“Women’s Month” in Armenian Media

Nune Hakhverdyan

Art critic, journalist

There are topics that are considered light, easy and even a pleasurable task to cover. The series of required but not enforced events (mainly for festive occasions) allow news outlets to produce TV reports or news articles quickly and without excessive effort. In these cases, it seems as though a standard template is put to task when it comes to structure and vocabulary.

That which in contemporary folklore we call “women’s month” is that event which is adorned with standard templates from head to toe.

As a rule, leading the pack of standard lines are “women’s happiness” (what is difference in happiness between the sexes?), “eternal beauty” (is there such a thing?), “endless smiles” (with a possible diagnosis of a developmental disability?), and wishes of flowers, spring, and other lovely things. And let’s not forget the expression “humanity’s beautiful half”.

Every good media platform makes its contribution of “women’s happiness” to the media “pie”. From March 8 to April 7, the media turns its attention to those news stories that somehow or another have to do with women. 

Of course, the media primarily adopts the practice of honoring and glorifying women, which Armenia’s ruling authorities established and put forth — including, as well, the Armenian Apostolic Church. 

Glorifying women and organizing events, they want to glorify their own actions and perceptions. Or they send something like a report to the media. Women’s (and their own) glorification is done with direct and gritty words. And often it has the opposite effect.

This visual display by Yerevan City Hall, which is broadcast on television, is an example of when glorification is akin to humiliation. 

Some news outlets published official events or wishes in their entirety — demonstratively not adding, reducing and editing anything.

This was the case, for example, with Aravot. On March 8, the news outlet republished in its news section Yerevan City Hall’s press release [AM], without additions or reductions — as it was published on the municipality’s official website [AM]. In the three-paragraph text, the word “surprise” is mentioned twice; the word “gift” is also mentioned twice; and “is offered” is mentioned three times (a surprise is offered, a gift is offered, a pleasant surprise, and so on).

Here is a somewhat odd excerpt from the text that raises eyebrows: “Thanking [the organizers, the city] for the pleasant surprise, the latter (women) said this March 8 full of unforgettable feelings will remain forever in their memories”.

The expression “women said” is not only abstract, but also unreasonable. All women? And forever?

On April 7, Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan in his congratulatory message dedicated to Motherhood and Beauty Day, tied “mothers” to the centenary of the Armenian Genocide and to “writing on desert sands, taught the Mashtotsian alphabet to their children on the road of deportation”. He also said that the Republic of Armenia Presidential Award was awarded to Armenian women who were subjected to genocide. Perhaps such wishes can be only quoted and framed because by their very nature they’re very questionable. 

Some news outlets attempt to work on the material and convey their own structure on the already prepared texts and format of events — leading to some interesting results. 

Armenpress published a story [AM] on the topic of women that began with this sentence: “Female painters are sure they are no less interesting in art than men.”

The term “female painters”1 of course sounds festive but absurd (are there male painters?2).

News outlets now automatically republish and quote verbatim — without asking questions. For example, according to the municipality’s website, the Yerevan mayor, at the opening of the “Spring Melody” exhibit, said: “The Armenian man is always strong also due to our women, since Armenian women, first and foremost, are mothers, and that says everything.”

But what if a woman is not a mother? Or a man is not Armenian? (For example, if he is a Yerevan resident of Yazidi or Russian descent.)

These seem like minor errors, but, considering the news atmosphere of springtime and women, they reveal deviations of language and logic, beneath which any nonsense and untidiness can be concealed.

For example, when it became known that Armenia’s Minister of Education and Science Armen Ashotyan wrote a song about and for women (both the lyrics and the music), the creation of the song became grounds for a reportage.

Of course, all of us in Armenia are happy that the minister is writing a song and not establishing a business and engaging in the shadow economy. After all, a song is the most transparent of pursuits — it is audible and commendable. But when this occasion for news becomes a casual reportage, the fact that the minister wrote a song is negatively perceived.

A news story compiled on the fly and covered poorly causes repulsion toward its subjects. It is well known that when you want to “bury” or discredit someone, it’s enough to place pompous and inconsequential words next to his name. And immediately the protagonist becomes an antagonist. 

And there’s the impression that the antagonists of “women’s month” are, in fact, women. Or those who glorify them. 

Arriving to Yerevan tomorrow will be the world’s most famous woman with an Armenian surname, Kim Kardashian, who will be shooting a film in Armenia about her Armenian roots. She is a mother, Armenian, and beautiful. Perhaps her short visit and the expected global reaction will become the high point of our local “women’s month”.

Nune Hakhverdyan

1. The noun “painters” in the aforementioned example is gendered in Armenian and therefore the adjective “female” is unnecessary. Consider, for instance, “poetess” vs. “poet”.
2. In this example, the term “male poetess” can be substituted to understand the original meaning.

The views expressed in the column are those of the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Media.am.

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