There is a story written by an Armenian writer Axel Bakunts which ends with a scene where the husband beats his wife to death for letting a painter into their house, and the wife, lying on the floor assumes that she deserved it (Axel Bakunts, Alpine Violet). This is the well-known victim-blaming problem, which is more severe in this story, as the victim is the first to blame herself. The part that is more troubling is that here the story is not even about gender problems. Generally, there is a lack of discrimination awareness in Armenia. “Between 2010 and 2020, at least 83 women were killed by a current or former intimate partner, spouse, or another family member in Armenia, according to women’s rights organizations.
The Criminal Code of the Republic of Armenia does not contain special provisions for distinguishing femicide from other types of killing. Therefore, the Criminal Code does not outline any specific guidelines for qualifying cases or punishing crimes that involve domestic violence. Armenian courts do not consider aggravating circumstances in terms of an abuser’s liability and punishment in cases of femicide. Gender stereotypes and victim-blaming practices are prevalent in Armenia’s criminal justice and judicial systems when addressing cases of femicide”( Country Gender Profile Armenia, 2021).
It seems to be there is much theoretical discourse around, a lot of measures and anti-discriminatory practices adopted in the world and in Armenia. The centuries-long struggle for women’s rights and empowerment has undoubtedly led to its undeniable and positive results. However, both at the systemic and individual levels, the problems remain present, rooted, and multi-layered. Women’s political participation remains low. There are no women among members of core executive authorities and Armenia has only one woman minister, the Minister of Health. Marital status plays a role in employment opportunities. Among all groups of women, divorced women represent the majority of employed women in Armenia. Among men, married men are the group most involved in the labor market. There is a significant gender gap in favor of men among employers in Armenia, as 86% of employers are men, while only 14% are women. Among the greatest challenges that women and girls face in exercising their sexual and reproductive health rights is the absence of comprehensive sex education in Armenia (Country Gender Profile Armenia, 2021). The population is very reluctant to adopt such educational practices in school.
Thus, one might ask, why is there so much done and yet so much left (to fight) both worldwide and in Armenia? There is a major factor that I observed through the years and is visible also without much observation that differs sexism among other forms of discrimination: the discriminated group itself fosters and feeds discrimination. I read a comment the other day from a woman stating that a woman’s mission is helping men and the latter should not fight for more. It got me mesmerized, not because I was not aware of the narrative, but because I have never heard it so clearly, straightforwardly come out of a woman’s mouth.
My female dentist who I was praising for the good work, once told me male dentists are better. One of my female colleagues told me she calls off the taxi if the driver is a woman. Some of my female school teachers have told me my male classmates have better-working brains no matter how disinterested and lazy they were. All of us have witnessed women downgrading their worth and every aspect of their multifaceted being to some form of membrane and shaming other women not doing so or discriminating against each other in the workplace in favor of men. “The first group of reasons of self-discrimination is related to the scarcity of women’s mutual support and solidarity. It should be indicated that it is difficult for them to organize. In addition, in a group of women is observed a lack of an adequate network of contacts, significantly inhibits the realization of their common interest (Lisowska 2009, pp. 97-99). In addition, women in the so-called “high” positions often overlook the problems of their sex and even treat other women in a paternalistic manner. This is related to the fact that the number of high positions as well as career advancement opportunities is limited. Consequently, strong competition causes an unwillingness in other women and concerns before taking away a hardly gained position” (New trends in E&F&M, 2015).
Can you imagine this very scenario with black people or national minorities under discrimination being the subject? When I was younger, I have been told by several middle-aged women, (I would like to stress it again; women, not men) to be cautious with my female friends, and not to trust them as they are prone to gossiping or betrayal. Consequences of these types of upbringing and approaches are demonstrated in research stating: “Overall, there are no significant gender differences in the system of values of respondents. Both men and women value family, peace, work, and religion. The only exception is friendship. Men value the existence of friends relatively more than women do” (Gender Barometer Survey, 2015). All of the above mentioned and a pack of other factors bring to the reality that women not only self-discriminate but also fight back against anti-discrimination movements and discourses. There is no other form of discrimination where the discriminated group endorses the main discrimination theses (Some aspects of it are visible in the context of lookism, especially with overweight people which is again highly gendered, statistics show.).
This rises and leads to a number of unanswered questions, like: “What is there that we miss in analyzing such self-discriminative tendencies apart from purposefully injected competitiveness among women?” “Why do some women in consent and do not find discriminated lifestyle harmful?”. I believe a big part of the answers to these questions is to be found in cultural formations, but does it cover everything?
Author: Eleonora Sargsyan
The blog is produced within the Economic Policy Research Center’s (EPRC) project ACTION -Activating Civil Society Organizations through Training and Inclusive Operational Network. The project is implemented with the support of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.
The views expressed are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of EPRC and Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.
Country Gender Profile Armenia, EU4GenderEquality Reform Helpdesk, European Union, 2021
New trends in Economics, Management and Finance, The First International Conference for Ph.D. Students and Young Researchers in Economics, Management and Finance March 6, 2015, Poznań University of Economics
Gender Barometer Survey, Armenia, Center for Gender and Leadership Studies, 2015, Yerevan