Capítulo / Chapter IV | Cinema – Tecnologia / Technology

Woman and Home in 1980s Turkish Cinema: A Relational Reading Through Atıf Yılmaz’s Films

Büşra Kara

Istanbul Technical University, Turkey


The paper aims to analyze the effects of social transformations on cinema between 1980-90, within the framework of the class differences that became evident during the period and the feminist movement that was visible in these years in Turkey, and the context of related theoretical background. The 1980s, when neoliberal policies influenced the whole world, was a period of striking changes in Turkey as well. A military coup in Turkey in 1980 created a powerful transformation and with the re-election in 1982, a period started in which the political climate completely changed. In this new situation, which was suppressed by the political environment, public life was interrupted and the gaze was turned towards the home space. The pleasure of watching, fueled by the return to the home space and the strong representations of lifestyle, has become an important component that feeds the popularity of period cinema. The films, which were mostly set in indoor spaces, were considered successful to the extent that they make daily life and private relations a spectacle. The structural similarity that can be established between watching a movie and spying on a house became convenient for making a social analysis when considered in the context of the 1980s. In this era, critical representations that questioned the ideological patterns in society emerged with the influence of the rising feminist discourse. Within the scope of the study, critical movies will be focused on. Analyzing the relationship between space and woman characters opens up a common field of inquiry on both the gender debate and the social class difference.

Keywords: “Woman Movies”, Home, the 1980s, Gender, Atıf Yılmaz


Cinema is an important tool at the point of reflecting the themes of social transformations. It takes a role in the change process and encourages the process and reflects it to the masses. It makes the social forms of individual relations visible. From today’s perspective, it is important as a memory tool that provides data that makes it possible to understand and analyze the period.

Overview of the 1980s Turkey

It is important to be aware of the social and political environment of the period to grasp the dynamics that bring the house to the agenda as spatial and factual. The 1980s, which included important historical breaks and created new ways of living, thinking, and acting, was a period that distinguished itself from the others. The years of transformation begin with the decisions of January 24, 1980. The process continues with the military government period after the coup that took place on September 12, 1980, then the 1982 constitution, and the return to civilian politics in 1983. After this political coup, a new cultural climate emerged with the effect of the state, violence, and oppression.

The decisions of January 24, 1980, cover the steps taken as a result of an economic stalemate. With the liberalization of imports, an outer dependence economic growth model was adopted and class differences deepened. In addition to the economic depression, as a result of the inability to maintain security in the country, the Turkish Armed Forces seized the country’s administration on the morning of 12 September. The aim of the operation was stated as restoring the integrity of the country and the authority of the state. Afterward, martial law was declared throughout the country and the National Security Council took important decisions concerning social life. (Bali 2002, 25)

Within the scope of the 1982 constitution, which was accepted by popular vote, the powers of the president regarding the state of emergency were increased. In the new system, where there is no social organization, the highest value is not the individual, but the state. With the new constitution, restrictions on issues such as individual freedom, immunity, security, and privacy have been increased. Prohibitions were also imposed on meetings and demonstration marches, trade union activities, and freedoms. All these restrictions and prohibitions limited the gatherings in the public space and paved the way for a return to the interior space. The economic and political moves made in this period determined the limits of the daily life and freedoms that followed. The return to the multi-party system that took place in 1983, the free-market economy adopted afterward, and the entry of foreign capital into Turkey paved the way for transformations that greatly affected daily life.

The transformations experienced in 1980s Turkey caused the period to be called a breaking point. As a result of the change in social balances, daily practices have been redefined at the intersection of public and private life. In the 1980s, the public sphere underwent a transformation based on the changing relations between the state and society. Public life has turned its view to private life, and private life has become a public issue.

In the 1980s, when contradictions and conflicts coexisted, restrictions and opportunities were realized together in the cinema. Private life, which has also spread to cinematic representation, has led to new positions. Represented with a theatrical innocence in 1970s cinema, female stars began to appear in bedroom scenes included in the 1980s cinematic narrative. The state has devalued the individual, but in cultural productions, individuality has begun to be seen as a value. Therefore, important changes have begun to break the molds of feudal ideology. Altınsay (1990), in his analysis of the period, based the reasons for this transformation in cinema on the progress of individualization and television as a tool that paves the way for these:

“This is an accumulation of the social change we have experienced in the last fifty years. The phenomenon that accelerates this accumulation and feeds the changes in cinema in the first degree is TV. (…) It is a fact that foreign series broadcast on television have opened even large segments of people who have not watched a movie to different lifestyles. Watching Pamela’s kisses many times, the audience now takes for granted Turkan Soray’s kissing. It has even started to count this as a measure of modernization and quality. While the social change we are going through prepared the ground for change for our cinema, television became the factor that brought this change to the surface and provided the necessary forms.” (Altınsay 1990, 12)

The shift of interest towards the private sphere as a result of the transformation of the meaning of the public sphere and the narrowing of the opportunities for public gathering, and private life, whose visibility increased with the influence of the media, are new situations that emerged in the 1980s. (Gürbilek 1992, 55) The transformation of the language used in the public sphere has brought domestic daily life to the agenda through interest and curiosity towards private life. Topics such as what well-known people from political figures to artists do at home, how they spend their days, what problems they have in their marriage, how much they are involved in housework, what dishes they cook have begun to arouse curiosity and newsworthy. Thus, domestic everyday life has become more visible.

The phenomenon of the home has been visible with both its spatial features and various issues related to daily domestic relations. In this period, the fact that houses became more visible in the media and productions on the home space fed each other. Domestic life and private life have become a new area offered for consumption and have been processed many times in cinematic narratives. In the 1980s, post-coup prohibitions and restrictions also affected the cinema industry, and a transformation was observed in the subjects and narrative styles. The films started to take place mostly indoors, mostly inside the houses, and the films dealing with social problems were mostly replaced by individual narratives. This shift of interest and meaning in the 1980s was explained as follows:

“Every period of oppression, every oppression applied to the street, the workplace, and the political organization inevitably forces people to withdraw into introverts and retreat into home, personal, and solitude. But the 1980s difference is here: it wasn’t this kind of introversion, this kind of withdrawal, retreat into privacy that marked this era. Rather, it was an explosion. It was the opening up of many things that were private until recently. It turned into news, information, images, became a matter of public opinion, the distinction between private and public spheres dissolved, (...) the difference between them became blurred.” (Gürbilek 1992, 55)

Cinema mediates the transformation of private life into images by using the language of the media. The narratives that showcase everyday life and expand the scope of watching have surrounded the house and created ideals and expectations regarding domestic life. In this context, home space is positioned as a normal part of daily representations of private life. In addition, during this period, films that deal with women’s problems in society, and examine and reposition women as an individual has increased considerably. The phenomena of women and home have turned into powerful parameters that feed the cinematic narratives and reflect the period. The mutual relations of these dynamics and the way they are represented in the cinema will be examined in the following sections.

Home Space and Peep Culture

The return to the interior space, which took place with the restriction of public space actions in the 1980s, increased the visibility of the home space and spread the productions about home life. Along with the productions that have increased circulation in the media, lifestyles that transform the home space into a symbolic indicator have emerged. The phrase “lifestyle” began to be used widely in this period in Turkey and formed its clusters. This situation has led to the deepening of class differences. In this context, the meaning of the house has changed. The house has become a stage where social conflicts can be analyzed. Kurt (2021) says that houses are political prototypes of public spaces. He argues that what happens at home, from people’s relations with objects to the understanding of cleanliness and sitting arrangement, reflects a model of social and political life (Kurt 2021, 65-70). Therefore, houses can be read as a system of signs, a symbolic scheme, a means of representation that produces private and public, individual and social meanings.

It is important to consider the changing house phenomenon in the 1980s together with social meanings and circulating representations. The concept of habitus, which defines a system of predispositions, is critical for deepening the discussion in this atmosphere of transformation and analysis of home space. Habitus is an influential and ambiguous concept in Bourdieu’s sociology and is shaped by objective structures. They are transferable and permanent disposition systems that tend to operate as the principle of producing and structuring practices and representations that will be regularly accepted by society. It refers to the physical embodiment of cultural capital, to the ingrained habits and dispositions that we possess due to our social life experiences. (Bourdieu 2014, 253-262) Therefore, it can be read in parallel with the term lifestyle, which emerged in Turkey in the 1980s and created daily habits that were differentiated by class. At this point, habitus begins to form an axis that extends from lifestyles that attribute an identity to domestic life to class analyzes and social divisions.

Domestic action patterns shaped by public roles, norms, and values carry the meaning of home beyond a subjective accommodation space. Because “Relationships are what create a space.” (Kurt 2021, 52). The normative conventions affecting the interior of the home point to the set of dispositions (habitus) formed in line with symbolic values. Bourdieu (2014) says that habitus is a double-sided mechanism of practice that shapes the actions and is shaped by actions. Domestic practices are influenced by the network of mutual relations established in the 1980s and the social structures established by ambiguous dualities. Male-female, traditional-modern, and old-new usages are the prominent ones of these dualities. Lifestyles that build themselves on differences and similarities are identified with different habitus and are reflected in daily home life. In this context, the actions and the type of realizations of the householders, the objects they use and the way they use them, the objects they bring together, and what they express, are defined in terms of roles and identities.

“The house is now beyond meeting a need, it turns into an object of desire where ideas of modernity such as individuality, freedom, rootlessness, and transparency will be exhibited, and a productive experimental area and playground where slogans will be thrown.” (Talu 2012, 89)

If we look at this “experimental area and playground” through the home image in the 1980s, it can be said that the way domestic objects used in daily life are presented within the framework of a lifestyle has changed the view toward home. Reflecting different lifestyles by matching them with the home space is a feature frequently used in cinematic narratives shoot in this period. The home space is imaged with various practices and processed as an extension of the characters. The “rising new values” (Bali 2002, 38) emphasized by the 1980s redefined emotions and experiences of social changes through the home. The house is presented to the consumer as a channel for other purposes, meanings, desires, positions, as well as its primary function.

Cinema uses various action patterns belonging to domestic practices and reproduces them with new meaning structures. Therefore, the domestic living space is a struggle ground full of signs and presents sections of social conflicts and divisions. These distinctions are presented to the audience through the lifestyle schemes created by habitus. Thus, the house becomes a relation that plays a fundamental role in the establishment, maintenance, and negotiation of conflict-based identities, together with the social issues it comes into contact with through the characters.

Gürbilek (1992) argues that what fueled the popularity of movies as a media component that made the interiors of homes visible during this period was the need to ‘watch’ they fulfill. According to her, films circulating in private areas of the home are successful to the extent that they can make the lives and relationships behind closed doors a spectacle, in other words, they allow the audience to peek through aestheticized private lives:

“If we are going to talk about the spirit of the 1980s, which manifests itself in various fields from newspaper news to advertising slogans, from movie scenes to everyday language, it is necessary to look for it in this desire to peep, into the definition of this desire as a new pleasure, in the provocation of people to this desire. But this is different from the promises of privacy that you can live out of sight, you can only watch it.” (Gurbilek 1992, 66)

The desire to peep reflects the culture of the 1980s and the way it consumes this culture. The act of watching is also a part of it. With the developing advertising in this period, the volume of the “showcase” phenomenon expanded. Along with the media, television, magazines, and billboards, the act of watching has become one of the codes of society. The following definition is important for showcases in the public domain: “This space, which is neither private nor public, is also the place of a specific social relationship.” (Baudrillard 1997, 123) The relations between public and private, mediated by the showcases, also give an idea about the new showcase value that the home takes on in this period. The term “lifestyle” is a widespread usage these years, and it has provoked the behavior of displaying and peeping. This tendency towards the acts of displaying and watching has increased the interest in private life. Therefore, the interior of the house, which is the stage of private life, has gained the quality of a showcase that is both exhibited and watched.

The developing watching desire for all the relationships, events, and objects framed by daily life gives an idea about the new position of the image. In this period, television, which has become a settled actor in the home, is effective in the establishment of the act of watching or peep culture in the social context. Television, which corresponds to a new definition of public space within the framework of the new order it has established and the system of relations it has transformed, has transformed the culture of peeping into a form of consumption. Therefore, a perception of an image and marketing reflex has developed towards both private life, which is used as a material in television and cinema more than ever before and the home space that forms the basis of this.

Feminist Movement and “Women’s Cinema”

During this period, the home space was brought to the agenda by various media channels and actors. Broadcasts and programs for women form an important part of these media networks. The women’s movement, which raised its voice in Turkey after 1980, affected the increase in the expression areas for women in the media. Mutually, as the mediatic expression areas increased, the spread of feminist discourse had become easier.

The post-1980 women’s movement stands out as the only political movement that achieved certain gains and was successful in those years. What makes this movement special in this period is that it has revealed for the first time that gender inequality is not a reflection of another problem, but a problem arising from gender differences. Moreover, this movement has given feminist discourse power and visibility that it did not have before by emphasizing that emancipation can only happen if this problem can be solved. (Tekeli 2015, 33) The weakening of the dominant political organizations in this period facilitated the women’s movement to come to the fore and attract attention. This fluctuating movement has shown that violence and other problems experienced are not singular cases. Thus, it attracted a great deal of attention, and towards the end of the 1980s, it was echoed enough to open up a space for itself in the daily media. The politics of everyday life has been discovered. With the feminist movement, gender has become a political position (Bora 2005, 37). Particularly, the “Solidarity Campaign Against Beating”, which took place in an unexpected community in Yogurtcu Park in Istanbul in 1987, is important both as the first action in which only women participated and focused on women’s issues and as the first legal march after the military coup (Saktanber 2015, 189). This movement made society’s perceptions of women questioned and directly affected the intensity of discourse on women’s issues. Issues such as the difficulties faced by women in working life, domestic labor, and domestic violence have been reflected in more areas.

As a political channel, the women’s movement also influenced cinematic narratives and made a place for itself in this field. The visibility of women in the media makes the details of domestic daily life visible and makes the differences between lifestyles analyzable. Because the usual social view tends to match women with domestic practices.

In the 1980s, the approach adopted by the films that include women’s stories is divided into two: The first group includes caricatured “good” and “bad” female subjects, continuing the traditional family view. The approach to women in these films has developed either as a passive, innocent, good wife, devoted mother or as an active, attractive, home enemy, bad woman. The second group broke these stereotypes and addressed women as a whole. It has included various types of women who think, rebel, have sexual desire, live alone, work or not, mother or not, married or single, but in every way seek and question their own identity. (Esen 2019, 44)

The films that look at social problems through women-centered stories and raise awareness about women’s issues have called “Women’s Films”. This definition range that emerged in this period includes critical films in which women’s perspectives and experiences are reflected. These films, which are the carriers of various perceptions of women, questioned the social views on the issue and improve a perspective by pointing to sexist approaches. Thus, it is possible to talk about the intentions of the films to break the patriarchal perception. Öğüt (2009, 203) addressed women’s films with a feminist perspective and says that one of the most important achievements of women’s cinema is to oppose approaches that objectify women and make them fetish. Although the women’s films of this period put the female characters in the center, they do not directly reflect the female point of view. Dinçer (1993, 48) says that in the so-called women’s films, the real problems of women are not addressed in all their dimensions, but rather they reflect women’s dramas seen by men’s eyes. This is why it becomes difficult to match them exactly from the feminist perspective. On the other hand, the fields of inquiry opened up by this approach indirectly provide a suitable base for feminist cinema. In addition, the woman’s search for sexuality, which draws attention as a recurring situation in the plots and characters of the films, is related to the curiosity about private life in the 1980s, the publicization of the private, and the culture of peeping.

The director, matched with the women’s films, is Atıf Yılmaz. Most of the films he made in the 1980-90 period have focused directly on women’s issues. These films are considered important because they can direct the attention of society to the phenomenon of women. The director gave the following explanation as to why he focused on this issue:

“Recently, a feminism movement has started in Turkey. The struggle for women to be more personal and self-contained than in the past has begun. For three or five years, Turkish women began to ask consciously, “What is my place in this society, what is my relationship with men, what is my situation in business life?” She wondered about these and began to research them. For this purpose, associations were established and books were published. Since all these are topics that interest me, I also make these kinds of films.” (Tüzel 1986, 12)

Yilmaz’s films consist of the stories of women who can stand up to social pressures, who are in search of an identity, and who are also aware of their sexuality. Atif Yilmaz, against the criticism made for women’s films, stated that he did not pursue a feminist ideal in his films and emphasized that he reflected some of Turkey’s problems through female characters. (Arslan 2007, 76).

As a cultural representation arena, cinema offers a perspective with its positioning and interpretation. Kanoglu (2009) evaluates the 1980s in Turkey as a period in which women’s representation was tried to be shaped. She states that these representations reflect the social changes of the period and that they took an active and functional role in determining gender in these years (Kanoglu, 2009). In this sense, the films shot by Atif Yilmaz occupy an important position.

The Relationship Between Women and Home in Atıf Yılmaz Films

Atıf Yılmaz shot a total of 13 films defined in this context in the 1980s. Within the scope of the study, 5 selected among them (Mine 1982; A sip of love 1984; Vasfiye is her name 1985; Aahhh Belinda 1986; Woman has no name 1988) will be examined. Importance was given to the homogeneous distribution of the selected films in the period, in terms of presenting a balanced fragment. The films selected in the section are examined due to their structure that goes beyond the traditional cinematic narrative and characters, and their spatial representations that questioned patriarchal ways of thinking. These representations significantly shape the semantic map of home space. The ways of presenting women are scrutinized and simultaneously questioned how the home space is associated with this presentation. The positioning of the characters’ relationship with the home and critical representation decisions are discussed.

Mine (1982)

The main character of the movie, Mine, is an unhappy woman living in a small town with her unintentionally married husband. She is described as an object of desire for all men in the town and constantly peeped. While walking outside, all eyes are on Mine, and when she is at home, the men of the town try to see inside through the window. The curiosity and desire to see about the private domestic life of women is dominant. In this sense, the film reflects the peeping culture of the period well.

While problematizing the male gaze toward women, the film represents her in a versatile way by including her loneliness, depression, and blues in the narrative. The only person Mine, who distances herself from everyone because she is disgusted with the distorted relations in the town and the harassment against her, can talk to is the teacher character in the movie. When the teacher’s older brother İlhan, who comes to visit the town, enters her life, Mine realizes the emptiness in her life. Thus, a fondness is born between them. This situation has been envied in the town, caused reactions, has problematized with the excuse of honor, and attacks attempted rape have experienced. (Image 1) At this point, the double moral values of the townspeople are questioned. The social pressure that the woman experiences due to her gender and the effect of the male gaze she is exposed to is effectively reflected in the movie. Scognamillo (2003, 382) states that Atif Yilmaz was shown as the director of women’s films after Mine.

Throughout the film, Mine slowly begins to defend her personality and femininity. At the end of the movie, she stands up for her sexuality, which is a part of her personality, as a rebellion. She does what she is accused of as a form of revolt and sleeps together with İlhan. Therefore, it can be said that the female character is a transitional element that reflects the change.

Image 1 – Mine is attacked at her home by the men of the town.

The film effectively reflects the passive and stuck state of mind of women in small-town life dominated by a male understanding, their loneliness, being seen as a sexual commodity, and the abuses they experience. Mine is the wife of the station chief and lives in the house right next to the station. The house is located on the edge of the town and the absence of other houses around reinforces the loneliness theme of the movie. (Image 2) The psychology of the character of Mine has been reflected through her relationship with the house.

Image 2 – The station house she lived in and Mine.

The relationship established here differs from the traditional approach established between women and the home. A woman is not drawn as a happy character, attached to her home and family. Mine does not feel any belonging to the house and wanders like an unhappy ghost. (Image 3) She is always unhappy in bed, in the kitchen, in the living room, and in the garden, and she always wears white as if to emphasize her innocence. (Image 3-4-5)

Image 3 – İnside of the house and Mine.

Image 4 – Daily private life between the married couple.

In the movie, the house is not drawn as a safe space as in the traditional approach. The uncanny atmosphere drawn by the narrative for the outside continues at home as well. Her home is a place for Mine where she is raped by her husband, harassed, and attacked by the townspeople. The public sphere, on the other hand, is an environment of oppression surrounded by the male gaze for her. Therefore, the home is represented as a cage in which Mine is trapped but cannot get out. She is mostly seen in front of the window or on the doorsteps, which are the thresholds that exist between the inside and the outside. (Image 5) She shuttles in and out of the doorway, watching through the window the station and people coming and going. This reflects her in-between state of mind. She is in search of an identity and the house does not meet the aspirations of the character.

Image 5 – Mine, on the doorstep.

A Sip of Love/ Bir Yudum Sevgi (1984)

The main character of the movie, Aygül, is an unhappy woman with four children living in a slum. Her husband is indifferent to home and children. Aygül applies to the factory as a worker to make a living and then leaves the house with her children and moves to another house. She gets closer to Cemal, who helps her get a job. They defend their love and togetherness against their environment and resist difficulties and social pressures. They get married at the end of the movie.

Image 6 – Aygül and life in the slum house.

Within the scope of the film, the social transformation reinforced by the slum and factory phenomena was emphasized through the change of the female figure. The story of a woman who takes a step to change her life in an environment where rural life and urban life are mixed and where various longings and difficulties exist is told. In the movie, all the burden is on the female character, who can express her wishes without hesitation, can oppose her environment, and defend her freedom, unlike the usual woman heroines. Aygül is an authoritative woman who seeks her rights and makes choices. It has emphasized that a housewife living in a slum begins to work in a factory and, in parallel, gains her personality and becomes free.

Image 7 – Aygül and daily domestic practices in the slum house.

Image 8 – Relationship between Aygül and her husband.

Aygül’s house is a typical poor slum house. Although Aygül is unhappy with her marriage, it is related to housework and the role of the mother, but not limited to these. (Image 7) She has also been represented outside the home, in the public sphere, and in working life. In the traditional narrative, it is usual to pair the woman with the house and the man with the public sphere. But in this film, the dominance of the home has always been with the woman, even when her husband is at home. Domestic practices such as cooking, cleaning, child care, sewing, and embroidery have been imposed on women. But it has not hidden behind a happy and docile atmosphere. A strong, vocal, rebellious woman who expresses her anger and complaints is depicted. The husband, on the other hand, is unemployed and helpless. The woman is also demanding in her sexual life, but she cannot get a response from her husband and is not satisfied. (Image 8) She naturally owns her sexuality. This is also reflected in the representation of the home. The bedroom is shown in a naturalness parallel to the other parts of the house. It is an important threshold for a woman to leave this home after getting a job and seek independence and go to a home of her own. This choice of economic freedom gives women access to their own home, identity, and independent life. Therefore, the home space is presented in a versatile and very meaningful way as a floor that carries different living possibilities.

Vasfiye Is Her Name/ Adı Vasfiye (1985)

The film is about a young director’s research into the life story of Vasfiye. In this context, throughout the film, Vasfiye is narrated by four different men who come into her life. (Image 9) Thus, the normative position of the one-sided male gaze towards women is revealed. Although these ways of looking are contradictory and different from time to time, they are usually common. The director defines the film, which hovers between fantasy and reality, as “an abstract film in which the search for identity and double morality of the woman around the town is handled” (Tüzel 1986, 12).

Image 9 – Vasfiye, told from 4 different male perspectives.

These masculine gazes paint various portraits, some of which are loyal to their partner, some of whom are cheating on their husbands, some are innocent and some are not. Vasfiye is described as a married or single woman, sometimes living in a village, sometimes in a town, and sometimes in a city. She faces the challenges of being a woman in a patriarchal society. She is subjected to violence, verbally and physically abused, used by her ex-husband, and objectified. In the film, women’s issues are addressed through the same character with different cuts and frames, and the masculine point of view is problematized.

Image 10 – Vasfiye and her domestic practices, told from different perspectives.

The looks of the movie confirm the approach of social authority that accepts women as identical to the home space. One of the common elements in the various frameworks presented in the four different sections described is the woman’s relationship with the home. Domestic practices of women are parallel to each other in the homes they live in villages, towns, and cities. She cleans, prepares food, offers tea or coffee, serves, and spends her spare time reading magazines or watching television. (Image 10) Her relation to the public sphere is surrounded by borders. She is forbidden by her husband to walk alone on the street in the village. In the town and city, she is at home, except for compulsory situations, and her relationship with the street is shaped through the window of the house. (Image 11) All the female profiles drawn from the married and loyal villager woman to the single, urban woman who maintains her relationship with her lover without any hesitation, are domesticated. The woman is represented together with the home, as confirmed by the social norms and male gaze.

Image 11 – Vasfiye, seen from her window.

Aahhh Belinda (1986)

The movie’s main character, Serap, is an intellectual and independent actress. In a commercial, she plays the role of the happy mother of a middle-class family. During the filming, she suddenly finds herself in the life of Naciye who is the character she portrayed in the advertisement, and she gets stuck there. The conflict of the film is established between these two types of women and their way of life. (Image 12)

Image 12 – Serap (left) and Naciye (right), have breakfast in their own home.

Serap is single, lives alone, and has a feminist perspective. Naciye is married, has two children, works in a bank, and lives a life within social patriarchal norms. The divergent lifestyles of the two characters can be read through the houses they live in. The houses are designed to reflect the difference between lifestyles. The lifestyles adopted by the characters are defined within different habitus. Different habitus creates different schemas. Two different schemes can be observed here. (Image 13-14) Serap’s house has a modern atmosphere, furnished with simpler and minimal lines. On the other hand, Naciye’s house was furnished with more traditional furniture, and ornamental accessories were used extensively. The conflict between dual values is emphasized by domestic practices. Her family expects Naciye to prepare food, do the laundry, and tidy up the mess. These patterns are repeated in the narrative. The difference between lifestyle schemes shows itself even in the preferred dishes. The dishes prepared by Serap, who has turned into Naciye, are not accepted on the traditional family ground. This confirms the indicative value and decisive position of the house.

Image 13 – Serap and details from her home.

Image 14 – Naciye and her family and details from their home.

Television, which has just started to become widespread in homes in the 1980s Turkey and has become the most important actor in homes, is shown repeatedly in the film. Television, which is present in both houses, is emphasized as an effective tool in daily life. Serap uses it for her job. However, in Naciye’s house, television is in a position that directs domestic practices. Television is watched when guests come, eat, and do evening sittings.

The fact that an advertisement fiction turns into reality and reveals all the details of domestic life also opens the act of watching, one of the important concepts of the period, to the discussion. Television and advertisements, as two of the powerful factors that provoke the curiosity of the audience about people’s domestic life practices, make private life visible. (Image 15) The film, which wanders into the daily life reflected by the advertisement, is also in a position of criticism questioning the meanings of the act of watching.

Image 15 – An example of the position of television in the narrative (left) and a scene from the commercial film.

Woman Has No Name/Kadının Adı Yok (1988)

The film is an adaptation of the book of the same name written by Duygu Asena, one of the important names in women’s media of the period. The film, which deals with the identity struggle of an educated woman in the business world, also touches on the problems in the daily life of women. It tells the struggle of a woman who grew up in an oppressive family to cope with similar pressures in various processes involving her marriage and business life. At the same time, it questions the marriage and the dyadic relation types. Işık, the main character of the movie, and her husband have other relationships during their marriage and both of them are aware of this. When they talk about it, her husband says that their other relationships are insignificant and temporary, marriage is the permanent one, and their home is a nest. Therefore, home space takes place as a systematic social order element in the normative approach.

Image 16 – The house where Işık lived before (left) and after (right) marriage.

A feminist perspective is dominant throughout the film, as in the book, and a rebellion against the patriarchal structure comes to the fore. In the house where Işık grew up, patriarchal patterns are definite and established. It is emphasized by her parents that the place of the woman is home. After getting married and working, Işık establishes a tense relationship with her home. Her husband, Gürkan, does not allow Işık to have a say in the layout of the house and the choice of furniture. As the living standards rise, Gürkan changes the furniture. (Image 17) Because the way to be included in the upper class is to adapt to certain taste schemes, in other words, to adopt the habitus pattern of that segment. This confirms that during the 1980s the house became a system of class indications.

Image 17 – Işık’s husband, while placing the new pieces of furniture in the house

After Işık starts working, domestic practices such as cooking start to become a problem. Her husband is in expectation of housework to do. Işık offers to do it together, but this situation does not please him. Also, Işık starts to organize business meetings at home. The meaning of the house changes for her over time. Then, Işık leaves her husband and house and moves into a new house of her own.

Image 18 – Işık and her new home.

Moving to a house of one’s own is a recurring pattern in Atıf Yılmaz’s films and is paired with women gaining their independence and embracing a new lifestyle. Işık underlines that she will determine the location of all her belongings in her new home. This emphasis is an indication of the desire of Işık, who could not bond with his previous home, to be attached to his own home. Then, as a result of the collective complaints of the neighbors who are disturbed by Işık’s guests, Işık is asked to leave the house or to tidy up her life. Işık, on the other hand, reacts against this request and promises itself that it will not obedience to any masculine pressure. The film ends with this feminist emphasis. This last example mentioned shows that the issue of being curious about the domestic life of others spreads around the society. Along with the peeping culture, especially the patriarchal understanding considers that one has the right to interfere in the private life of the other. At the same time, it exemplifies that the home interiors, which is a lifestyle carrier, are the ground for public conflicts. Private life has become a public matter. Gender norms perpetuate themselves in domestic life as well as in public life and control this through the patriarchal attitude of mind.


The expression “1980s” used today evokes a collective experience and striking transformations. The radical political changes experienced in 1980s Turkey brought along critical transformations in daily life and the cultural atmosphere. The power of the image with television, the increasing media opportunities, and the position of advertisements have transformed cinema in terms of form and content. As seen in the examples, advertisements that affect daily life have become a normal part of and critical point of the cinematic narrative.

The boundaries between private and public have been stretched and the meaning of home space has been redefined within the context of lifestyles. On the other hand, the feminist movement has brought the issue of women, their problems, and domestic labor to the public agenda. As a result of all these transforming parameters, the house has become the ground of a conflict. In the films discussed, as the end of the 1980s approached, it is seen that the feminist approach and characters began to become clear and prominent. It is possible to catch the traces of this transformation in this study, which presents a fragment about the women’s cinema of the period. It is meaningful to consider this relational structure through the women’s films of the period, as it includes the criticisms that question the ideological patterns in the society in the discussion. The film samples discussed to provide a meaningful scope to analyze the meaning transformation of the house, the positioning of women, and the functioning of the male gaze. Here, the power of cinema to reflect the social context and the quality of interpreting it gains importance.

The interrelationships between the mentioned parameters define a dynamic mesh. Cinema, as a memory tool, is an important instrument that allows tracing the signs of this reticulated structure through domestic daily life. As one of the main elements of the narrative, the space provided the opportunity to discuss social approaches through the representation of the female character in private and public spaces. In the study, the parallels and contrasts between the ways of positioning the house and women in the narrative were examined. The place of home space in women’s representation, as a lifestyle representation and a form of emotion, is culturally and politically determinative. As seen in the examples examined, one of the recurring patterns in the narratives is the independence of women by moving to a house of their own. Thus, it is confirmed that the house, which is a socio-cultural formation, is a critical ground for conflict and reconciliation. The framework drawn in the study is meaningful in terms of seeing the redrawing of dynamic internal-external boundaries for gender roles and seeing the construction of social transformations together with new meanings about home space.


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