The dawn of a new era for gender and women's studies at Sabancı University

Sabancı University's continuous work on gender reaches a new height with the inauguration of the Sabancı University Gender and Women's Studies Center of Excellence. Speaking at the opening ceremony of the Center, Sabancı University Acting President Ayşe Kadıoğlu and Center Director Ayşe Gül Altınay discussed the university's work on the subject since 2006 and its projects planned for the future.

The Sabancı University Gender and Women's Studies Center of Excellence (SU Gender) opens a new page in gender studies in the university.  The opening event of the Center was held at the Sabancı University Sakıp Sabancı Museum on Wednesday, May 31. Studies undertaken to draw attention to gender relations and equality as an important component of social life since 2006 will be taken to further levels under the guidance of the Center.

Academics, civil society and business leaders met at the opening
Introductory remarks of the event hosted by Sabancı University Acting President Ayşe Kadıoğlu were delivered by Ayşe Kadıoğlu and Sabancı University Gender and Women's Studies Center of Excellence Director Ayşe Gül Altınay.  Introductory remarks were followed by a panel discussion moderated by Sabancı University Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences member Ayşe Öncü. Speakers in the panel were the Center's Advisory Board members Yeşim Arat from Boğaziçi University, Kenan Çayır from Istanbul Bilgi University, Sociologist and Istanbul Women's Museum Curator Meral Akkent, KAGİDER Chair Sanem Oktar, and prominent gender author Karin Karakaşlı.

Ayşe Kadıoğlu: “Becoming a Center raises the stakes”
Delivering introductory remarks to the event, Sabancı University Acting President Ayşe Kadıoğlu began by saying that the Center was a prolific organization that conducted diverse activities ranging from landmark programs like the Purple Certificate Program to street events.

Kadıoğlu explained that the Center's participatory approach to expansion was compatible with the way Sabancı University preferred to work. Kadıoğlu said that the Forum was able to expand into a Center thanks to the accumulation of experience and knowledge through activities like the Purple Certificate Program. Saying that becoming a Center raised the stakes, Kadıoğlu informed the audience that Sabancı University would be launching the first English-language international PhD program on gender.  According to Kadıoğlu, this will be an encouragement for other PhD programs.

“Women's demand for equality needs respect, not love”
Ayşe Kadıoğlu said that the focal point of women's demand for gender equality was respect rather than love, reminding the audience that women suffered the most violence at the hands of their loved ones. Referring to Hannah Arendt’s concept of "the banality of evil", Kadıoğlu said that evil was always closer than it appeared, and concluded “Men who subject women to violence define them using widespread social codes such as 'Women are flowers, they are vulnerable; they are not safe in the street at night.' That is why women who want equality rather than being protected and guarded will be in the streets and squares more than ever."

“We combat discrimination and defend pluralism, participation, and openness of knowledge”

Also speaking in the event, Center Director Ayşe Gül Altınay delivered a presentation outlining the history, work and principles of the Center.

Ayşe Gül Altınay emphasized that the Center's purpose and principle had been combating all forms of discrimination in social and personal affairs since the beginning. Altınay said that the Center built processes and initiatives designed to enrich social accumulation in a way that was compatible with the academic principles of Sabancı University.

Speaking of activities like the Purple Certificate Program and Gendered Steps, Altınay said that they supported the development of joint decision mechanisms, solidarity, creativity, and accessibility of information both within the Center and among the general population, and that they strove to create platforms which would enable interaction between academic, civil society, artistic and political circles.

The transformative effect of gender awareness
Introductory remarks were followed by a panel discussion with members of the Center's Advisory Board. Panelists shared their thoughts on the difference enabled by gender studies in their areas of involvement, and the transformative effects of gender awareness. They also shared personal stories of the difference that gender awareness made in their lives.