnussalah in the novel.

Mebrure, whom her husband describes as a woman of the Istibdat Period (1879-1908), (63) a time of autocracy and oppression, represents the old mindset. She is preoccupied with maintaining the status quo. Mebrure does not approve of (and cannot perform) the new codes of hegemonic femininity to become a Kemalist woman. However, the sociopolitical system in which her subjectivity has been formed has now passed, and she is afraid of failure. An important transformation brought by the Kemalist reforms was the gradual transition from the extended family household to the nuclear one. For elderly women, this transition implied the annulment of their bargain with patriarchy. (64) When they were young, these women's physical and affective labor was exploited not only by men but also by other women, most notably by their mothers-in-law. This exploitation, structured by domestic hierarchies organized around women's difference in age and their relationships to the men of the household, also facilitated social reproduction and enabled the successful functioning of patriarchy. The younger women assumed that if they could successfully invest in the heteronormative family and reproductive futurity, especially by giving birth to sons, they would have access to other young women's labor in old age.

The emergence of the nuclear family as the new norm posed a threat to this system. Elderly women like Mebrure were not sure that they could get a return on the investment they had made in their youth. This is one of the reasons why Mebrure thinks Memduha would be an ideal bride. Since the young woman feigns unintelligence, Mebrure believes that she would be easier to control. Memduha also shows practical intelligence when it comes to handcrafts, hinting that she is still capable of performing domestic labor. Most importantly, Memduha's wealth can help the family retain their socioeconomic status and exploit the labor of others, especially women.

Mebrure is very much aware of the limits of the Kemalist gender reforms. As she tries to convince her son Ali Sureyya to marry Memduha, she tells him to see the marriage as a business deal and seek love and pleasure elsewhere. Referring to the criminalization of polygyny with the adoption of the Turkish Civil Code in 1926, Mebrure says: "The law may prevent you from marrying two women but there is no punishment for keeping a mistress." (65) The play thus reveals how the Kemalist policies failed to create a fundamental transformation in gender relations. Gurpinar's criticisms of the legal reforms were particularly timely because the proponents of state feminism had begun to frame feminist activism as redundant if not dubious in the 1930s. These debates would soon culminate in the country's largest feminist organization, Turk Kadinlar Birligi (Turkish Women's Union), abolishing itself in 1935.

Memduha occupies a somewhat liminal space in the binary opposition between the old mindset and the new one. She is cunning enough to pretend unintelligence, which prevents Ali Sureyya from recognizing her as a "new woman" and thus keeps him away. (66) This strategy helps Memduha in planning her escape as well. (67) The young woman is aware of her legal rights. Now that she is eighteen, she is ready to end the legal guardianship and sue the family. (68) Despite this familiarity with some of the opportunities provided by the new regime, however, Memduha is far from the ideal Kemalist woman. She has studied only until junior high school and she does not express any interest in continuing her studies or pursuing a career. Instead, she elopes with Mesut Galip and becomes a mother. Rather than representing either the old mindset or the new one, Memduha's story shows that the debates about gender equality and women's entry into the workforce are very much about class and capitalist labor relations. As a wealthy woman, Memduha reminds us that if anyone can invest in reproductive futurity with some success, it is the bourgeoisie.

The representative of the new mindset in the play is Nebahat, whom Ali Tevfik describes as the new woman "born from the Republican thought of this century." (69) Nevertheless, it is difficult to say that Nebahat's mindset is the Kemalist one. He is familiar with the legal reforms implemented in the name of gender equality, but he also knows too well that there is a gap between implementation and enforcement of legislation. Hence when his father-in-law suggests that the law recognizes equality between husband and wife, Nebahat retorts "Those are just words. No other law is ignored as much as this one." (70) In order to ensure that he can enjoy true gender equality, Nebahat has refused to depend solely on the law. Instead, he has chosen a husband who ostensibly shares similar concerns, and the two have made an additional agreement based on trust. By building their marriage not only on sexual attraction but also on serious social engagement, the couple want to "set an example for a marriage revolution among Turks." (71) In that sense, the marriage is a project of futurity that spans from the individual to the national level.

At the core of Nebahat and Ali Sureyyas marriage is an equal division of labor. This also seems to be the main reason for Ali Sureyyas desire to marry Nebahat instead of Memduha. During an argument with his mother, Ali Sureyya says: "Mother, any wealth is bound to be exhausted. With a strong will and determination, however, people can overcome any obstacle. I will work and so will my wife. In the evening, we will go home with our earnings. We will feed our baby birds." (72) Nebahat also thinks that it is an archaic habit for women to stay at home and take care of the family while the man acts as the sole breadwinner. This arrangement, Nebahat explains to his father-in-law, leads to women's oppression: "When all the family expenses are covered by the man, this gives him an intolerable arrogance. If he desires, he feeds the woman. If he does not, he makes her live in in utter poverty, practically in hunger. . . . Dear sir, a woman who is dependent on her husband is not free. She is a sort of domestic slave for the family albeit without a slave tag; as a slave, she belongs to her husband." (73) According to Nebahat, to avoid enslavement and to be her husband's equal, "a woman should not rely solely on legal protection; she should also be equipped with other material powers." (74)

Gender equality, Nebahat argues, is to be achieved in two interconnected ways. The first strategy he proposes is the abolition of the word "woman" (kadin), which he defines as "a term of weakness." (75) This is a remarkable argument that bears strong parallels to the work of Jacques Derrida and the French new feminists on phallogocentrism. Derrida created this term to describe how modern Western culture has been shaped by the philosophy of determinateness, which serves a masculinist and patriarchal agenda. The "dual, hierarchical oppositions" that characterize the phallogocentric philosophy colonize the woman while passing off the masculine structure as eternal-natural. (76) To challenge this logic of hierarchical oppositions and to resist debasement, Nebahat refuses to identify as a woman. In response to his father-in-law Ali Tevfik's biological determinist argument that nature requires us to use the term "woman" in order to distinguish between the sexes (cinsiyet), (77) Nebahat insists that there are no two separate sexes but only humans (insan). (78)

Despite his rejection of gender and sexual binarism, however, Nebahat's strategy is not to adopt a genderqueer identification and identify simply as "human." Instead, he identifies as male. In her discussion of the term "transgender," Susan Stryker puts the emphasis on trans-, "the movement across a socially imposed boundary away from an unchosen starting place." (79) In that sense, Nebahat's female masculinity becomes a feminist political strategy to move away from gender norms--not so much in terms of embodiment but rather in terms of the regulation of labor and access to power. As a feminist strategy, this trans self-identification allows Nebahat to scandalously claim the category of "man" although he presents as a cisgender woman, and thus attempt to transform the very foundation of his oppression.

The second strategy Nebahat adopts to resist patriarchy is to resituate himself within labor relations. In a household where men--including his husband who is supposedly committed to gender equality--do not perform any domestic labor, Nebahat also refuses to do any housework. The case of Nebahat reveals how the bodies gendered as female are expected to perform unpaid domestic labor and how this durational performance is crucial for the constitution of a desirable or even acceptable femininity. Of course, this is especially true for the households that cannot afford to exploit other women's labor. Nebahat's everyday performance thus reveals the central role of labor in the construction and maintenance of hegemonic gender roles, thereby gaining a powerful parodic dimension. In her study of gender parody, Judith Butler argues that in "imitating gender, drag implicitly reveals the imitative structure of gender itself--as well as its contingency." (80) Using this story of female masculinity, Gurpinar makes a comparable argument about the gendered regulation of labor relations. In and through his interactions with other members of the household, where he imitates men's avoidance of housework and their lack of appreciation for women's unpaid domestic labor, Nebahat shows the contingency of the definition of domestic labor as a natural duty associated with female-presenting bodies.

Nebahat's refusal to perform unpaid domestic labor and his disparaging attitude toward the women who do also lends visibility to this form of gendered work and its importance for social reproduction. Reflecting Gurpinar's mysophobia, the play's detailed and repulsive descriptions of Ali Sureyya and Nebahat's room emphasizes the value of domestic labor. The play also defines housework as a serious occupation by highlighting the health risks involved, such as the potentially harmful effects of doing laundry on the lungs (see Figure 1). (81) Given Gurpinar's own interest in homemaking, such appreciation of housework also serves to validate the playwright's own queer performance of gender.

Ali Sureyya's refusal to secure the family's class status by means of marriage and Nebahat's performance of female masculinity, particularly his refusal to engage in domestic labor, lead Ali Tevfik and Mebrure to kick them out of their house. The young couple ends up in the attic of an old house, where Nebahat gives birth to their child, Hilkat. Now that there is a baby needing attention and nobody there to help, Ali Sureyya's performing his share of domestic labor is crucial. Nevertheless, as soon as he is expected to make sacrifices, he stops pretending to be a "new man." (82) He is not willing to stay at home with the baby while Nebahat is at the office. Nebahats attempt to create a trust-based alternative to the law, sure to let him down, now also fails. In fact, Ali Sureyya reminds him that their agreement has no legally binding power. (83) The young man even makes biological arguments to claim that it is solely the mother's responsibility to take care of the child.

Following a big fight, Ali Sureyya leaves home for work, and so does Nebahat. Before leaving Hilkat alone in the crib, Nebahat approaches the baby and speaks in tears: "Sleep, innocent victim of the century of scarcity.... And never wake up." (84) When they finally come home from work, the baby indeed will not wake up. With these words, Gurpinar makes it clear for the audience that Nebahat is aware that the baby will die. To continue his performance of masculinity, however, he still has to leave home. Otherwise he risks being feminized and enslaved by patriarchal capitalism. In Nebahats farewell to Hilkat, the reference to economics is striking. As a person who identifies as male but is perceived as female, Nebahat faces irreconcilable desires and expectations in Kemalist Turkey. He has to be modern yet modest and honorable, participate in the workforce while also bearing children and taking care of the household. His class status and the lack of social security services, such as affordable child care or maternity leave, make it exceptionally difficult for Nebahat to negotiate these conflicting roles, which he does not completely reject. Lacking family support networks or a well-paying job, he cannot afford to exploit the labor of women, which was a major driving force behind the opportunities provided by Kemalist state feminism, especially to urban, middle-class women. (85) By refusing hegemonic gender norms and attempting to build an alternative form of marriage, Nebahat seeks to survive in a patriarchal society, where gender equality is nothing but a strategically deployed political discourse. Combined with the inherently greedy and selfish nature of most, if not all, humans in Gurpinar's universe, his attempts to build an alternative family thus fail.

The baby's name suggests the scale of Nebahat's failure. "Hilkat" means natural disposition, creation, and genesis. With the death of Hilkat, the possibility of redefining gender relations and creating an alternative family also dies. Furthermore, as Ali Tevfik says in his lengthy speech at Hilkat's funeral, which is the final scene of the play, the death of the baby has implications for the nation as well--especially at a time when the regime promoted population growth: "This little coffin takes the generations, which would sprout from the family tree of Turks and reproduce forever, to the grave" (see Figure 2). (86) Kadin Erkeklesince thus also sees no future for the nation-state, at least not a desirable one. Like other capitalist and patriarchal social formations, the sustenance of the nation-state depends on the gendered exploitation of labor. The reproduction of such a system is nothing but the intergenerational transfer of exploitation. Nebahat s parodic performance of female masculinity creates a rupture in this system. At the funeral, Memduha and her child stand as silent reminders of the fact that only the bourgeoisie can comfortably reproduce itself in a patriarchal capitalist regime.

Kadin Erkeklesince is a play about liminality, a stage of threshold imbued with potentiality. In the somewhat ambiguous ending, however, what happens is not an ultimate transformation but rather the re-establishing of norms. At the funeral, Ali Tevfik claims that modern life emancipates men while women try to become masculine to avoid oppression. (87) Women may do men's work when necessary, he argues, but their behavior should remain within the borders of their gender. Because, according to Ali Tevfik, the order and prosperity of the nation depends on harmonious relationships between men and women, and raising children is among the greatest duties of the citizens to the nation. With such nationalistic arguments, Ali Tevfik interpellates his audiences on and offstage as good Turkish citizens as well as cisgender and heterosexual subjects. He then suddenly grabs Ali Sureyya and Nebahat by their wrists and drags them in front of Mebrure, saying "Kiss your mother's hands." (88) The surprised couple obeys this order (see Figure 3). Mebrure reciprocates by kissing them on the forehead. The couple then kiss Ali Tevfik. The play ends with a brief speech that Mebrure delivers while sobbing: "This little coffin purged our hearts of off all grudge. It made us make peace. Had my grandchild lived, he would have become such a good child." (89) This scene of reconciliation implies the victory of the old mindset. The familial and the national order seem to be re-implemented. What appears to be reconciliation is thus submission: submission to the old mindset, to cisnormativity, to patriarchal capitalism, to the nation-state, and ultimately to exploitation.

Conclusion: Kadin Erkeklesince and Its Audiences

Kadin Erkeklesince is an important play in the history of Turkish dramatic literature for several reasons: it is one of the first plays by a queer playwright to deal with an explicitly queer topic, it features an informed discussion on feminism and explicitly criticizes state feminism in its heyday, and it explores radical feminist, queer, and Marxist survival strategies under patriarchal capitalism. As such, this 1932 play is also of relevance for scholars interested in the histories of radical feminism and queer Marxism and in how these ideological formations found different articulations in theatre cultures outside of Western Europe and North America. The play's reception at its time, however, was mixed.

Gurpinar wrote Kadin Erkeklesince at a time when the devastating loss of Colonel Hulusi Bey, the financial difficulties he experienced, and what he perceived to be the ingratitude of the literary world had intensified his antisociality. The play reflects his queer negativity, suggesting that there is neither a desirable future nor a viable queer alternative. The scene of reconciliation at the end of Kadin Erkeklesince, combined with Gurpinar's status as a prominent intellectual, possibly helped the play pass censorship, despite this tone of negativity, to be staged by Darulbedayi. This problem play's ambivalent ending, which lent itself to different interpretations was also probably useful in that regard. Moreover, even though the text was explicitly critical of state feminism, the production still served this political project. Seven of the eleven characters, including most of the main characters, are women. Mebrure and Nebahat dominate the play, and their lines are politically complex and affectively powerful. The cast even featured two icons of state feminism: Bedia Muvahhit and Neyyire Neyir. As such, at a time when the state sponsored theatre promoted state feminism, the production contributed to this function as well.

When Kadin Erkeklefince premiered, Gurpinar was working on other plays, possibly hoping to make theatre a somewhat regular source of income. The reviews, however, would be disheartening. An interesting question raised by an Izmir critic was why the play was staged. (90) Although Gurpinar wrote a lengthy response to such criticisms, he dismissed this attack simply by saying that the play was good and that the director chose to stage it. However, this was an important question that demonstrates how the complex politics of the play were received. At a time when most Turkish dramatic texts were thesis plays, often reflecting hegemonic discourses, Kadin Erkeklesince's complex debates on the politics of gender and sexuality might have alienated the critics as well as the audiences. Despite the play's sympathy for feminism, some interpreted Gurpinar to be criticizing women's participation in the workforce, and even called him a reactionary. (91) Over the years, several contemporary feminist scholars have also proposed similar interpretations, which ignore the play's queer perspective. Selen Korad Birkiye, for instance, interprets Ali Tevfik's reconciliation speech as Gurpinar's thesis. Describing Nebahat's feminism as "immature," Korad Birkiye argues that the play advocates for gender equality within limits. (92) For Nuray Firidinoglu Yilmaz, the play's thesis is that women's participation in the workforce and their presence in the public sphere will affect "the balance of nature." (93) Sevda Sener defines Nebahat as an example to "criminal" or "sinner" female characters and claims that Kadin Erkeklesince points out the dangers emerging from women's dissatisfaction with being homemakers. (94) Similarly, Ezgi Deniz Alpan associates Nebahat with the theatrical stereotype of the "irresponsible woman" who drives her family to destruction. (95) Ironically, some male scholars who propose similar interpretations of the work have praised Gurpinar for showing the acceptable limits of gender equality. (96)

The complex gender politics of Kadin Erkeklesince have also affected the play's production history. While some of Gurpinar's humorous novels such as Gulyabani (The Ghoul) and Kuyruklu Yildiz Altinda Bir tzdivac (A Marriage Under a Shooting Star) have been successfully adapted to theatre and film, Kadin Erkeklesince has not been as popular. In her 2015 review of the text, feminist literary critic Leyla Burcu Dundar interprets the play as an attack on the ideal of gender equality. (97) Emphasizing the growing problem of violence against women and gender inequality in contemporary Turkey, Dundar suggests that today might be a good time for a new production of the play. While I agree with her criticisms against the current sociopolitical environment, I believe that the time is right for a production of Kadin Erkeklesince for other reasons.

The oppressive political environment in Turkey clearly affects theatre in a multitude of ways, from censorship to the persecution of theatre professionals and scholars, to the demolishing of venues and biased distribution of public funds. Nevertheless, in part thanks to the longer history of queer activism, the development of media and communication technologies, and the availability of international funds, the past decade has also witnessed an increase in queer activism and cultural production. While Istanbul City Theater and other public companies have become more and more conservative in their repertory choices, independent companies and venues such as Altidan Sonra, Craft Tiyatro, GalataPerform, Kadikoy Emek Theater, Mek'an, Mekan Arti, Studio 4 Istanbul, Kadikoy Theatron, Tatavla Sahne/Sahne Cihangir, and Tiyatro Boyali Kus have produced plays on queer issues, often by queer Turkish playwrights and with queer casts. Activist figures like the Kurdish trans performer Esmeray, known for her autobiographical plays, have also become staples of Turkey's theatre scene. In this theatre environment, with a production attentive to the play's complex political critique, Kadin Erkeklesince can introduce audiences to the queer archives of Turkish theatre and ask new questions about gender, sexuality, and various forms of political resistance. (98) Now in the public domain, the play awaits its future producers.


Sabanci University


(1) The research for this essay was funded by a generous research award from Koc University's Center for Gender Studies. I am grateful to Hulya Adak, Vivian L. Huang, Olivera Jokic, and Elif Yavnik for their helpful comments and suggestions.

(2) David Halperin, Saint Foucault: Towards a Gay Hagiography (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997), 62.

(3) When 1 use the term "queer" to describe individuals, I do not imply equivalence with LGBT (or any of its constituents). Rather than being a marker of identity, I employ the term to describe the bodies and subjectivities that do not comply with the hegemonic norms of gender and sexuality.

(4) The term "problem play" refers to a form of realist drama that explores controversial social issues through debates between the characters, who represent conflicting points of view. For a discussion of Kadin Erkeklesince as a problem play, see Ozlem Belkis, "Modern Maskesinin Altindaki Muhafazakarhk: Oyun Metinlerimizde Toplumsal Cinsiyet Kahpyargilari Nasil Uretiliyor?" in Maske Kitabi, ed. Kerem Karaboga and Oguz Arici (Istanbul: Habitus Yayincilik, 2014), 259.

(5) For a groundbreaking study on female masculinity that focuses primarily on embodied forms of gender expression in the conventional sense, see J. Halberstam, Female Masculinity (Durham: Duke University Press, 1998).

(6) See Tahsin Konur, "Cumhuriyet Doneminde Devlet-Tiyatro Iliskisi," Ankara Universitesi Dil ve Tarih-Cografya Fakultesi Dergisi 31, no. 1-2 (1987): 307-50 (343-45).

(7) On the current politics of censorship and the broader cultural policy climate in Turkey, see Selen Korad Birkiye, "Changes in the Cultural Policies of Turkey and the AKP's Impact on Social Engineering and Theatre," International Journal of Cultural Policy 15 (2009): 261-74; Asu Aksoy and Burcu Yasemin Seyben, "Storm over the State Cultural Institutions: New Cultural Policy Direction in Turkey," International Journal of Cultural Policy 21 (2015): 183-99; and Pieter Verstraete, "Turkey's Artists at Risk: Dramaturgies of Resistance vs. Politics of Fear," Textures (2018), available at

(8) Enver Tore, "Turk Tiyatrosunun Kaynaklari," Turkish Studies 4, no. 1-2 (2009): 2181-2384 (2208).

(9) Louis Althusser, "Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses: Notes towards an Investigation," in Lenin and Philosophy, and Other Essays, trans. Ben Brewster (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1971), 121-76.

(10) I borrow the term from Norbert Elias, The Civilizing Process (Oxford and Maiden: Blackwell, 2000).

(11) Nukhet Sirman, "The Making of Familial Citizenship in Turkey," in Citizenship in a Global World: European Questions and Turkish Experiences, ed. Fuat Keyman and Ahmet Icduygu (London: Routledge, 2005), 157.

(12) Nukhet Sirman, "The Postcolonial through the Prism of Love: Emotions and the Constitution of the Modern Subject," in Contemporary Theorizing in Psychology: Global Perspectives, ed. Aydan Gulerce et al. (Ontario: Captus University Publications, 2003), 347.

(13) Zehra Toska, "Cumhuriyet'in Kadin Ideali, Esigi Asanlar ve Asamayanlar," 75. Ydtnda Kadinlar ve Erkekler, ed. Ayse Berktay Hacimirzaoglu (Istanbul: Tarih Vakfi Yurt Yayinlari, 1998), 71.

(14) Yasemin Avci, "Osmanli Devleti'nde Tanzimat Doneminde 'Otoriter Modernlesme' ve Kadinin Ozgurlesmesi Meselesi," Osmanli Tarihi Arastirma ve Uygulama Merkezi Dergisi 21 (2007): 1-18 (2).

(15) For a comprehensive study of gender politics in the works of Ottoman and Turkish female playwrights, see Meral Harmanci McDermott, Bastirilanin Geri Donusu: Tanzimat'tan Cumhuriyet'e Kadin Oyun Yazarlarinda Toplumsal Cinsiyet (Istanbul: Habitus Kitap, 2016).

(16) According to the actor Vasfi Riza Zobu, an early example of these women was Kadriye Hanim, who performed under the stage name Papazkoprulu Amelya (Amelya from Papazkopru) in 1889. See Selma Selcuker, "Esas Kiz, Kadriye Hanim," Cumhuriyet, December 28, 1991.

(17) Busra Ersanli, "The Ottoman Empire in the Historiography of the Kemalist Era: A Theory of Fatal Decline," in The Ottomans and the Balkans: A Discussion of Historiography, ed. Fikret Adanir and Suraiya Faroqhi (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 2002), 115-16.

(18) For Bedia Muvahhit's status as a role model and early Republican icon, see Gbkhan Akcura, Bedia Muvahhit: Bir Cumhuriyet Sanatcist (Istanbul: Istanbul Buyuksehir Belediyesi, Kultur Isleri Dairesi Baskanligi Yayinlari, 1993).

(19) Ayse Durakbasa, "Kemalism as Identity Politics in Turkey," in Deconstructing Images of "The Turkish Woman," ed. Zehra F. Arat (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1998), 139-57.

(20) For the early uses of the term, see Sirin Tekeli, Kadinlar Icin (Istanbul: Alay Yayincilik, 1988), 315, and Deniz Kandiyoti, "End of Empire: Islam, Nationalism and Women in Turkey," in Women, Islam and the State, ed. Deniz Kandiyoti (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1991), 42.

(21) See Yaprak Zihnioglu, Kadinsiz Inkilap: Nezihe Muhiddin, Kadinlar Halk Firkasi, Kadin Birligi (Istanbul: Metis Yayinlan, 2003).

(22) Sirin Tekeli, Siyasal Hayat ve Kadinlar (Istanbul: Birikim Yayinlan, 1982), 214.

(23) Gurpinar also presented such criticisms in his fiction. In his 1923 novel Dirilen Iskelet (The Skeleton That Comes to Life), for instance, Banu, a well-educated young Muslim Turkish woman says: "I also know that we cannot have theatre unless the Turkish woman presents her national face and sweet accent on the stage" ("ben de biliyorum ki Turk kadini milli cehre ve tatli sivesini sahnede gbstermedikce bizde tiyatro olamaz"; Huseyin Rahmi Gurpmar, Dirilen Iskelet [Istanbul: Hilmi Kitabevi, 1946], 271).

(24) Walter G. Andrews and Mehmet Kalpakli, The Age of Beloveds: Love and the Beloved in Early-Modern Ottoman and European Culture and Society (Durham: Duke University Press, 2004), 22.

(25) Mustafa Avci, "Shifts in Sexual Desire: Bans on Dancing Boys (Koceks) throughout Ottoman Modernity (1800s-1920s)," Middle Eastern Studies 53 (2017): 762-81.

(26) Dror Ze'evi, Producing Desire: Changing Sexual Discourse in the Ottoman Middle East, 1500-1900 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006), 168.

(27) Ze'evi, Producing Desire, 168-69.

(28) Rustem Ertug Altinay, "The Queer Archivist as Political Dissident Rereading the Ottoman Empire in the Works of Resad Ekrem Kocu," Radical History Review 122 (2015): 89-102.

(29) Avci, "Shifts in Sexual Desire."

(30) Serdar Ozturk, "Karagoz Co-Opted: Turkish Shadow Theatre of the Early Republic (1923-1945)," Asian Theatre journal 23 (2006): 292-313.

(51) The play was initially published in the magazine Resimli Kitap in 1909, and later as a book in 1911. See Olcay Akyildiz, "Eltinin Eltiye Ettigi . . ." Pan Dergi 5 (2017),

(32) Dilek Cetindas, "Sahabettin Suleyman'in Firtina Isimli Eserinde Yer Alan Tekellumi Hikayeler Uzerine Bir Inceleme," International Journal of Language Academy 5 (2017): 387-94 (388).

(33) Ibnurrefik Ahmet Nuri, Ndkis (Istanbul: Resimli Ay Matbaasi, 1931). 1 am grateful to Koray Ustun for bringing this largely forgotten play to my attention.

(34) Refik Ahmet Sevengil, Huseyin Rahmi Gurpinar (Istanbul: Hilmi Kitabevi, 1944), 10-11; "Gocuklugu eski Istanbul hammlari arasmda gecmis; aradaki yarim asirdan hayli fazla olan zamana ragmen o hayatin tesirlerini jestlerinde kuvvetle muhafaza ediyor; gun gormus, ananeye sadik, kibar bir Istanbul hanimefendisi gibi ekseriya ellerini ya dizlerinin ustunde ya gogsunun ustunde kavusturarak oturur; gulerken parmaklati birbirine bitisip guzel bir siper haline gelen bir eli ile agzini orter; kahkahalan kucuk, sessiz ve kibardir; dudaklarmda sonen gulmesi bir muddet de gozlerinde devam eder.

Kadinlar arasmda gecen cocukluk hayatindan kalan bir baska hatira da su: Gayet iyi tentene orer, yastik isler, beyaz isi yapar." All translations from Turkish are mine unless otherwise noted. I have edited the original texts for grammatical and spelling errors.

(35) I borrow the term from Diana Taylor, who defines "the archive" and "the repertoire" as two distinct yet connected ways for the transfer of social memory. See Diana Taylor, The Archive and the Repertoire: Performing Cultural Memory in the Americas (Durham: Duke University Press, 2003).

(36) Hikmet Feridun, "Huseyin Rahmi, Mahalle Karilanm Nasil Konusturdu ve Basindan Gecen Kazalar," in Huseyin Rahmi Gurpinar--Gazetecilikte Son Yazilanm 4: Soylesiler ve Paul Bourgetden Cevirdigi Andre Cornell Romant, ed. Abdullah Tannmnkulu and Gulcin Tanrininkulu (Istanbul: Ozgur Yayinlan, 2006), 84.

(37) Huseyin Rahmi Gurpinar, Ask Batagi (Bir Muadele-i Sevda), 3rd ed. (Istanbul: Atlas Kitabevi, 1972), 8-9.

(38) Huseyin Rahmi Gurpinar, "Evlenmeli mi, Bekar mi Durmali?," in Huseyin Rahmi Gurpinar--Gazetecilikte ilk Yazilarim (1888-1898), ed. Abdullah Tanrininkulu and Gulcin Tanrininkulu (Istanbul: Ozgur Yayinlan, 1999), 67-76.

(39) Huseyin Rahmi Gurpinar, Cadi Carpiyor/Sakavet-i Edebiyye, ed. Kemal Bek (Istanbul: Ozgur Yayinlan, 1998), 55; "Her bakimdan inanilmaz bir perhiz yapma sayesinde yasadim."

(40) Sevengil, Huseyin Rahmi Gurpinar, 156-57.

(41) Nurdan Gurbilek, "Erkek Yazar, Kadin Okur," in Kadinlar Dile Dusunce: Edebiyat ve Toplumsal Cinsiyet, ed. Sibel Irzik and Jale Parla (Istanbul: Iletisim Yayinlan, 2004), 303; "Bu romanlarda zuppenin hikayesi yalnizca asiri Batililasmanin yol actigi bozulmanin degil, bir turlu erillesememis ogulun, kadinsilasmis ya da hadim edilmis erkegin, melez cinsiyetli kadin-adamin da hikayesidir ayni zamanda."

(42) Gurpinar, Cadi Carpiyor/Sakavet-i Edebiyye, 67.

(43) Omit Beyazoglu, Halirda Kalmaz, Satirda Kalir: 58 Portre (Istanbul: Aras Yayincilik, 2013), 145.

(44) Kemal Bek, "Huseyin Rahmi Gurpinar," Gurpinar, Cadi Carpiyor/Sakavet-i Edebiyye, 15-16.

(45) Ozdemir Nutku, "Darulbedayi'nin Oyun Secimi Uzerine Notlar," Tiyatro Arastirmalari Dergisi 1 (1970): 69-139 (69).

(46) Olcay Onertoy, "Oyun Yazan Huseyin Rahmi Gurpinar," Ankara Universitesi Turkoloji Dergisi 7, no. 1 (1977): 55-71.

(47) Gurpinar, Cadi Carpiyor/Sakavet-i Edebiyye, 123; "Ben her yapitimda avami gulmece arasinda yuksek bir felsefeye dogru cekmeye ugrastim."

(48) Gurpinar, 72-73.

(49) Berna Moran, Turk Romamna Elestirel Bir Bakis 1: Ahmet Mithat'tan A. H. Tanpinar'a, 10th ed. (Istanbul: Iletisim Yayinlari, 2001), 130.

(50) Moran, 143.

(51) Moran, 128.

(52) Moran, 127.

(53) Moran, 123.

(54) Kandemir, "Huseyin Rahmi'de Bir Saat," in Tanrininkulu and Tanrminkulu, Huseyin Rahmi Gurpina, 90; "Ask, dol yetistirmek icin tabiatin bir tuzagidir."

(55) Hikmet Feridun Es, "Huseyin Rahmi Gurpinar'in Ozel Hayati ile ilgili Yegeni Emine Muzaffer Saffer Hanim'la Yapilan Roportajlar," in Tanrininkulu and Tanrininkulu, Huseyin Rahmi Gurpinar, 142.

(56) Leo Bersani, "Is the Rectum a Grave?" October 43 (1987): 197-222 and Homos (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1996).

(57) Lauren Berlant, The Queen of America Goes to Washington City: Essays on Sex and Citizenship (Durham: Duke University Press, 1997).

(58) Lee Edelman, No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive (Durham: Duke University Press, 2004), 3.

(59) See Jose Esteban Munoz, Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity (New York: New York University Press, 2009) and "Thinking Beyond Antirelationality and Antiutopianism in Queer Critique," PMLA 121 (2006): 825-826 and J. Halberstam, "The Anti-Social Turn in Queer Studies," Graduate Journal of Social Science 5, no. 2 (2008): 140-56.

(60) In his notorious literary polemic with Sahabeddin Suleyman, Gurpinar expressed his disdain for topics such as lesbianism and belittled his interlocutor for writing about them. Given the occasional queer content in his own works, however, this ostensible homophobia may as well be a discursive strategy. For the polemic, see Gurpinar, Cadi Carpiyor/Sakavet-i Edebiyye.

(61) Edelman, No Future, 29.

(62) Moran, Turk Romanina Elestirel Bir Bakis 1, 114.

(63) Huseyin Rahmi Gurpinar, Kadin Erkeklesince (Istanbul: Hilmi Kitaphanesi, 1933), 69.

(64) Deniz Kandiyoti, "Bargaining with Patriarchy," Gender and Society 2 (1988): 274-90.

(65) Gurpinar, Kadin Erkeklesince, 26; "Kanun cift evlenmeyi men ediyorsa da metres alanlara ceza vermiyor ya."

(66) Gurpinar, 23.

(67) Gurpinar, 35.

(68) Gurpinar, 46.

(69) Gurpinar, 69; "bu asrin Cumhuriyet dusuncesinden dogan yeni kadinlik."

(70) Gurpinar, 72; "Lafzen.... Kanunun hicbir maddesi bundaki kadar ihmale ugramamaktadir."

(71) Gurpinar, 71; "Turklukte izdivac inkilabma bir numune olmak istedik."

(72) Gurpinar, 24; "Anne, yigili bir servet tukenmeye mahkumdur. Fakat kuvvetli bir azimle her mania yenilebilir. Ben calisacagim, karim calisacak. Kazancimizi aksam yuvamiza getirecegiz. Civcivlerimizi besleyecegiz."

(73) Gurpinar, 71-72; "Aile sarfiyatinin sirf erkegin elinden cikmasi ona cekilmez bir amirlik tavri veriyor.... Kadini soyle boyle isterse besliyor.... Istemezse acliga yakin bir muzayaka icinde yasatiyor.... Beyefendi Hazretleri, erkegin eline bakan kadin hur degildir. Penciksiz bir nevi aile halayigi, koca esiridir."

(74) Gurpinar, 72; "Kadin, hukuk baskulunde erkekle bir tartida gelebilmek icin yalniz kanunun himayesine muhtac kalmayacak baska maddi kuvvetlerle mucehhez bulunmalidir."

(75) Gurpinar, 72; "aciz ifade eden kadin tabiri."

(76) Helene Cixous and Catherine Clement, The Newly Born Woman, trans. Betsy Wang (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1986), 64.

(77) Given the historical context, the term "cins" can be translated as either "sex" or "gender." Because of the biologist nature of the argument, I preferred the former.

(78) Gurpinar, Kadin Erkeklesince, 72.

(79) Susan Stryker, Transgender History (Berkeley: Seal Press, 2008), 1.

(80) Judith Butler, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (London: Routledge, 1999), 175.

(81) Gurpinar, Kadin Erkeklesince, 80.

(82) Ottoman and Turkish men's hypocritical deployment of feminist discourses as part of their performance of modern masculinity only to abandon them when they are expected to take action is a theme Gurpinar explored in his previous works as well. See, for example, Huseyin Rahmi Gurpinar, Sevda Pesinde (Istanbul: Atlas Kitabevi, 1972), 40.

(83) Gurpinar, Kadin Erkeklesince, 91.

(84) Gurpinar, 93; "Kitlik asrinin masum kurbani uyu.... Ve hic uyanma."

(85) See Ayse Oncu, "Turkish Women in the Professions: Why So Many," in Women in Turkish Society, ed. Nermin Abadan-Unat (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1981), 193.

(86) Gurpinar, Kadm Erkeklesince, 105; "Bu kucuk tabut Turk seceresinin bir filizinden ilanihaye zurriyet verecek nesillerini mezara goturuyor."

(87) Gurpinar, 104.

(88) Gurpinar, 105; "Opunuz annenizin ellerini."

(89) Gurpinar, 106; "Bu kucuk tabut, yureklerimizin butun kinlerini sildi. Bizi baristirdi. Toruncugum yasaya imis ne kadar hayirli bir cocuk olacakmis."

(90) Sevengil, Huseyin Rahmi Gurpinar, 97.

(91) Sehabettin Uzunkaya, "Milli Tiyatro Uzerine Roportaj," in Tanrimnkulu and Tanrininkulu, Huseyin Rahmi Gurpinar, 120.

(92) Selen Korad Birkiye, "1945 Oncesi Cumhuriyet Donemi Turk Tiyatro Oyunlarinda Kadinin ve Ailenin Temsili: Kadin Erkeklesince ve Yaprak Dokumu," Tiyatro Elestirmenligi ve Dramaturji Bolum Dergisi 6 (2005): 134-52 (149); "olgunlasmamis. bir feminizm anlayisiyla."

(93) Nuray Firidinoglu Yilmaz, "Geleneksel Ataerkillikten Modern Ataerkillige: 'Kadin Erkeklesince,"' Tiyatro Elestirmenligi ve Dramaturji Bolum Dergisi 19 (2011): 105-28 (111);"Kadin kamusal alanda is kadini olarak var oldukca dogal dengeler bozulacaktir."

(94) Sevda Sener, "Tiyatro Eserlerimizde Kadin Imaji," Ankara Universitesi Dil ve Tarih-Cografya Fakultesi Dergisi 33, no. 1&2 (1990): 467-75 (468); "Suclu, ya da 'Gunahkar Kadin' tipi."

(95) Ezgi Deniz Alpan, "Sanatcida Kimlik Sorunu, Kadin Etiketi ve Turkiye'de Kadin Tiyatro Yonetmeni Olmak," Avrasya Sosyal ve Ekonomi Arastirmalari Dergisi 4, no. 12 (2017): 20-36 (30); "Sorumsuz kadin prototipleri."

(96) Fatih Sakalli, "Huseyin Rahmi Gurpinar'dan Uc Perdelik Bir Oyun: 'Kadin Erkeklesince,"' Turk Kulturu ve Haci Bektas Veli Arastirma Dergisi 32 (2004),

(97) Leyla Burcu Dundar, '"Reklarn Arasi'ndan Sonra Tiyatro," Birgun Kitap 158 (2015),

(98) In 2017, the feminist company Tiyatro Boyali Kus produced an elaborate staged reading of the play, directed by Jale Karabekir. The company intended to create a full production as well. However, like a number of other companies doing explicitly political work, Tiyatro Boyali Kus has not received public funding since the Gezi Protests in 2013. Thus, the production has not been possible.
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Author:Altinay, Rustem Ertug
Publication:Comparative Drama
Geographic Code:4E0WE
Date:Sep 22, 2018
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