Monday, 7 December 2009

Yerevan diaries: No ‘pure’ girls

When in Yerevan, I had a meeting with a group of my high school male friends whom I have not seen for ages. Not that I particularly wanted this meeting, as I always knew that there is an ocean between us in terms of our mentality and everything. But hey, for old times’ sake, I thought, well, will go for it. We talked about this and that, and then the inevitable topic of girls.

My school mates sounded genuinely upset, as if the world turned upside down for them. They said it’s now impossible to find ‘pure’ girls in Yerevan to date and marry. And no, it’s not just virginity they were referring to. The whole ‘world order’ has changed for them. They complained of not being able to find girls who would prefer sitting at home with their mother instead of working. When I asked what is wrong with women working especially as they seemed to be OK with girls getting university education (they actually preferred that! - of course, they would - it’s a matter of ‘honour’ or ‘reputation’ for them to have a university educated wife). Well, the answer was - “I can’t and do not want to change myself. I grew up following my father’s example. My mother had a university degree education, but she did not work, rather preferring to be a housewife, and I, like my father, want to be sure that whenever I turn up home, my wife is waiting for me”... and similar things.

What was a catastrophe for them (no ‘pure’ girls in Yerevan) was actually a very positive sign for me. Yes, things are changing in Yerevan, and I loved those small signs of progress.


scaryazeri said...

Well, tell them to come here, to our suburb near London- almost ALL the wives I know don't work and are extremely happy with that. :)

Not entirely sure that makes them "pure", but the old-fashioned values are definitely returning to this country.

artmika said...

Apparently, everyone wants to help those 'poor' boys :) On a Facebook, there was a suggestion "go to the villages, boys". Now yours may sound much more appealing to them. But, hey, they probably did not watch Desparate Housewives. (it's on Armenian TV too  but, as far as I can tell, not even remotely as popular as it's the case here)  They do not know what's REALLY going on under the cover of 'purity' and "old-fashioned values" in suburbia ;) Let's them come!!

Anoush said...

Thanks for your interesting blog.

These views reflect a Yerevan that I don't really recognise. I grew up and went to school there in the 80s and university in the 90s. There was hardly anyone I knew whose mother didn't work, although most working women also fulfilled more traditional roles at home. People who held the sorts of views you are writing about did exist, but they were marginal, and their values not as dominant in the society as they seem to be now.

artmika said...

Thanks, Anoush.

In my opinion, such a mentality was always there. However, in past we did not really discuss the issue. Now, as part of the rights agenda, the issue of gender equality and machismo in our society is being discussed more openly and widely. Also, over the last few years, I personally noticed an increased presence of more independently minded and acting young women and girls in Yerevan. This threatens the ’peace’ and ‘existence’ of people with such mentality, and they become more vocal.

John said...

I'm always a bit astounded at the difference between Yerevantsis and Armenians in the regions, even in big places like Vanadzor (where I live) and Gyumri. There are certainly more career minded women in the bigger cities outside Yerevan, but even in Vanadzor they're relatively rare. I mean, it astounds me when I go into Yerevan and see girls and women sitting in cafes, smoking, drinking beer, driving; it's as if I just came into Yerevan from a different country. I hope Yerevantsi social attitudes keep making their way into the bigger cities in the regions as they're now slowly doing.

PomExpress said...

Perhaps the problem is not so much the stay-at-home vs. working wife - but rather - the submissive wife vs. the powerful woman. Armenian women are gaining more than just equality when they enter the workforce. With quotas in place for women's participation in political parties, and women climbing the ranks at NGOs and international companies (at the very least), I am not surprised to hear the dismay of your male friends. Women with power don't need to rely on their men-folk for money or self-worth. This is a harsh blow - especially in machismo societies.

Of course, I cringe to hear this paradigm shift associated with the "purity" of women. Bleh. In any case, thank you for your investigative journalism into the minds of Yerevan men.