Some days I find myself wondering what my life would have been like if my parents chose to stay in Iran. I think there is a good chance that I would look different, like being forced to wear a chador. I'm not so sure if my life would be much different regarding a career or my priorities. My parents raised me in the United States, and I have never lived in Armenia so I can only speculate about the challenges that women face in the country.
On the other hand, I can speak from experience about the disappointments, challenges and the long road to progress that Armenian-Americans like myself face.
Having a two-fold identity is rooted deep within my DNA. The pressures from both identities are present throughout an Armenian-American woman's body. I can only describe it as polarizing tides that are at war with each other. There's always one that overrides the other.
I feel incredibly lucky to have parents that have never told me what I can and can't do simply because of my gender. However, with International Women's Day on my mind, I reflect on some issues that Armenian-American women deal with.
First up is marriage. It's rare if you can survive a family gathering without being asked 'When are you getting married?', several times. I often find myself twiddling my thumbs and trying to think of a smart answer. Armenian family members have an incredible gift of making young women sound ancient and at the end of their lives. Armenians, like a few other cultures, have an unhealthy obsession with marriage. People write you off if you've turned 25 without a ring on your finger. Once more, if you are married a year, and still no kids are to be seen, something must be wrong, surely? Although my relatives are less extreme, it's a common scenario that many Armenian-American women face.
I find it fascinating how many Armenian parents discourage their daughters to commit to studying and instead pressure them to start married life. I have friends that were accepted into some of the best universities but had to decline so that they could attend an institute closer to home. Armenian families have a common tendency to keep their daughters living close by, at least until they marry. It's difficult for Armenian-American women to follow their real dreams when it comes to a career.
Lastly, dare I say, is the matter of sex. Shock horror, Armenian women have sex and lots of it. Many do so even before marriage. However, it doesn't make them less valuable, shameful or dirty. Moreover, sexual relations are nothing to do with God or faith most of the time. Armenian women, like many other females on the planet, enjoy having sex. As an Armenian lady, we should be able to enjoy having sex without being judged.
I hope it's now a bit clearer regarding the challenges that American-Armenian women face. Armenian women are robust and confident individuals that should be treated equally to others. Remember, being strong and independent doesn't take you away from your Armenian culture it enhances you.
Reference: Liana Aghajanian from ianyanmag.com