The gendered workplaces of women garment workers in Istanbul
Reproductive Health Matters
Drawing on 20 semi-structured interviews with women garment workers in a low-income neighbourhood of Istanbul, and observations in the ateliers where they worked, this article examines their work experiences in the gendered and sexualised work atmosphere of garment workshops. There are three interrelated levels upon which the gender-related issues emerge in women garment workers' stories. The first set of discourses portrays young female garment workers in highly sexualised terms, and the
... erms, and the second concerns the use of kinship vocabulary and avoidance of impersonal work relationships. That is, women workers' experiences in capitalist production sites were trivialised and regulated through the sexualisation of their bodies and the deployment of kinship idioms while addressing their role at the workplace. The third level analyses women's submissive, subversive or contradictory responses to these gendered disciplinary techniques and representations, i.e. the construction of their subjectivities. These three levels point to two things: first, cultural presumptions about marriage, women's sexuality and reproductive cycles are materialised at the workplace. Second, gendered instantiations of these presumptions in a specific work environment are both informed by their familial roles (such as daughter, wife, mother, widowed) and inform their future reproductive preferences (whether they marry, have a child, get a divorce, etc.). This article shows how the ways in which women's difference is construed and acted upon in the garment industry are inseparable from women's reproductive decisions.