While Armenia has come a long way since the first time I visited in 1991 during the Soviet era, it’s also clearly not as advanced as the U.S. — and in some ways, I don’t want it to be. There are certain things I miss about America (mainly the easy access to things), but I love that here there aren’t strict rules for every single little thing. In that sense, quite ironically, it feels like a freer country. Since being here, I’ve talked to a few people about the differences between Armenia and America, and what we all keep saying is that Armenia today is still where America was 50 or so years ago.
For example, in the context of women’s rights, I recently saw an ad for a gym in Yerevan that essentially says: “My love, lose weight and I’ll come back to you.” Yes, it’s a ludicrous message (which makes me think it’s probably partly meant to be a joke) and ironic considering the men here aren’t exactly fit themselves. In America it would be banned — actually it wouldn’t even come to realization — but we have to keep in mind that while sexism is still a very real issue here, Armenia has also come a long way and will continue to progress with time. Remember, women didn’t always have rights in America either.
Gender roles are definitely much more defined here, and of course as an “independent woman” born and raised in America, there are some chauvinistic ways that bother me (like that even if a woman is the bread winner of the family, she’s still expected to take care of the household), but I also understand that it’s in their nature — we can’t expect it to change with one person, overnight. I’m hopeful that things will continue in a positive, open-minded direction, but I also hope that a bit of our traditions remain in the process because there’s something beautiful about the gender roles here, too.