Glendale News Press
July 3 2004

Becoming a voice in their culture

Women's liberation. The Sexual Revolution. These were the social
movements of the 1960s that broke down gender barriers and allowed
women in America to exercise their rights, gain equality in the
social, political and cultural arenas, and enjoy the personal
freedoms that had been dormant 100 years earlier.

Women have come a long way and still have a long way to go. Women are
more influential in more ways than one, and to some extent are
becoming the backbone of their male counterparts.

Ethnic women living in the U.S. also reap the benefits that they
would otherwise not have in their own countries. Armenian women, for
example, are making decisions that shape their futures and are
breaking away from the typical cultural norms that often dictate
their lives and determine their futures.

Today, many Armenian women living in the U.S. are delaying marriage
and instead choosing an education and career first. Like most women
today, they are in charge of their futures and take advantage of
every opportunity available to them. Yet despite the freedom to make
their own decisions, there are still certain expectations from their
families that many Armenian women feel they need to meet.

Take, for example, gender roles. Women by tradition are caretakers
and men are the breadwinners. It is becoming more common and more
widely accepted for men and women to switch roles, or to accept more
diverse ones. As more men take on the role of stay-at-home fathers,
women pursue jobs and careers.

But for many Armenian families, men and women still comply by the
traditional gender roles. For some families, these gender roles are
strictly enforced.

A few years ago, a college classmate of mine, a young Armenian woman
named Serbui, came to class one day and said she was engaged to be
married. Serbui was about 21 and excited about her proposal, but also
had hopes of continuing her education after she got married. I asked
her what she thought the future held after her marriage.

"My fiancÚ doesn't want me to work after we are married," she said.
"He won't allow me to go to work."

After her response, I couldn't tell whether she disagreed with her
fiancÚ's decision or was glad she would be a stay-at-home wife.

But for one thing, Serbui had no say in the decision and had made no
attempt to compro- mise with her soon-to-be husband. After all, she
did want to continue with her education.

I don't know what became of Serbui or her husband, but I can imagine
she is a stay-at-home mother and homemaker, because that is what was
expected of her.

It always amazes me when I speak to young Armenian women and men -
there is always a disparity in opinions. Some families favor the
reversal of gender roles, while others suggest that a woman's place
is in the home as a caretaker and homemaker - as is expected - while
a man's is at work.

Despite the fact that Armenian women are encouraged to pursue
careers, some are also encouraged and even sometimes required by
their families to be "domestic" for their husbands when they are
married. Mothers are the ones who "pass down" their domestic
abilities to their daughters.

It seems as though the Armenian culture is split in half when it
comes to role play between the two genders.

It is not uncommon for some members in the Armenian community to
disagree with the unconventional gender roles to which most people
are now becoming accustomed. There is yet a need for the Armenian
population to adapt and embrace the social changes that take place
with regards to gender roles in the West.

Armenian women are perhaps the best at initiating change for the
Armenian populace. More are furthering their education rather than
rushing into marriage and are entering into careers and showing a
steady progression of achievement and success.

Women are making strides. Armenian women are contributing to the
Armenian culture and society in more ways than ever before. They are
the role models for the new generation of independent- thinking,
hard-working and ambitious young women who are eager to find success.

I am proud of my accomplishments as an Armenian woman. And as for my
efforts and achievements, I thank all the Armenian women who came
before me and proved that women can also have a voice in our culture.

Thank you.

- ANI AMIRKHANIAN is a resident of Glendale, a graduate of USC and a
freelance writer. Reach her at [email protected]