Embracing Embodiedness, Desire and Failure: Women’s Fluid Gender Performances in Sevgi Soysal’s Oeuvre from the 1960s
The ‘women’s liberation’ of the global 1960s did not entail a full range of women’s rights, feminist politics and sexual freedoms in Turkey. On the contrary, the Turkish 1960s were characterised by a patriarchal heteronormative order that imprisoned women in a passive and essentially asexual identity and denied them control over their bodies. In Turkey, women’s emancipation was postponed. At the same time, the 1960s offered a juncture of literary renewal in women’s writing and representation, embracing the dictum ‘the personal is political’. This article focuses on three works by Sevgi Soysal (1936–1976), a key name of this period whose writing is concerned with the problematisation of what Judith Butler calls ‘the compulsory order of sex/gender/desire’. Relying on queer theory, we examine how Soysal’s Tutkulu Perçem (The Passionate Forelock, 1962), Tante Rosa (Aunt Rosa, 1968) and Yürümek (Walking, 1970) represent female characters’ growing awareness of their rich spectrum of gender performances, as they embrace their desires, transformations and confusions. In this way, Soysal’s works not only take the female body ‘out of the closet’ but also explore its multitude of desires and fluid possibilities.