Gender inequality, stereotyping, and discrimination against women are issues that continue to spark debate in many countries. Women’s rights advocates in Turkey continue to struggle to reduce gender inequalities and stereotypes in every aspect of life. Education is one of the major fields where these issues should be explored and discussed. Because textbooks are the main teaching materials in a classroom, it is crucial to examine the ways in which they depict gender. Thus, the purpose of this study is to investigate how gender is represented in social studies textbooks. Thus, all elementary and middle school social studies textbooks in the 2018-2019 academic year used in Turkey were examined for this study. The main research approach was document analysis as the study focused on the analysis of the textbooks. More specifically, a visual content analysis approach was employed as the main research focus was on the textbook visuals. This is because visuals are one of the best tools that can portray gender. Based on the data analysis, the following themes emerged regarding gender representation in the textbooks. The main finding was that women were underrepresented compared to men as the male visuals are approximately twice as high as the female visuals in the textbooks. The main finding was that women were underrepresented compared to men as the appearance of male figures in visuals are approximately twice as high as the appearance of female figures in visuals in the textbooks. Second, women were mostly presented as the primary person who is responsible for house chores such as cooking, cleaning, and serving houseguests. In the analyzed textbooks women/mothers were depicted as the main caregivers of children and most of the time these depictions were of a lone female figure with no father present. On the other hand, when it comes to spending time with the children for fun, the father suddenly appears in the pictures. The data analysis also indicated that women were underrepresented in the professional work arena. Women were presented as holding a limited variety of professions that were generally subordinate positions under men. Therefore, we conclude that there has not been significant changes and improvements in terms of equal representation of women and reducing stereotypical and discriminatory language in the social studies textbooks in Turkey even after a couple of curriculum reform movements in the last two decades.

Note for Readers

According to the Law on Intellectual and Artistic Works in Turkey (Law no: 5846, Article 4 and 35) it is permitted to reprint any types of fine art, including all types of drawings, cartoons, and photographs that have already been made public, in a scientific work for the purpose of explaining its content.

Note on the Author

Melis AKAY ŞAHİN is a PhD candidate in the department of Social Studies Education at Istanbul University - Cerrahpaşa, Turkey. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Social Studies (Sinop University, 2015) and in Sociology (Anadolu University, 2019). She received her Master’s degree from Adnan Menderes University in 2017 with her thesis entitled “The influence of women teachers, who graduated from the village institutes, in Turkish society”.

Dr. Mehmet AÇIKALIN is Professor in the Department of Social Studies Education at İstanbul University-Cerrahpaşa. He received his Master’s Degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia in 2002 and Ph.D. from The Ohio State University in 2006. His dissertation is entitled “The influence of computer-supported instruction (CSI) on the principles of constructivist pedagogy in the social studies curriculum”. After he completed his studies, Dr. Açıkalın returned to Turkey and currently he is teaching undergraduate and graduate-level courses.