Culture of Armenia – history, people, women, beliefs, food, customs Essay
Culture of Armenia – history, people, women, beliefs, food, customs
(I am trying to make art that relates to the deepest and most mythic concerns of humankind and I believe that, at this moment of history, feminism is humanism. Judy Chicago, 1990)
Armenian traditions and culture made an Armenian woman unable to work outside of their homes for several decades. As women were supposed to marry at very young ages there was no need for personal and professional growth except being excellent households. In the first stage (0-19 years) of their lives, they were dependent financially on their families, especially fathers, after that they were depended on their husbands. As lives of many of Armenian girls were already decided before they were born, there was no room for education and career. However, even in that kind of situation, there were several motives for pushing women to education and workforce. Industrialization and technology development were some of those reasons. So, we may think that women were not utilized entirely by the society, that’s way with the development the role of women in the family decreased hence increased in the society. And as women started to enter the workforce and get out of their “home” comfort zone, the need for secure rights and respect increased by them. So, why it was not important to have rights within the family? Here come tradition and culture. Armenian women were always thought from their young ages, that family is the most valuable thing that can happen in their lives and family wife, the mother must always sacrifice their happiness, dreams and overall lives to build a strong and “child-friendly” environment within their families. As families were big (6 – 10 members) there was no time left for the women to think about their long-term goals and dreams. They were entirely taken by day-to-day household activities and child’s upbringing, however, I personally think that if girls were taught about other values from younger ages, the society would change itself even with very little steps. It is a cyclical system and all starts from the childhood.
There is another argument, that we may also consider: women were accepted as the “tool” of continuing the nation with next generation. Women were blamed when they were not married because they will not be able to give a birth to a child, especially a boy. And those women who decided not to marry were forced to wear old, black clothes and they needed to cover their faces. There is another crucial fact, as many towns and villages couldn’t provide a primary education mothers were supposed to teach their children as well. So, the way that child’s brain and imagination will be shaped was in the hand of their mothers. At the first glance, we may think that women in poverty or girls who were married by force were the main engine of driving the society into feminist ideas. Because they were the ones who had no voice in the family and society, most of their husbands migrated to other towns to make money. In villages especially, women were publicly harassed for their speech in front of another man. However, the history showed us that feminists were from the elite class of the society, we can see lots of cases both in Armenia and worldwide. So, why were feminists from the highest social class, if they could have anything that they needed? There are several reasons for that, but in this paper, I will consider just two of them: being able to afford higher education; free time.
A good education has always been an expansive experience. Even now, when almost every city has its own school and at least one university, for graduating you need to have money. What about 19th centuries? When people started to value the education and wealthy families were seeking to give their children the best education, both for their status and for their next generation’s welfare. Graduates from all institutions that provided higher education were from wealthy families. And only the most wealthy families will spend money for their daughter’s education. From that institutions, girls got only knowledge but a dream of getting more than just having husbands and children. They wanted to use their talents and knowledge to change something in this world. Education “educate” people to move forward and always take into account one’s individual ways of thinking, sometimes feelings and even just intuition when making decisions. However, all these cannot be integrated into typical Armenian Family\’s daily routine. Most of the decision was made by the man and sometimes never advised with the women. Even if the issue is really crucial and important for family’s future. So, the women are a subordinate, just an active resource that can be used based on man’s decision. Some people argue that while the feminist movement certainly opened up jobs and opportunities available to women, it ultimately harmed women, children, and family because it devalued motherhood. I would agree with some part of this statement, however, I will change a word in it: As the feminist movement certainly opened up jobs and opportunities available to women, it ultimately changed women, children, and family because it devalued patriarchal families.
With the increase of women in the workforce the birth rate decreased. And women got less time to provide to their personal lives and more importantly number of children born by a single woman decrease.When women аcquired greаter clаss stаtus and power without conducting themselves differently from mаles, feminist politics were undermined. Middle- аnd lower-middle clаss women who were suddenly compelled by the ethos of feminism to enter the workforce did not feel liberated once they fаced the hard truth that working outside the home did not mean work in the home would be equally shаred with mаle partners. So, what is the reason? Is there any solution that could combine a working mother and more children in one family? Yes, in my point of view, there is one. If the life of a woman changes during decades, a routine of man was stable. They haven’t met any crucial changes in their daily routines and plans with this development. And here is the problem. If the father took some of the women’s activities and concerns within the family, everything would be balanced. Because the woman changes entirely after having a child, and in the workplaces, it is not always guaranteed that women could get her job back after maternity leave. Some countries found the solution: paternity leave. Fathers have equal rights to get leave for the newborn baby, and the problem is somehow solved.
So, how is this connected to social status? Women from higher social classes have the opportunity of choosing. It can be just an ability to choose a dress or choose a life partner. Along with this, they have more time available (they have servants) for their own interests, so instead of doing household activities they are building their personalities and constructing their own lives. There are lots of examples of wealthy feminists from the history both worldwide and in Armenia. One of the most famous Armenian feminists was Serbouhi Dussab. She was a good example of well-educated, self-confident Armenian women. She was well-known in her time because she had a social status, and it made her voice to be heard. In the traditional Armenian society, it was not always easy to express your opinion as an individual, especially in novels. In her second novel (Siranush, published in 1884) she talked about family life, marriage and women’s right in Armenian families. She stepped into the sphere that was never touched deeply by women. Every question, especially regarding genders, have at least two viewpoints, and it is not always to be in the “middle”. Women should look into the question of gender equality with a cold heart and sharp mind, or else feelings will make a decision instead of them. This is what we can see in writings of Ms. Srbouhie Dussab. However, in Armenian society women were not only making a difference in literature but also found several charitable funds and organizations, which changed the society’s way of thinking step by step. Some of those organizations were: The School-Loving Ladies Society, founded in 1979 by Ms. Nurik Simanian, Ms. Taguhie Paltazarian, and Mrs. Armaveni Minassian. The goal of the society to promote education of Armenian girls and train teacher for provinces, set private free schools for Armenian girls ; “Education-loving Ladies”, founded in 1880 and society’s goal was to take care of poors, orphans, widows ; “Union of girls and young men” founded in 1919, an example of joint man and woman organization and “Armenian Women’s Association” founded in 1919, aimed to contribute to Armenian women’s moral intellectual, material and physical development, establish cooperation between all Armenian women, use Armenian potential to promote the Armenian Cause.
The Armenian women’s charitable society of Tiflis Was the largest and long-lived women’s organization. On 4th of December, 1879 114 ladies gathered in the conference hall of the Mariamian-Hovnanian girls’ school, organized fundraising, raised 407 rubles for sending to Constantinople. On 31st of December, 1881 Society’s Charter was adopted. According to the Charter, the goal of the Society was to promote the education of women:
a. by opening and maintaining a private school for females at its own cost
b. by supporting parochial schools for females with its own funds as well as by assisting those women that wish to become teachers in parochial schools\’.
The society also granted scholarships for unmarried women to study education or medicine. Within first 10 years, Society organized 11 balls, 6 performances, 3 concerts, 2 public lectures, all of which proved quite successful as fund-raisers.
One of the most memorable organizations was Armenian Society “Meghu” in Tiflis
“Meghu” decided to stop poverty by waging war against women\’s unemployment. First, there was the issue of cheap labor. The number of job-seekers is constantly on the rise and fear of starvation forces workers to accept lower wages. Second, there was a danger of the flaw of living at the expense of someone else\’s labor.
The founders of the Society divided those living at someone else\’s labor into two groups, evil-doers or robbers, and beggars. \”A beggar with his rags and nakedness does the same thing as a robber: beggary, too, is a trade and a mask, which can be used to peacefully rob someone without running any risk.\”
A power was needed that would help them at the time of despair and would encourage them. The class came to the conclusion that the existing charities were powerless to fight against a huge force of economic crisis. Those women came up with an idea of establishing a purely democratic association that would be able without hurting people\’s self-respect to provide the unfortunate victims of our materialistic age, especially women.
Armenian female workers are the most oppressed, ill-used and exploited social class because, on the one hand, of their shyness and, on the other hand, of the overall economic situation. Women earned their living with home-craft (ex. sewing, and they would make kopecks).The Society set a goal of establishing the \”House of Work\” (workshops) and of assisting in promoting the cause of eliminating illiteracy of poor women. Workshops, such as dress-making, dry-cleaning, cardboard, artificial flowers, basketry, cooking. For 13-17 years old-sold girls society opened a school. The final decision was that only girls that have a level of knowledge equal to the graduates of the parochial elementary school shall be admitted to the school at the Meghu House of Work.
As mentioned before, a good education and self-confidence can have a cyclical effect and attract more women to take their lives in their hands. Maybe the engines of feminism revolution were a wealthy woman, but they helped the society to understand the importance of equality in every sphere of life. They changed the world by writing novels, founding organizations, societies, and schools. Importance of a good education is rising day-by-day and feminists have a huge role in it by their activities. They brought the problems of women from top to the lives of people and made middle- and low- social class women to think about their futures by themselves.
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