A few weeks ago, news broke that “The Vagina Monologues” would be making its debut in Armenia. I wasn’t surprised when I saw a lot of negative feedback from readers on the ArmenianWeekly website.
Let me first say that it’s easy to pass judgment on something one isn’t knowledgeable about or that is seemingly foreign. I have no doubt that most people who are fearful of this play are uneducated about its purpose. That said, let me explain.
“The Vagina Monologues” is an annual performance that raises awareness and funds to stop violence against women and girls. The play, authored by Eve Ensler, is performed in 48 languages in more than 140 countries. It is part of a larger global activist movement founded by Ensler, “V-Day,” that “is a catalyst that promotes creative events to increase awareness, raise money, and revitalize the spirit of existing anti-violence organizations,” according to its website, vday.org. The movement to stop violence against women and girls includes combating rape, battery, incest, female genital mutilation, and sex slavery, which are all subjects of stories played out in the monologues.
I know the word “vagina” scares many people. Globally, it is seen as a vile threat that confuses and intimidates the masses. Armenia is no exception. In a country where women have never been equal to men (refute this all you want, but you’d be in denial), “The Vagina Monologues” is a scary new development. Why? Because for once, women have the opportunity to express themselves.
Women put on the performance, but the monologues’ message is not exclusively for women. Anyone with a beating heart and a belief that violence and inequality should end needs to see this play. Women know the injustices they are faced with every day, and to continue educating just them would be pointless. In order for violence to stop and progress to be made, men need to support this cause and the women in their lives. Many men already have, and I applaud them for it, but the word needs to spread.
As a college student, I’m fortunate enough to be at a university that will host its 10th annual performance of the play this year. I saw it in 2010 for the first time and it was awe-inspiring. The message hits home for every person who has ever felt the slightest twinge of not being good enough, whether by society’s standards or on a more personal level.
So, it brought me joy when I heard the play would be coming to Armenia. Although I am still excited about it, I can’t help but feel angry and disappointed by the reactions. The comments on Nanore Barsoumian’s previous Weekly article are particularly devastating.
One reader wrote: “…They want to mess with our women’s vaginas!!!” This comment, by a man, exemplifies the “tradition” that Armenian women are to be controlled or cannot function independently. I’m all for freedom of speech, and as a journalist I know the importance of allowing readers to comment on stories, but this outraged me. So did this comment: “Armenians should be ashamed of themselves to allow this kind of trash in the name of social awareness.”
These comments perpetuate our cultural stereotypes. Much of our heritage makes me proud to be Armenian. When our own people, however, are so quick to deem women as second-class citizens and treat them with disrespect, I cringe with shame. Some of us don’t even realize that domestic violence is a persistent problem in Armenia. It claimed the life of 20-year-old Zaruhi Petrosyan, who was beaten to death by her husband and mother-in-law on Oct. 1, 2010. Petrosyan was the mother of two children.
Let me pose this question to those who doubt the power or relevance of the monologues: Do you have children? Or do you ever want children? If so, imagine someone beating or killing your child. Imagine that the person doing the beating is a member of your family. Not easy to stomach, is it? Think about the example we set for our younger generations. Would you teach your child that domestic violence is acceptable? In Armenia, many families are afraid to publicly say it’s wrong because the issue is kept quiet or they fear they won’t receive the help they need. Women and girls certainly aren’t the only ones beaten or killed, and men aren’t the only ones doing the beating.
“The Vagina Monologues” seeks to end the cycle of violence. I would hope that’s something all Armenians can get on board with, especially since we’ve seen how violence has affected our people (see: Armenian Genocide). To be certain, there are Armenians who are standing up against hate. In California, members of the United Human Rights Council recently marched to end domestic violence against Armenian women. Others donate to organizations, sign petitions, and physically help those abused in Armenia.
We are a people of beautiful traditions with strong ties to our homeland and a vibrant diaspora. We have much to be proud of, and domestic violence has no place in our culture. It can take years to break the norms of a traditional society like ours, but progress can be made in baby steps. I’m not saying V-Day is the ultimate solution to ending violent crimes, but it sure as hell is a start. The movement has transformed lives across the globe—why not let it try in Armenia? We owe it to those we’ve already lost and those we can still save.
Using “pussy logic’ to elevate social awareness in certain human right issues might not be best way of achieving human rights objectives for all humans. It will certainly elevate interest in the organization and create a stream of revenue, 10% of which will be delivered to some charitable organization. The question Armenian women have to ask themselves, what will we learn from translated “pussy talk” which we cannot achieve by my active participation in the social and political process of our nation.
We all need to be aware of the experiences of ‘vaginas’ of many different nations. However, each of us has to find our way to resolve our women’s rights issues.
The Armenian women will most effectively achieve human rights and drastically reduce any type of violence by collectively volunteering to serve in the National Defense Forces, or talking to their priests, the last thing they need is a translated ‘vagina talk’. Even though the translations and the performances provide gainful employment to some people in Armenia, the meaningful change will only take place with active participation of Armenian woman in all endeavors of a nation rediscovering itself with the newly acquired responsibilities and challenges of democratic tradition building.
As I said before, just another example of the expansion of American cultural imperialism in Armenia and throughout the world.
Dear observer, your thoughts about “American Imperialism” is soooo yesterday. Even if we agree that Armenia should be “free” of any foreign “expansion”, what makes your thoughts funny is that Armenia, today, is swamped with Russian expansionism. Here, we are not only talking about culture (just listen, or read–unfortunately- the Armenian spoken in Armenia by both the intelligentsia and the common man than you’ll see how much Russian expansionism has penetrated in our society) but we are also talking about Russian expansionism in every aspect of Armenia’s life.
Why do I get the feeling that you haven’t even heard the famously successful “The Vagina Monologues” that deal with everyday life of humans on this planet.
…or is it an expression of fear of the word “Vagina”.
Are You Kidding !!!! Its totally about the fear of vagina. The Armenian chovanists greatest fear is a vag with an indavidual thought or an idea. Also, its not swamped by Russian expansionism its drenched, saturated and Armenianism is abolished by Russian imperialism so great that even 30 years after the fall of the Soviet Union you can still see traces that wont go away even in modern youth.
Have you every tried looking up the word “vagina” in the Armenian/English dictionary? I have, and I have yet to find it. Armenia as a society creates this facade that men and women are equal, I say no they are not. Being someone internally however gives you a better picture of the truth. Living in Armenia for a summer I had a glimpse of what goes on inside. Women had multiple stories of relatives or friends whose husbands would go back and forth from Armenia to Russia for “work” however while these men were away these husbands were having affairs with Russian women while their wives in Armenia were home taking care of their children and his parents. Some may ask, yes this is unfair, but it is a norm for men to have extra-marital affairs in Armenia. Many women would come to the women’s clinics upset, emotionally drained and scared because they could not conceive children. Husbands would blame their wives saying it was their fault, not knowing these women had contracting an STD from their husbands ultimately causing them to be infertile. Walking into coffee shops in the morning, I would see the women behind the counter with thick makeup around their eyes and wearing sunglass because their husbands beat them.
What does this say for the society as a whole? Many of these women are disempowered, scared to voice their opinions and have no where to turn. So saying “by collectively volunteering to serve in the National Defense Forces, or talking to their priests” is not the answer. Empowering these women, educating them, counseling them is the right route to go. Creating awareness that domestic violence is not okay, to blame a woman that she cannot have a child is not okay, to abuse a person physically, emotionally and psychologically is not okay. And tough the “The Vagina Monologues” may be avant-garde, for many it is a step forward for the women of Armenia.
Please refer to this article, its very enlightening. http://armenianweekly.com/2010/03/07/aharonian-nationalism-and-sex/
Great article Michelle.
“The movement to stop violence against women and girls includes combating rape, battery, incest, female genital mutilation, and sex slavery, which are all subjects of stories played out in the monologues.”
Armenia has none of that, I assure you. You live in a fantasy and comfortable world and it makes you feel better to think that you are doing something noble. You are doing the opposite of that, ostracizing Armenian men (your father, brother, friends) and bringing unwarranted shame to our society and non-violent culture.
I am sorry Ms. Hagopian, but “as a college student” you know close to nothing yet. Trust me, I was just as naive at that age as you seem to be. I am sure that your motives are nothing but sincere and for the betterment of Armenia, but they are unfortunately misguided. Now I know this will hurt you and your first response would be to get defensive and fight back, telling me how wrong I am, and a host of other stenciled sentences that I can predict before you even get to the keyboard.
“In Armenia, many families are afraid to publicly say it’s wrong because the issue is kept quiet or they fear they won’t receive the help they need. Women and girls certainly aren’t the only ones beaten or killed, and men aren’t the only ones doing the beating.”
Here you are directly parroting a news article, without having any direct knowledge yourself. As a college student and a journalist shouldn’t you know better than not to reference without factual information?
This play will not empower women in Armenia, because there is no need for that. Armenian women enjoy all the freedoms that 80% of this world is not afforded. What you have are isolated incidents that are far from the norm.
This is nothing but a cheap trick to further paint Armenia as some third-world country that needs to be rescued from its backwards and uncivilized ways.
oh and yes, my wife and daughter agree with the aforementioned.
Lol why aren’t they responding? Whether your in armenia or not, every person is different, you can’t say an entire culture is backwards, or on the up and up. Not all Armenians or jews or anyone else for that matter are good or bad, there’s always some rotten apple in the bunch that’s been picked.. There’s nothing wrong with raising awareness for abuse against women, everyone is assuming this is an attack on Armenia, nope… Abuse on women and children goes on everywhere, even in our own USA.. So if you have a problem with raising awareness of that in Armenia, because its an attack on the culture wake up, you have issues, you can’t speak for every Armenian man, no matter how wonderful you are as a father and husband.. You can’t knock all armenians or defend all Armenians.. And there’s always going to be conservatism in cultures, especially when it comes to the vagina..
Armenia has a long history with Russia, has been part of it for 200 years almost, counting the Russian Empire and the USSR. However, rest assured that Armenians in Armenia know their language much better than majority of Armenians in the Diaspora, perhaps Armenians in Iran would be the only exception. Afterall, they live in a nation with 98% Armenians, and where Armenian is the national language.
What Observer was trying to say is that this is likely part of a larger plan to introduce feminazi doctrine into Armenia. Furthermore, whereas Russian culture has greatly helped modern Armenians to rejuvinate theirs, the same can not be said about American culture which is basically non existent but rather a uber materialistic and consumerist culture. Thus it is synthetic, not organic. The last thing that Armenia needs. No one disagrees that Armenians women should be respected, but Armenia had women’s equality in the 60s, when the US was far behind. I do not think the vagina monologues are the best way to educate Armenian society on domestic abuse.
Don’t forget, in 1918 when American women didn’t even have the right to vote, there were Armenian women members of parlament and even an Armenian woman ambasador. Perhaps America has something to learn from Armenia and not the other way around.
Wow some extreme opinions about Violence in Armenia. One says all Armenian women are abused, the other says no Armenian woman is abused. Can anyone in any culture /country be so perfectly bad or perfectly good. Face it dear everyone Violence exists in Armenia and it is widely acceptable. If we were a nation free of abuse and violence and women and men were equal then the word “Virgina” would never scare anyone and create such reaction. Virgina Monologue has been running in NY forever and no one ever said that it can do anything negative to anyone.People were encouraging each other to go and see it. Open your eyes and accept that we are a beautiful culture with lots of place to develop and clean up the mess that we had created. Our grandparents never said to any of us “Beat your wife in front of your children to preserve our traditions” NO! Our grandparents (unless you had a mentally ill one) said to us to respect women, to respect the mother of your children! Dearest Armenians, i feel embarrassed too when someone talks about the limitations that we as a nation have, but closing your eyes and denying it, doesn’t really help. We have a problem, we need to deal with it. A young orphan girl and a mother was killed because none of her neighbors ever advocated for her. Anyone can be Zaruhi! Don;t judge those women, judge yourself for not doing anything to understand the issue of Domestic Violence and not helping to slowly make it unacceptable in our country. Thanks Nanore and Michele for your articles and your advocacy!
“Russian culture has greatly helped modern Armenians to rejuvinate theirs”…what a declaration, next we can expect to hear how the Russian ideas of Communism helped strengthen Armenian sense of equality and universality.
You bet Russia has had a relationship with Armenia for 200 years and today we see and feel the consequences of that “brotherly” care. I guess that is what e should call it now, an “organic” relationship. Some Armenian men treat their wives as the Russian men do, they drink to the hilt and then go right into the brave practice of wife-beating.
But you know what what you say about a “larger plan to introduce feminazi doctrine into Armenia” says it all. I bet you also miss the days of the organic days of the USSR.
Dear Disappointed Armenian Husband and Father,
“‘The movement to stop violence against women and girls includes combating rape, battery, incest, female genital mutilation, and sex slavery, which are all subjects of stories played out in the monologues.’
Armenia has none of that, I assure you.”
Really? You can assure us?
Please educate yourself: http://armenianweekly.com/2011/01/25/uhrc-demands-justice-for-zaruhi-petrosyan/
A Concerned Human Being
It’s obvious that American propaganda about the evil Russians has gotten to your head. Communism is not a Russian idea, it was created by a fat German Jew, you have heard of him, karl marx. And guess what, marx expected communism to take hold in the industrial nations, not in places like Russia or China.
If it were not for Russia stepping in to stop a turkish invasion of Armenia in 1993, there would be no Armenia today. Face it, a small, impovrished, resourceless nation surrounding by mostly hostile states wouldn’t survive long without the backing of a great power. In Armenia’s case that power has been, continues to be, and will remain, the Russian Federation.
But go ahead and bash on the Russians cause that’s what cnn or whatever corporate media you watch tells you. Don’t forget to bring your US flag, which is made in China btw.
And some Armenian men treat their wifes like Americans, that is they are either under the thumb of their wives or as sexual objects.
How to Love and Respect your, Wife-Friend-Mentor-Soulmate:
How did we get from Armenian vaginas to bashing Russians?
PS: I’m all for vaginas… But have to admit, when it’s used properly, it can be a WMD
Our self-destructive peasantry needs to understand the difference between the superficial/shallow/dumbed down/materialistic culture of the political West and the progressive/modern/refined/creative culture of the traditional west.
You need to educate yourself to learn how to discern information. You miss the point entirely. Of course there are singular cases here and there. Poor Zaruhi’s fate was a severe example, but it is not one that can be applied to the entire country like this “stop beating your wives!” movement wants to do.
What I mean is that Armenia does not and never has had a culture of rape (does it happen sometime, somewhere? Certainly, but far far far less than in any other country you compare it to), battery (think what you will, but it is not as common as it’s made out to be here), incest (Seriously? Most Armenian men would kill anybody that touched their daughter, including themselves), female genital mutilation (This one doesn’t even deserve a response), and sex slavery (Don’t even get me started. Is there prostitution? Yes. Are there sex slaves? No).
Spare me your response, I can write it out for you myself. It’s all very predictable.
And for the record, sorry to disappoint you, but I do not abuse the women in my life. Did that skew the statistics?
Dear Disappointed Armenian Husband and Father,
If every single Armenian thought like you, we would be living in a perfect country. Unfortunately, the fact that your whole family agrees with you just tells us they are lucky not to have anybody violent around them. But please look out of the window of your perfect life… Armenia certainly is not just Yerevan… But i dont wanna go too far. I have been living all my short life in Yerevan, and have experienced two different kinds of violence by men myself, not counting the minor every day unpleasant comments in the streets. But maybe your wife and daughter are all that matters to you. Then you dont have to worry at all. They certainly won’t watch the play, and nothing will affect them.
And yes, Armenia is a third-world country which needs to be rescued from uncivilized ways. Just observe beyond your perfection.
I bet I could find someone writing that there is no domestic violence in Armenia and surely I did. Unfortunately, in Armenia as in any other country in the world (“good” and “bad” nations) gender based violence existed. As long as there will be discrimination, acceptance of men’s role as a judge, denial of violence as “just a rare happening” or “she did something wrong”, the rates of violence will be increasing. This is certainly happening in Armenia, as it happens in all post-USSR countries (just dig in the statistics).
So why is it denied? One is the problem related to understanding of what is violence. Thanks to NGOs work’s “domestic violence” in Armenia is solely perceived as a beaten to the death wife. These are extreme cases, and men (and often their wives) do not see themselves in these horrifying pictures. Domestic violence implies that any deliberate harm caused by a partner, including ANY magnitude of unwanted physical harm, ANY way psychological assault, ANY way of unwanted physical control in the family. These are ALL expressions of violence and many of these forms are BECOMING in our today’s society normal. Not letting your wife visit her parents is an example of violence, having an intercourse with her when she does not want it – is an another example, enduring verbal assaults by family members…
Will Vagina Dialogues increase awareness in Armenia? I doubt. Certainly the audience who is going to attend the play are not women, who are regularly beaten, punched, sexually assaulted. The monologue addresses women, and is full with anti-men bias, which will bring “not us” and “not here” reaction.
Do we need to do anything about gender -based violence in Armenia? YES!
how patronizing! i don’t know if you realize how much of what is being said in the article refers to you but you are just one example of how patriarchy gets practiced over and over again until it is so full of itself it thinks it is doing something good. you may think you know but you have no idea. when i was little my father’s best friend sexually molested me and my father knew nothing about it. still doesn’t. who’s to say the same thing hasn’t happened to your daughter and because of a culture of shame and silence around VAGINAS which represents WOMEN/SEXUALITY/BIRTH/MENSTRUATION (all of these in some ways taboo or shameful to talk about) your daughter will never tell you. think about that.
that was a response to “disappointed father…”
The question is not whether there is violence against women in Armenia or not. Whoever thinks that Armenia is better than any other country is dead wrong and whoever thinks its worst – is dead wrong too. But combating this issue with a theatrical performance entitled “The Vagina Monologues” will be unacceptable to most Armenians in Armenia and in quite a few diasporan countries not because of the content but because of the packaging (in this case the title). Each and every country/community has its own social and cultural values and those values differ from each other. Look at that difference within the US when considering the abortion issue. Some groups want to give women “total control over their bodies” others oppose abortion “even in the case of rape and incest”. So using the title “Vagina Monologue” is the problem here because culturally that’s unacceptable. And if anybody wants to get to the core of the issue and make an impact then he/she has to start by respecting people’s intellect, their cultural values and traditions. BTW, SO MANY artists in Armenia are fighting for a ton of issues and are criticizing the state of affairs in the harshest ways, much harsher than any foreign performance, based on the values and traditions of a foreign land. And their acceptance by the local population – from Yerevan to the remote villages of Armenia is proof enough that nobody needs lessons about not being afraid from vaginas, penises or any other human organ…
Jirayr is right about the off putting title. Its a cultural thing. Its not vaginas that are the problem, its the lack of modesty in being so ‘crass’ by putting the word in the title.
Though I was raised in the States, my Haiastansi father never made the adjustment to American brashness. On the other hand, though he was quite traditional, I was never made to feel that my choices were limited because I was a girl. He fully encouraged my education, social and athletic aspirations, respected my intelligence…but always expected me to behave ‘like a lady.’ Like any red-blooded, independently minded Armenian American girl, I sometimes fell short of his ideal.
I think the play has important things to say and would be received in Armenian society if packaged differently. Maybe a change in title would fly better in Haiastan; like ‘Heartsong Monologues’ or…
Shame on anyone ignorant enough to have read this article and still feel that this is a bad cause, and very well written Michelle, your passion shines through.
For all of you out there against this, learn to educate yourselves, you might be surprised. Women are beautiful inside and out, and to deprive them of such a wonderful opportunity such as this one would be a shame on our people.
Domestic violence is not an Armenian problem or American problem; it’s a world wide problem. However what works for remedying that problem in America might not be the same for Armenia and vice-versa.
If we want social change, then perhaps we need to look at the advice of a well respected community organizer who’s words written over forty years ago still resound today:
“For the real radical, doing “his thing” is to do the social thing, for and with people. In a world where everything is so interrelated that one fells helpless to know where or how to grab hold and act, defeat sets in’ for years there have been people who’ve found society too overwhelming and have withdrawn, concentrated on “doing their own thing.” Generally we have put them into mental hospitals and diagnosed them as schizophrenics. If the real radical finds that having long hair sets up psychological barriers to communication and organization, he cuts his hair. If I were organizing in a orthodox Jewish community I would not walk in there eating a ham sandwich, unless I wanted to be rejected so I could have an excuse to cop out. My “thing,” if I want to organize, is solid communication with the people in the community. Lacking communication I am in reality silent; throughout history silence has been regarded as assent – in this case assent to the system.”
– Saul Alinsky
“Rules for Radicals”
The issue under discussion here should not be between those who are against the showing of the Vagina Monologues, who think violence towards Armenian women does not exist, and those who think the skit is crucial for the people of Armenia, and that Armenians need to open their eyes — but rather who appreciates the work done by Eve Ensler and who doesn’t! Ensler decided to write a book and present it to the world, and how did we respond? Some of us liked it, and some of us said this is a sad excuse of a book. Some of us then chose to go to see the book reenacted, to see more by Ensler, and some of us said hey we’ve seen enough. If The Vagina Monologues wants to premier in Armenia, okay! The people of Armenia should be privy of everything that goes on in our globe to make decisions for themselves. They need a worldly outlook on life and do not need us sitting here and deciding for them if The Vagina Monologues would be good for them or not.
Dear Disappointed Father,
To say the least I am a disappointed as a daughter, granddaughter, sister, niece or any woman out there when I read anything that you write. Though I am pleased to hear that you are a wonderful husband and father, maybe you are not seeing the bigger picture. There is good and bad in every culture, I will not deny that however in our OWN country we have a problem. “According to a 2008 study by Amnesty International, MORE THAN 25% of women in Armenia have faced physical violence at the hands of husbands or other family members. Since reporting domestic violence is heavily stigmatized in Armenian society, many of these women have no choice but to remain in abusive situations” and silent. So saying “You need to educate yourself to learn how to discern information. There are singular cases here and there. Poor Zaruhi’s fate was a severe example, but it is not one that can be applied to the entire country” is 100% incorrect. One of the first actions of an abuser is denial. Simple denial which you are clearly displaying, denies the reality of the unpleasant fact altogether that violence is there and is going to stay unless we make it aware, either with “The Vagina Monologues” or another form of awareness. You, disappointed father, are denying every women’s right out there, including your wife and daughter. Stating “you need to educate yourself to learn” is another way of disempowering people in turn empowering yourself, another techniques abusers use on their victims. Though you may feel threatened at this point by what I have said, remember that women feel threatened like this every day of their lives. So just writing your responses, you may have not thought you were abusing, but just with words you have abused emotionally and psychologically. It is simple as that.
O. K “we do not have violence in Armenia” we just beat up
1-women- only Zaroouhi
2- only Presidential aid
3- only Soldiers in the military
O.K. We do not rape women in Armenia . We just have raped women in Armenia
Are we all in agreement?
Svetlana, why are you so afraid of the vagina word?
Talking to the priests? Serving in the Defense Forces? How detached can one be from reality. I do not know your intentions, but most often it its women like you that impose the status of inferiority on other women and yourselves.
And it is no “pussy logic”. Why can you read Shakespeare in translation but not “The Vagina Monologues”? Again, too scared of the word? Vagina! Vagina! Vagina!
The Armenian word for “vagina” is հեշտոց. Mesrob Kouyoumdjian’s English-Armenian dictionary has several words for “vagina”. You can look it up in Nayiri.com.
Also, “Vagina Monologues” in Armenian is Հեշտոցի Մենախօսութիւններ։ That’s the official translation.
I am an Asian-American, and I have been living and working in Armenia these past 3 years. I am always excited to hear about foreign productions coming to perform in Yerevan 1) because I will have a chance to enjoy a show that I may have missed in the US (Vagina Monologues included) and 2) it provides local people (many of whom cannot afford to travel) the opportunity for a glimpse into other cultures, perspectives, and lifestyles. I agree with the commenter who mentioned that the women who could most benefit from this play, those who are abused and oppressed, will not be the ones to go see it, but that doesn’t mean there is no point for the show to come. Hopefully, the more free, educated, and privileged — the ones who actually have more power to do something about these problems — will see it and be moved to take action, spread the word, or, if nothing else, do some serious introspection and maybe change their ways of thinking. As for those who are turned off by the idea of such a play, well, no one is forcing them to watch it!
I personally know quite a few Armenian men who cheat on their wives with no regret or shame whatsoever. While Westerners immediately jump to the conclusion that such men are disrespectful (and being raised in the West, my first instinct is to agree), there are some cultural elements that are not being considered here. As outsiders, my husband and I have had to have discussions with local men on this subject to understand it better. What we gather is that many Armenian men actually have so much “respect” for their wives, they consider them sacred, and would never make them do “dirty” sexual acts…only gentle love-making and intercourse for the sake of procreation. They prefer to do the dirty stuff with another girlfriend or prostitute and thereby keep their marriage pure and holy — this type of thinking is normalized and accepted by men here, and in many instances (such as when the wife is pregnant or has recently given birth) it is actually expected of them.
Additionally, I have had more than one pregnant Armenian friend who was afraid to tell her boss that she was pregnant for fear of losing her job — if not immediately, then when she chose to take her maternity leave. These are legal business practices here that few question.
I am not trying to justify this type of macho behavior, or trying to prove that it is morally right or wrong, but simply remind readers of cultural differences that some of us may not even be able to comprehend. It is an important point to bring up in this discussion because it is easy to take a very ethnocentric stance on such issues.
With that said, however, I must comment on the total state of denial of people who believe rape, abuse, neglect, sexual slavery, and other forms of oppression do not exist in Armenia (or any other country). This is just as absurd as when Ahmeninedjad stated that there are no gays in Iran. Or when various government officals insist that the Armenian Genocide or the WWII Holocaust never occurred! Maybe the rates of crimes against women are lower here than elsewhere, but it certainly isn’t zero. Most prostitutes and strippers here are from Russia and Ukraine…whether they are here working on their own free will, I cannot say. Likewise, many Armenian women are involved in the sex trade in other countries, just as their foreign counterparts here in Yerevan.
If Armenia wants to be seen as a modern, civilized, Western country, there is a lot of work to be done. Allowing The Vagina Monologues to tour here is a good sign that at least some people want to bring change and enlightenment to current Armenian society.
Outsider on the inside:
There is a traditional/cultured/noble minded Western tradition, and there is the current one which can be loosely termed, mtv culture. Armenia needs more of the former, not the latter.
I am 60, my husband and I saw the play in Europe, with non Armenian friends. We too were originally a bit put off by the title, but the performance and the various stories in it were just excellent, often moving, sometimes funny, speaking of love and childbirth as well as violence. The theater was full, there were men as well as women, young couples, old couples, groups of women, and the applause was enormous. I think it’s been on for at least ten years. It didn’t sound American, it sounded universal. People were surprised. Many men were surprised when they felt some tears on their cheeks. When we came out of the theater, the men in our group admitted that they would see women differently from then on, it had changed something in them. They were visibly more tender. Perhaps no one really explains to men what it is like to be women : and who could? Not the schoolmistressed, not their mother, their sister, and probably not even their partner can. I can’t picture myself explaining accurately how I felt when I had my period, physically and emotionally, how it felt to be made love to. These are enigmas. How can a man imagine what it’s like to give birth, even if he is present when the child is delivered? This wonderful, beautiful, moving, absolutely not ugly play does that. It opens windows on femininity. It’s up to men to accept to be touched, to feel closer to their partners and to the females of their family, of their working place. I bought tickets for my son and his girlfriend. It was probably one of the best presents I could give them. My son was thankful, and admitted that though he had always been respectful of girls, he had learnt a lot. This took place several years ago. If I am still alive in 15 years and the play is still on, I’ll buy tickets for my grand-children who are still too small.
And now I, a mature woman, think that the title must not be changed. Why should it? Why should that part of the body which is so fragile, so delicate, which gives birth to men’s sons and daughters, which suffers so much and enjoys a little when the woman is lucky enough to have a sweet, unselfish and talented partner, not be named simply in order to please those who find it despicable, though that’s where they originated themselves, when it is certainly more humane and eventually more proper that people get used to naming it, and respect it? My only problem is that it is not a pretty name, and it was probably created by men in Roman times. But frankly, how does “penis” sound? Eh? Not terrific either… The package, then, may not be very attractive, but there is a lot even in a happy woman’s life which isn’t either. Criticize it AFTER you have seen it if you dislike it, which is your right of course. And younger ladies, take your destiny into your own hands, and if the word “vagina” doesn’t please you, create one! It’s our body, our inner part, let us name it as WE like. Or let us decide that “vagina” is beautiful, and ask a botanist to create a new breed of roses whose name it’ll be.
AR, I agree with you on your last point. Many –if not most– young Armenians have no exposure to current Western thought besides MTV and popular films, which generally objectify women, so they know little to nothing of the ‘nobler’/more enlightened aspects of contemporary culture.
As for your earlier comment, “I do not think the vagina monologues are the best way to educate Armenian society on domestic abuse,” why not? Where else will they hear about it?
how one of our performers lived the experience during the opening in Tbilisi :
I absolutely love that this article has sparked conversation in so many different ways.
Education is never a bad thing, even if it’s from a comically-informative skit called Vagina Monologues. There are many of it’s kind out there(ex. Guerrilla Girls), and I have been recommending people to see these types of acts for a long time because it is simply educating.
BTW, my favorite part of Vagina Monologues was about how great the word “Cunt” is. (oh dear I hope saying that doesn’t kick me out of the Armenian community)
WOW! Some of these comments make me believe we still collectively live in the 18th century! What is wrong with women talking about their sexuality? We men do it all the time? Enough with the heterosexist monologue! The younger generation isn’t buying old country values anymore.
Lara, my sister-in-law, just used her vagina to dialogue with the rest of you and say: “Here is my fourth child born in Armenia… The next generation will change this country!”
We, in the Diaspora must evolve as quickly as Armenia, or else we will be left behind!
Courage ma belle Lara! Et bienvenue à Yeprad!
Yankee Go Home!
Keep your americocentric propaganda out of Armenia!
The presentation of the Vagina Monologues in Armenia is a commendable effort to promote the movement of ending violence against women, whatever form or shape that violence takes.
However, I would like to point out that the author’s statement “in a country where women have never been equal to men (refute this all you want, but you’d be in denial)…” is an uninformed generalization. The first Armenian Republic was born in a time where every Armenian was treated equally – including women. Beginning in May 1918, all women in Armenia had the right to vote (before American women), and were represented both in our parliament and in our diplomatic corp. In fact, Armenia’s ambassador to Japan in 1918 was a woman. Any current cultural gender inequality – either in the Diaspora or in present-day Armenia – is derived from the foreign influences of Turkish or Russian culture. For more on this point, I urge the author to visit the ARF museum on the first Armenian Republic in Yerevan.
I commend the Armenian Weekly editors for providing a young Armenian-American a forum in which to raise awareness about the Vagina Monologues; however, I would expect more guidance in providing a historical background to the author before publication.
Can you imagine what would happen if you started discussing LGBT issues? You might be run out of town!