When meeting an other person who’s sharing their memories and experiences I tend to spontaneously relate by drawing parallels to my own and the feelings I’ve experienced in a similar situation. In many ways a quite egocentric way to explore the world – my subjective experience of a certain situation is rarely the same as someone’s with a different background, life and idea world than mine. Still, it is in this relating my capability of empathy and a first understanding lies and to be able to deepen that I need to ask questions. In Armenia I am constantly drawing parallels in the same way to my own culture and life back home and then asking questions to get a better understanding.
I am raised in a small society in the woods of the most christian parts of Sweden (swe: Småländska bibelbältet) during the 80′s and 90′s. There, my mother was taking the main responsibility for the children and domestic bliss, in the same way as I notice my female friends are doing now, all in accordance with the statistics saying that Swedish females in average spend 5h 36min more on unpaid work compared to men. This is of course not equivalent with the fact that almost half of the Armenian men answered that they believe a woman’s place is in the kitchen and raising children in a poll from 2012. (But…)
There, in the Swedish woods, I attended Sunday school, joined the scouts and it was there that the confirmation leader was removed from his assignment when he got engaged with his boyfriend. It’s not the same as the church’s very strong influence here or the fact that Georgian priests attacked peaceful manifestation on International Day of Homophobia last year with the nestles they held in their hands. Neither is the widely spread homophobia in this country which makes it close to impossible to live openly here equivalent to the fact that I recently heard a Swedish banker from my region condescending using the word fag dog (swedish: “böghund”) about a smaller model of the species. (But…)
In Armenia my female friends are expected to be virgins when they marry, their cellphones start ringing around 10 p.m. because good girls are not out late and I am constantly told not to walk home late or sit in the front seat of taxis. It’s not exactly the same thing as the vast number of times I’ve been called a whore growing up or that Swedish courts are still asking questions about what the woman was wearing and her previous sexual experience and preferences in rape courts. (But…)
That there’s no laws here agains sexual harassment and that only 8,9% think it’s a violent act to have non-consentual sex with ones wife according to the 2012 poll is not the same as that the hidden statistics for unreported rapes in Sweden is estimated as high as 80-90% (according to BRÅ, Swedish crime preventive council) and that only 8% of actually reported rapes leeds to a conviction. (But…)
That a large majority of the Armenian population thinks that domestic violence sometimes can be justified is not the same as all the violent outbreaks from boys I witnessed and some times was a target for in school or the fact that we constantly fail to prohibit men’s violence towards women, children and other men (95% of the convicted violent crimes in Sweden are committed by men). (But…)
Here in Armenia, it’s quite common as a female to get an academic degree in order to get a higher status as a possible wife of someone, rather than actually considering going in to a professional carrier above solely domestic bliss. This is of course not exactly the same as that even though more Swedish females than males get an academic degree women still earn 14% less than men and only 5% have the chairman post in Swedish stock listed companies. (But…)
The fact that there was a hysterical outbreak in Armenia when they where adopting the EU’s proposed laws on gender equality because the word “gender” was interpreted as immoral propaganda forced on the country from the EU (Swedish law was used as a especially terrifying example since it’s here claimed to allow incest, pedophilia and to propagate strongly for same sex marriages) is of course not exactly the same as the debate about the gender neutral pronoun “hen” (in Armenia he and she doesn’t exist, so they only have the gender neutral version) which in Sweden often landed in the conception that the “feminazis” now where trying to make all children into a poor genderless creature that will get confused of which bathroom door to use in the future, apparently a very important life choice to get correct. (But…)
I think you are starting to get my point by now, the gender inequality in the both countries has different faces, BUT…. all this is examples of the same gender structures that still in a various of ways shapes the life and people back in Sweden. I don’t have to go further back than my grandmothers generation to find a time where the gender roles where almost identical with the ones I am experiencing here. The answers I normally get in a conversation about the topic is also very similar. “In this country we’ve come a far way when it comes to addressing these issues, we have women in politics and women can do what they want” or “our problems is very small compared to those other countries over there. Domestic violence is not a part of our culture, it’s them, the other men who hits their wives” or “women are free to do what ever they want to, they just don’t want to be promoted to leading position and there’s no laws against women instead starting their own businesses either”.
Sure, Sweden have come further in some areas compared to other places, I’ll give you that, but we are still far from an equal society where we are also not casted into a gender mold based upon what’s between our legs when we are born. And how long time is it really supposed to take?
According to statistic from SCB (Central Bureau of Statistics) we will reach 2205 before Sweden is completely gender equal when it comes to salaries, domestic work and childcare if we continue in the same pace as now. Is that really something to brag about?
So, dear Swedes, if you raise your sleeves and get to work back home, we will continue doing our best here in the Caucasus. Yes, we can!