The Feminine Mystique in Azerbaijan?

Betty Friedan– Maybe most Americans know this person very well, but I don’t think most Azeris do. I haven’t heard about her until I found her book among the books, sent to me one by one of my ducklings Peace Corps Volunteers. I was reading the book, but stopped it after a while. I remembered it  when I read a blog post of Aaron, a Peace Corps Volunteer in Azerbaijan. Nothing should be unfinished in this life, including books. So I try to finish the books I begin, even sometimes I don’t enjoy them so much.  However, in the case of this book, the reason was different of my not reading.

The reason for letting this book be unfinished was different; it was not because the book was uninteresting or unreadable, it was because everything was so familiar in the book. I told a friend of mine, it is like I am reading a book about Azerbaijani women. I say so because sometimes in the pages of the book I see my mother, sometimes one of aunts, or a married friend. Yes, that is why I have been reading the book almost for more than two months. I cannot read it; I don’t want to read what I already know. Everything is familiar in a different way, and yet different in a familiar way in this book.

All she wanted, she said was what every other American girl wanted-to get married, have four children and live in a nice suburb.

This statement is about majority of the American girls, but here is the Azeri version of it written by me.

All she wants to get married, have two children (first boy then girl), and live a good life in a nice house, preferably  in Baku.

That is briefly what most of the girls want right now in Azerbaijan. I know there will be girls saying I am wrong, but please, I am talking about majority, and for majority that is a very true statement. I have never thought marriage is bad or anything. For me, getting married to the right person at right time is great. However, I have always felt bad when very brilliant girls of Azerbaijan marry and stay at home to get the occupation- housewife, which does not require so many skills. Smart, intelligent girls should not become full-time housewives.

Surely there are many women in Azerbaijan America who are happy at the moment as housewives, and some whose abilities are fully used in the housewife role. But happiness is not the same thing as the aliveness of being fully used. Nor is human intelligence, human ability, a static thing. Housework, no matter how it is expanded to fill the time available, can hardly use the abilities of a woman of average or normal human intelligence, much less the fifty percent of the female population whose intelligence, in childhood, was  above average.

Yes, although, in Azerbaijan most of the girls are smarter than boys; in schools they do better than boys, but families give preference to educate their sons in higher institutions.  In every possible way, they try to get their sons receive university degree, because he is going to be the head of the family, bread-winner of the family. If the girl has received enough education to work as a teacher, that is great, she will be working as a teacher at one of the nearby schools, at least as a tutor at home. They think girls are trained, or should be trained to be a good housewife. My own mother and most of the mothers wish their daughters know all the house work, cooking and everything, so when their daughters get married they don’t be ashamed in front of in-laws.  Have they really found their fulfillment as a woman in being housewife so they want their daughters to follow them?!

I have made marks in the book. And I really have a lot to talk about them. Hopefully, I will be talking about them in upcoming posts. I just wrote here mostly about marriage, because I have been seeing a lot of wedding pictures lately.

Situation has changed for American women now, and I hope one day situation of Azeri women will also change. I am not saying America and American women are the best, and we should take America or American women as an example. No, never, what I am saying is- women need first to self-realize themselves, then marry and have kids, women should not lose their identity when they married, and most important, they should not live their lives through their husbands and kids. Life is only travelled once, and everybody, including woman, has a right to live that life as s/he wants.


4 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Eugene Gabrys on September 26, 2011 at 10:15 am

    I agree! My hope is that Azeri women will be interested in participating in projects I am facilitating which will give them the opportunity to be creative, expressive and entrepreneurial.


  2. A sensible article. Really most of Azerbaijani girls’ dream is getting married after BA. That’s the main goal in life, not finding and realising yourself as a personality. But believe this thinking is changing day by day. And I hope our girls will build their lives how they imagine it in reality and not be repentant afterwards.


  3. Posted by Sandra on October 1, 2011 at 11:42 am

    There is so much to say about this entry. I am a male, from a different generation than you and from a different country so maybe I should keep my mouth shut but I feel I must share the following.

    Living in Azerbaijan today is in some ways like visiting my childhood in the 1960’s in the UK. Society was then dominated by men, women mostly left school early, got married, had children and spent the rest of their lives cooking, cleaning, washing and ironing not matter how intelligent of full of promise they were.

    The education system was prejudiced against them as girls exam papers were routinely marked down, to give boys an unfair advantage. The so-called “glass ceiling” kept women in junior positions in business and industry, restricting them to secretarial or cleaning jobs. There were very few women in politics those that did wield power were seen as freaks.

    Women were expected to be pretty, feminine and doggedly loyal to their men no matter how obtuse, brutish and ignorant they were. Does any of this sound familiar? Well, what then happened to change things?

    Firstly there was the 1971 Sex Discrimination Act that made it illegal to treat women in any way worse than men but to be honest, it doesn’t matter what laws you have, attitudes in society are more important.when it comes to equality, So women started living the lives they wanted, applying for the jobs they wanted to do and generally empowering themselves.

    I believe that in the final analysis, it is down to the women of Azerbaijan to realise that they can take control of their own lives by questioning traditional attitudes and thinking in new ways. After all, women across Europe, North America and many other parts of the world have done that in the past 40 years. Why should Azerbaijan be the exception?


  4. Posted by Xarici on October 2, 2011 at 7:46 am

    It can’t be helping Azerbaijan, as a nation, to subjugate half of their population into work that doesn’t supplement to national innovation in the economy. I agree with Samiran that there is a trend for change. I know a lot of really bright Azerbaijani girls that are insisting on more control in their life.

    It will take a while, but that’s been true in other nations who have taken to progressive feminism. Most haven’t quite reached their goal yet, either.


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