How Divergent Concepts and Economic Interests Created a Disabling Environment for the Emancipation of the Armenian Women

How Divergent Concepts and Economic Interests Created a Disabling Environment for the Emancipation of the Armenian Women

In front of the TV, Ani recalled the countless occasions, when people would condescendingly question her peculiar taste for a traditionally male dominated profession. Wasting youth and beauty in an office on tough questions of programming and coming home unacceptably late was not expected of herself. She was not aware that unlike her, young women traditionally chose subjects that related to social sciences, education and health. Instead, Ani had taken a male path. Like 28 percent of other young girls, she had the naivety of choosing to her own liking a major in a technology related field. She would read about it years later, as studies of that type did not exist, when she was explaining her odd choice to the others around her.

A graduate from an Ivy League University with a Magna Cum Laude, specialized in applied mathematics and a successful career, she had herself overcome a myriad of obstacles on her way to being an independent and celebrated woman, but now the official discourse was telling her that she should have foregone all those sleepless nights in the high school and beyond.

Independence, that apparently have had the ambition of having solved the liberation of nations from the Soviet rule, discarded March 8. Instead, April 7 now was the Day of Motherhood unobstructed introduced to the calendar. The linguistic entropy of the discourse around March 8 had created a fertile ground for the religious overtone taking over the holiday that celebrated the struggle for the liberation of women. For now 29-year-old Ani, listening to the debates in National Assembly ten years after the independence, the commotion was not clear. One of the parliamentarians, a woman very much associated with the soviet era rule, was arguing for the reinstatement of March 8 as an International Day of Women. The decibels were running high, some of the opposing parliamentarians were questioning the adequacy of the day, as they thought it was a relic from old times and women in Armenia had a more nationally attuned holiday to be celebrated around it. At the end they gave in, but the discourse around the Women’s Month (as it is now called in Armenia stretching from March 8 to April 7) did not change from eulogizing the institution of Motherhood. Ani was still out and quite annoyed that she was not going to get her rite of passage until she delivers a baby.

A beautiful lady with lots of success in college and at social gatherings, especially when traveling to other countries, she was perplexed why it did not work out for her back home. On top of that, as if in a conspiracy, on a personal front, she scored low in her office. Men would respect and awe her for the exceptional brightness, but choose to chitchat with other office girls. She wanted to settle down. If not a rational being, she would have believed that some kind of unknown spell had ruined it. It should have been her age. At 29, she was late by almost five years. According to the Chief Statistician average marriage for women in Armenia was  24.5. But then her mental ledger went on acting as Devil’s advocate, listing a number of her acquaintances that defied the statistics. She didn’t know that on top of choosing a “male” profession, with her recent promotion, she was now among 14 percent of female CEOs in the country and incidentally in the world for a medium sized IT company, she worked for with no balance in life. Sharp and social, smart and good looking, surrounded with all these men (most of whom were on their way to settled life), she was dreadfully lonely. A butterfly in an armor, that is how it felt to her. 

Munching chips in unison with the screen noise, she started ruminating about her extended family lives scattered all over the world. Her cousin Mariam, now 32 and happily married with 3 kids, worked for a tech company in Silicon Valley. They were so alike in tastes and thoughts, books that they shared during her student days when living with them. They were the grandchildren of two brothers that chose to go their ways. Baghdasar, her grandfather, decided to return to Soviet Armenia. Mushegh, decided to take the boat to the USA. Descendants of survivors were so alike, even in their looks that many thought they were siblings. Well with one major difference they would fight over was Ani’s intensely socialistic outlook on social justice and equality. Mariam was more of a laisser-faire type person, who thought that all the evils were because of lazy crowd not working hard enough to earn a decent life and status. The debates would further escalate if their other cousin from London would come over for the summer. Emma - a 27-year-old intellectual with a sky rocketing career in a publishing house, was a classical Tory hardliner infatuated with Britain’s role in history and modernization. Her latest favorite was Margaret Thatcher - another hardliner that embodied the work ethics of many in that country.

Seated in the garden of aunty’ s villa they would cool down their heated debates, sipping Leal Vineyard’s 2012 Chardonnay from nearby Fresno. A birthplace of American literary classic Saroyan. To these girls he had another special meaning with his stories of immigrants that once lost their homes in the Ottoman Empire. They all felt the connection of lost and rebuilt lives, told around them like a recurrent lullaby with sad undertones. The Fog Horn Teabags, Ani called the British, knowing well how outraged Emma would become. And then she would go on blaming the British Empire for the hardships their ancestors endured at the hands of the Turks. A recital that was common among Armenians, who came back to the USSR. This time around, as if preempting the arguments of Emma from previous battles on how other nations under the Ottoman Empire got their share and Russians were to be blamed for the losses, Ani had done her part of the homework on how the Britain was to be incriminated. After all Emma was a tough brain to hack.

The 1838 Anglo-Turkish Commercial Convention was a one-way free-trade agreement that later contributed to the de-industrialization process of the Ottoman Empire, risking the minorities and particularly Armenians. It eliminated all the local monopolies and allowed foreign merchants to buy goods without any extra custom duty. Emma, did not see what was wrong in expanding the exports and markets. Instead she reminded about the wrong economic policy of the Empire that had granted duty free trade to foreigners, in the meantime heavily taxing its domestic producers and exporters. Ani, instead thought that this deliberate policy had made the Turks heavily indebted, forcing them to seek loans in the financial markets of London. The Sublime Port in Istanbul then went on borrowing in 1877, 1888, 1896, 1905, 1913 and 1914. Britain was ensuring its foreign markets by making sure that the economies did not default and could maintain the business as usual to increase the industrial might, overlooking the minority policy of the “Sick Men of Europe” as they were known at the time. Emma, instead, went on stating that the collapse was due to the whimsical bureaucracy and the powerful military. For heavy borrowing, Emma argued that Russia was to be held accountable starting from the Crimean War (1854-56) and later on with its attempts to destabilize the periphery of the Empire. She was quick to remind that instead the “Armenian economic supremacy” was largely due to Britain’s signed treaty that opened up the country for trade with European powers. She had read in some article recently, that 90 percent of the trade and the businesses carried out through the banks belonged to Armenians. The Armenians and Greeks now were the intermediaries between Europe and the Sublime Port, increasingly building the bourgeois class of the Empire. Armenians from Istanbul, Ankara, Trabzon and Kayseri, Harput, as well as Tokat were intensively linked with London and Manchester among other European trading centers. She also reminded that her grandfather Dikran Kalustian, by then Manchester based merchant, traded silk products and to mind Ani, paid the education of her grandfather Baghdasar in Geneva, hoping that he would then join in helping to expand his business on mainland Europe. Instead, Dikran was so disappointed to learn that his younger brother had chosen to join the ranks of some kind of Armenian revolutionaries that were thinking of liberating the Armenians and also bringing justice to the exploited populace. Nonsense, Armenians held the rains of economy in their hands, why was his brother mingling with this shady crowd in the taverns, discussing Marx, Engels and Bakunin? These individuals were talking about the abolition of property and capital, advocating for workers to get rid of the shackles.

Mariam was silent, she knew what was coming next. Emma was now going to say that these revolutionaries actually provoked the Turks to deprive Armenians of their property. Ani, jumped off the chair and pointing her finger at Emma, hushed her by telling not to even dare to incriminate these revolutionaries for lost capital, property, land and finally lives. In the second half of the 19th century, despite the open free trade and taxation of domestic production and exports, the decline of manufacturing was slowed down. In some industries, it even experienced a reversed pattern. So it were not the actions of revolutionaries that were being used to explain the anxiety of the Turks, but the growing power of the industrial capital in the Armenian hands, that made them a cherished prey in the hands of an indebted and almost insolvent bureaucracy, which started the process of massive destruction of Armenian businesses and confiscation of the property. The Ottoman Empire by then was on the verge of losing most of its periphery and now with the growingly powerful Armenian capital both abroad and in the core of the country made it clear to the bureaucrats that they were going to lose everything. The blame is not on the revolutionaries, Ani proclaimed putting for Emma’s notice.  And these revolutionaries, as if wanting to get done with it irreversibly, were the ones that negotiated reform and land restitution, not your wealthy chaps, in a way pointing at grandfather Dikran. At least, the Russians to Ani were advocating for the protection of Orthodox Christians in the Empire, when the countless Catholic and Protestant Missionaries were using the pretext of Tanzimat to successfully introduce ‘a higher and more perfect development of Christianity’. Concerning the British, they somehow started talking about the need to prosecute the responsibles for “crimes against humanity” after the World War I, after the extermination of the Armenians along with the other minorities. How sincere these intentions are to be considered, if it seems that now Britain was faced with a Bolshevik Russia and sympathizing Young Turk government? A long silence burdened the sisters. It was already the dawn, but somehow they could not let it there.

Mariam thought that maybe a broker could calm the currents and alleviate the rancid rivalry of hundred years of isolation. Their levelheaded cousin Christine, the eldest one was the ultimate authority. Mariam looked at the iPad, it must be 8pm in Paris, perfect time to call her. Ani was exited now, her beloved cousin with whom she grew up in Soviet Armenia before they emigrated to France to reunite with the rest of their countless relatives, was going to connect the dots. Emma, nodded saying laughingly that now Christine was going to get into the scene with her feminist schemes. The sisters placed the screen on the table, meantime greeting their whizmind. Christine’s sharp look in an instant gave her an idea of what was going on. She said that it was nice to see them without pulled out hair and eye bruises. So they’ve pondered over the losses again with no final resolution, what a waste of time! Emma’s inquiries of her welfare, placed Christine on a cussword tour, complaining about her baggard boss that was paying her, the co-manager of a huge construction project, less than her male peer. Not that she was not a breadwinner for her family of two growing boys and a husband. Hundred years were seemingly not enough for these ‘phallocentrics’ to get over the housewife’s stereotype. No matter what you do, somehow the pattern persists.  Hopeless! Even the March 8 events and talks do not help to undo the rupture with many women suffering the consequences until now.

Ani, reminded her that Soviet women were an exception. Christine laughed and told her that it was all the propaganda machine of the state, creating an impression, but for most of them it was just a day for a celebration of motherhood. Christine reminded Ani how like many children of the late 80’s living in the Soviet Armenia, she was making a gift card for her mother during her art class in the elementary school. As it was explained the card was to be given to her mom on the Mother’s Day. Celebrated on March 8th, by then it seemed miles away from what it was and used to be for many around the world. While growing up, even in the higher grades of the school that day for Ani was always an occasion to say nice words to her mom and the other women. At times she would also bring flowers to her teachers, dreaming of her turn, when she would get her doze of flowers and perfume, as if to signal her initiation into the circle of womanhood.

The Soviet history book extensively celebrated the efforts of revolutionaries that had brought about the liberation of the working class, but she never quite clearly came to grasp the role and the place of Clara Zetkin or Krupskaya in the advancement of the humankind, except for latter being the companion of the great leader Vladimir Lenin. Ani vaguely recalled television programs that talked about the achievements of women under the Soviet rule aired on that particular day, but as it was with the other news through the official news channels, she, through the talks of the grownups, never took them too seriously. The propaganda! Well, she was not quite aware of what it was, but definitely something to be overlooked at all costs.

The titles of some of the print media articles on that day of the late 80s were a far cry from the topics covered before the World War II. “The mood starts from the moment you dress up”, “The beauties in sportswear” and similar semantic structures took the front pages of the papers greeting readers and instilling ideas. The woman was no longer the equal partner in building the communism. After the war and further down the road the C-word was a far cry, almost like an echo  in the minds of the young that craved a sip of Pepsi Cola (the twin brother of Coca Cola) and a pair of jeans, patiently collecting money to be later exchanged in the undergrounds of the Soviet network – the Blat.

Despite the fact that March 8 was not celebrated before the war, women broke the stereotypes in life and made it to the front pages of the news under the watchful eye of the Glavlit - the censor guarding the secrets of the state. After 1960s, thanks to women and their great contribution, all got a day-off, but at least the titles and the content went back to the “normal”. Marquez, a young journalist working for newspaper “El Espectador” in Bogota, visited the USSR in 1957. A man, who at the time was believed to be a “pro-Cuba propaganda agent” and an anarchist to Uncle Sam, shared his observations on the ground, documenting the magnetism of Soviet realism. He was shocked at the masculate women working in the fields that as he describes explained the rapid industrialization despite the fact of repressions and the massive loss of human life during the wartime. It didn’t miss his eye, that in Moscow, which to him was a world away from the unembraceable mainland he toured on the train, to the great disappointment of the dwellers, young female students of the foreign languages department had picked up unacceptably bourgeois fashion styles along with the readings from the foreign journals allowed by the state for the improvement of their linguistic skills. Little they knew that these garments would come across as far more impressive than the irresistibly enticing idea of the Communism.

Emma was getting annoyed by recollections from times that were thankfully gone with the collapse of the Evil Empire. Mariam, interrupted the interlocution of longtime buddies and said that they had a far more important issue to settle. Not more important that the equality of sexes to Christine, but she was ready to hear it. The sisters went on briefing her about the topic and disagreements around it, even though Christine fathomed the themes around the table. After all her whole life was around immigrant people with similar reflections and kaleidoscopically resembling anecdotal stories.

To Christine cousins’ standoff was due to an absent framework for understanding what was happening at the time. To her it was clear that Armenians in the Ottoman Empire were  destined to build a nation-state at least hundred years later than most of the European states did with an exception of Germany and Italy that emerged after the Napoleonic Wars. It would then explain why Kaser’s Germany was a latecomer in dividing what was left of the Ottoman market, morally supporting Turks in ending the economic supremacy of Armenians. While Armenian ideological framework, driven by the parties that came to the fore at the end of the 19th century, was overwhelmed with the need to demarcate a space for the Armenian nation, Europe was already burning with the class-delineation rhetoric. Labor movements in Europe created a rift between capital and labor, conceptualizing the Industrial Revolution, modernization and setting the stage for class struggle and liberation of women. In the same time, Armenians were on the other side of the fence, mostly wealth owners helping Western powers to feed on cheaper markets of the Ottoman Empire with a liberal economic and despotic political regime at the same time. The further ideological shift in Russia with the rise of Bolsheviks and the Young Turk government desperately trying to curve a space for Turks, working class rhetoric was going to play to the hands of the two in putting an end to the capitalists that mostly happened to be Armenians. Christine lamented the fact that Armenians were dangerously behind the economic-political developments and conceptualizations taking place at a global stage. Therefore, feminism and social justice was to be transmuted into ethnic struggle. An antiquated momentum that left Armenians without a land.

Emmy could not get the idea, what was feminism to do with all of this, even though that working class formation part was also something she could not connect with quite well. Christine went on explaining how all that started in Britain. Emmy was tired of hearing that the country she called home was recurrently being implicated. For her the enlightened liberal environment that they enjoyed until now, coupled with free entrepreneurial spirit of the time had brought about one of the most breath-taking transformations of human history. She in a way, represented the civilizing force that had helped to create the realities of modern life with affluence and literacy that all of the sisters enjoyed along with so many others.

After a long period of deprivation, inconceivably hard life conditions of many and mostly women and children, added Christine. To Emmy it was all reverberations of a life in communist country for those two ladies that was reverting such a wealth creation period into a class struggle and exploitation story. Christine, then, brought up the analytical framework of Toynbee, whose thoughts actually not only helped to understand the major shift in Britain, but also within this understanding, try and to make a sense of the future. In his lectures on Industrial Revolution, Toynbee discusses the political economy, the conflict between capital and labor, that had gone astray and needed urgent attention, as the forgone economic and social relations had to be restored.

British commentators of the time saw the Industrial Revolution as an abrupt technological change that had had a major impact on the lives of ordinary people. The period was inordinately disastrous, unprecedented in its scale, leading to the degradation of a large body of producers. The accounts of eye witnesses later published in a report spoke of the disruption and distress among women workers brought about the industrialization. 

The deterioration of countryside economy, which was mostly cottage based and even in textile industry employed hand-powered spinning and weaving tools, forced many workers to migrate from rural areas to industrialized towns further limiting the choices of non-skilled working class women. This large scale technological production with a divided labor force participation that was separated from their residence led to the changes in reproduction and labor division within the household along with the proletarianization of the labor force.

Women were mostly hired for labor intensive and low paid jobs with no advancement paths, which for a capitalist efficiency driven economy was a way of maximizing the output by minimizing the costs of production. The demand of cheap labor for shifting jobs did not require much of skills and was easily downsized if needed. The rapid economic growth and technological advancement with a lagging societal norms mostly underpinning the patriarchal values forced women into low paid, part time jobs with virtually no perspective for advancement.

Unlike the continent, where the more centralized governance models tended to bring the conflict to the national level, in Britain with a liberal political regime, conflicts arose and mostly got solved at local or regional levels. This led to the cooptation of male workers by the industrialists. That rift was actually catalytic for the evolution of the identity of the working-class women. Emmy, then, recalled, as if echoing Christine’s theoretical explanations, that she had read a researcher’s work, claiming that patriarchal norms in a capitalist economy led to the co-optation of male workers by the owners to the detriment of women. She could not make sense out of it at the time, but now she was stating that the guy was talking about company records showing how jobs were elaborately segregated based on sex with men having more opportunities for vertical mobility unlike women. The latter were mostly granted horizontal mobility along with absenteeism for rearing and caring purposes.

Christine grinned, as if saying she knows what it means and mentioned that whatever women do they are still perceived as housewives. The roots of this was there, in the Industrial Revolution period, when with the division of labor and segregation of supervisory functions, women were caught in the most volatile and insecure positions within the industrializing economy. All of a sudden, then Ani said that a friend of hers was talking about some guy named Andersen, a researcher, that was arguing how the division of labor and the more stable labor paths for men gave rise to the new definition of men as the family wage-earners, in a way legitimizing the irregular employment and subsistence wages for females. Now she could see how this man-to-man agreement was beneficial for capitalists that were exploiting the cheap labor and the female wage earners, reinforcing their power position within patriarchal norms.

Chirstine, then described how women were caught in limbo, as not only they were on the bottom of the labor ladder, but they also lost their feet in the household economy by not being able to draw on the commons and bring back additional income to the family budget. The Industrial Revolution limited the employment opportunities of women, locking them in a secondary labor market both in agriculture and industry. When studying the heights of women of the time, it showed that for women born in rural areas it fell more rapidly as compared to their urban counterparts due to limited job opportunities available to them. The deterioration of heights among women in Britain only was reversed around early twentieth century, which coincided with working-class women's identity shift. The working women coming mostly from textile mills, cooperatives and unions joint their forces with more educated middle-class women to campaign for vote and full-blown citizenship.

Mariam now chimed in, reminding the sisters of the New York shirtwaist strike of mostly poor immigrant women that led to the better working conditions, favorable hours and higher wages. So for her and the others now it made sense that there was a need to have an organized struggle and self-identity that defines itself from within. March 8 made much more sense to them. Christine nodded, saying that it was all a matter of setting a framework for conceptualization, which did not occur in the case of Armenian women, as they were busy acting upon the nationalistic sentiments with the hope to have their own nation-state. She also said that Toynbee failed to give an impetus to this self-identification process of working-class women. Instead, he believed that the solution lied in the further development of the industrial society itself, where through a rather deliberate intervention some of its faults could be overcome.

Engels took the argument further and stated that the Industrial Revolution completed the cycle of dehumanization, which was already in place before that, when human beings served as mere “toiling machines” for a few select groups, namely the aristocrats. The machines that were introduced with rapid industrialization were catalytic to the pernicious trends. To Emmy’s great disappointment, Christine mentioned Marx, who was the one that actually gave most of the framing ideas for a feminist struggle. 

Marx argued that the position of women was an accurate indication of the development of a given society. He argued that for the transformation beyond the capitalist form was only possible if social relations shifted away from their current form. The alteration in identity had to bear a form of absolute value, when gender roles were not defined by mutually utilitarian value, but the self-worth. Hence, women had a specific significance in this transformation, as in almost all societies they continually had marginalized roles. Marx also argued that through labor the individual changed. This implied that the inferior roles in the labor market that were assumed by women could change, thus, also impacting their identity. On one hand women and children with their cheap labor contributed to the productivity gains of British industrialists, minimizing costs and maximizing profits, thus, in a way, forcing these industries to look for more markets outside their country, on the other hand, Marx acknowledged how the entry into the labor market gave a bargaining power in the household politics, diminishing the role of the husbands. Besides, he also stated how the long working hours had masculinized women, but that was the way to bringing them to the same level with men.

Mariam, now could see how the stories reverberated with the industrial development model in the US, as an off-spring of a mother, it had quite similar trends. She now could see, how the increased bargaining power with employment transformed the identity of women in the US. By 1940s and 50s, female labor supply in her country was more elastic driving more women into the labor market and making it more acceptable after the marriage. With cheap female labor supply and good export prospects when trying to rebuild Europe after the World War II explained this shift to Mariam. However, married women made their labor related decisions complementary to that of their husbands. Only in the 60s young women started carefully planning for their future work lives unlike the other generations that saw it as a compliment to their husband’s work. These revised expectations brought to the extension of college life and graduate studies among them.

This was another moment, when the identity shifted. Women started marrying later, meanwhile continuing their college education. Unlike their peers before that, they would in a way “make a name” before marriage and opt to retain their surname after it. It is in this period, when surveyed, women displayed more interest in coworker recognition and career success. Overall, women exhibited more similarity in their preferences with male counterparts entering college. By 1980s, both men and women gave equal emphasis to recognition and family.

To Mariam this was in a way a ‘silent revolution’. Indeed, it was. Women started choosing college programs that were more competitive in the labor market, invested more in their education and took it more seriously that their female predecessors of early 50s and 60s. These alterations brought about changes in their household centered identities, intertwining it with their career choices. With a delay in marriage and child bearing women had significantly increased their participation in the labor market, reaching a level of 77 percent unlike the 40 percent in 1965.

Ani was now totally lost. She could not get why then as a kid, she was making gift cards to celebrate the Motherhood? Where did March 8 go? Where these strong ladies that Marquez saw on his visit to the Soviet Union vanish? Why there was no silent or any other revolution there for her mother and others like her to transform the dynamics Mariam was talking about? Why she would still get the comments that would urge her to find a husband and not waste her time with the education she had chosen? So expensive, why would a girl need that? And Marx was such a big name in the countries of the Soviet Block, why this framework did not help them?

Emmy, smirked, saying that Ani was now paying for the stupid choices his revolutionary grandfather took. They should have emigrated to Britain as her grandfather Dikran was suggesting, even though the two were bitterly at odds with each other. Christine, though, suggested that not everything was so great in terms of equality in Britain anyway, but nothing to be compared with the path Russia took and others in the Caucasus were forced to take after the Crimean War.

Capitalism and state making determined the formation of the working class in Europe, breaking the vertical solidarity of former times. Unlike the enlightened government of Britain of the time with self-organization and conflict resolution left to the local and regional levels, much of the European Powers had a tighter grip on the process of industrialization, changing mode of response to it in terms of trying to resolve conflicts. The state structures and types of solidarity and organization were key factors. The rates of proletarianization increased when conflicts approached national scale, bringing the society to class division. In extreme cases of authoritarian rule, most importantly under fascist and communist state structure deprived or ideologically high jacked the autonomous formation of organizations at national level.

Russia, was a case in itself. Being late with the industrialization, made the Tsarist Government of 1890s to keep an extremely tight grip on the process of capital formation in order to avoid social instability in the country. This was an Empire that was eyeing a big piece of the Ottoman Empire for itself and had already annexed the Caucasus as a strategically important location. It is interesting that by the beginning of the 20th century most of the labor in Russia was to be found in the countryside, but the strikes and political activity interestingly occurred in urban centers and mostly in Saint Petersburg. The self-organization of the working class mostly took illegal or tacitly government-sponsored form. This was a totally different case and the Red Revolution actually deprived the working class of an autonomous decision-making in terms of organization. It all became a propaganda!

Ah, the Propaganda! Ani, knew from her childhood days that it was something bad, so now she could see why. Only the state could decide what should be allowed, what should be filtered out. Who would be a model women, who should be shot for being a ‘bourgeois relic’! It is not surprising that nobody speaks of Zapel Yesayan as a feminist. Even after the death of Stalin. During the Great Purge she was accused of “nationalism”, arrested, then totally forgotten. Now it is not surprising that she was also persecuted by the Young Turk Government. And did Ani know that Shushanik Kurghinyan, a prominent Soviet Armenian literary figure, was a feminist herself! Ugh! Ani could not contain her feelings. She despised this poet of Bolsheviks. Christine said that she knew how it felt. She herself, had the same outlook when in the Soviet Union, but retrospectively she had revisited the poet’s life and work. A feminist put on hold! No one knew her like that. Even worse. Independent Armenia had fully erased her from the books and minds of the people.

Mariam now could not get the idea of Independence not bringing the equality so longed for and deserved. Turning to Ani, she expected some sort of an explanation, she was the only one to have come from the Dream Land of their fathers. Now the state building was accomplished, the sufferings and losses must have borne fruits. No answer. Christine asked Ani, what was the economy like and how well the self-organization was occurring? Was the state inhibitive and centralized or it could be compared with the one of the enlightened epoch? Most of country’s population was involved in the low productive agricultural sector. The growth of the economy was dependent on the construction and remittances. Christine, then theorized that some kind of a working class formation was not possible with most of them being employed in volatile and seasonal cottage-style agriculture with highly elastic prices of products could not have been inductive to feminist discourse. With the privatization of the land, big landowners were introducing industrial machinery into the sector, but that was driving away the workforce into construction and mining. To Christine it resonated well with the initial stages of industrialization in Europe. So now apparently with the deterioration of the village commons and a boost of a more male dominated sectors of construction and emerging mining, women did not have any options, but to sell their labor to these landlords at a lower price and have lesser bargaining power in their households. Ani’s briefing on the political situation and self-organization did not add any optimism to the rest. A grim picture for any feminist identification. No wonder nobody cared about the poetry of Kurghinyan.

Emmy, Mariam and Ani were now desperate, the history could repeat itself after hundred years of isolation. Ani turned the TV off, trying hard to come out of the time lapse she was in. It was Yerevan, her apartment and 2015, she reminded herself. That feeling of a ‘butterfly in an armor’ still tormented her. Now with a renewed force. She went to the bookshelf and picked the Soviet printed Shushanik Kurghinyan. A random passage stroke her, it was not the poet she knew without knowing her:

I want to eat comfortably–as you do,
from that same fair bread–for which
I gave my share of holy work;
in the struggle for existence–humble and meek,
without feeling shame–let me
shed sweat and tears for a blessed earning,
let scarlet blood flow from my worker’s hands
and let my back tire in pain!

She devoured all the pieces. Somehow an urgent need to call Christine bogged her. Or well, in a couple of days, she was going to indulge in late and extended night talks with all of her cousins. Paris during Christmas with their family reunions was already a custom, but this time around, some of their talks were going to have a purpose with action.  She meditated on how their self-identification could be done. This world is not linear anymore. Things can go different ways. The Internet has added a dimension that was not there hundred years ago. Maybe a feminist insurgency could solve it. A burning idea that she wanted to share with the rest of them. Maybe Emmy would get on board with her heart as well as her large pocket? This was not a Soviet Armenia anymore. It was their own country, it belonged to all sisters equally. Ani was thinking of using the situation on the ground to their advantage. If women were in agriculture, oh, and luckily close to nature, that is where they could go with their frameworks, ideas and money. They could help them to organize their female-operated nature friendly production with a pledge to fund back the other newcomers. It could work! She would give some of her time and finances to the ‘sweat and tears for a blessed earning’. '"Shoes of Cinderella" would be a perfect name of the charity venture. Money, self-organization and broken stereotypes would help the butterflies to come out of armor and ‘princesses’ have a chance for a remake. What a plan! She could not wait for the Christmas to come!

 

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