Nika Musavi, Baku
It’s in women’s nature to buy an expensive dress and then never put it on. Therefore, it’s probably not surprising that Azerbaijani women, who were the first to be enfranchised in the Muslim East [in the times of Azerbaijani Democratic Republic, 1918], further have never used those rights. And what actually happens to the women’s rights in Azerbaijan, in general, is beyond comprehension. Under the country’s Constitution, they are certainly absolutely equal to the men. But, in fact, there is an unofficial list of restrictions, the length and sophistication of which varies depending on a social stratum. From a veto on ‘male careers’ to a ban on going out unaccompanied. It’s a conservative society. So, it can’t be helped.
To be more precise, it can be helped to a certain extent. After all, in the beginning of the last century, when the situation was far more deplorable, Azerbaijani women even managed to rip a chador off themselves. That very chador that they are wearing now-this time voluntarily. But that’s not the point now. Then, 100 years ago, women in Azerbaijan were recognized as fully human beings. But that was at the official level. Whereas unofficially, there is still a broad field of life-or-death struggle, outstretched before them.
So, there are unconquered heights and comfortable trenches waiting for the Azeri amazons, who are ready to offer the last-ditch battle to sexism, especially as it is so stylish around the world nowadays. Feminism and others of that ilk are in trend now. It’s high time to once again take advantage of the situation, like our great-grandmothers once did. But they aren’t taking advantage of it and are unlikely to do it in future. And the major changes in terms of gender equality in Azerbaijan are nowhere near.
Not least because the women of the first category simply don’t need it. They are happy to become housewives, fully committing themselves to their families, obeying their husbands, visiting beauty parlors three times a week and posting on Facebook the pictures a la ‘I’m a girl, I don’t want to make decisions, I want to have a dress!’.
Meanwhile, the second category of women rushes to the barricades, exposing more cases of domestic violence, setting up rehabilitation centers, holding social campaigns and trying unsuccessfully to reach out to the first category: ‘Hey, pal, it’s 21st century outside!’
The third category cannot finally decide, whether they want to be so ‘equal’ as to pay for themselves in a café, open the doors to themselves and have no gender justification and concessions in case of mistake, quarrel and emotional distress etc. From such women’s point of view, equality with men is certainly good, but in moderation.
Having read much of psychology, esoterism and other shamanry, the fourth category has imagined that woman is almost a goddess and needs to be treated respectively. This, however, a priori excludes any equality. Especially as Aphrodite, though worshiped, was never asked how to govern Greece.
And, finally, there is the fifth category, which doesn’t know (or doesn’t want to know) about the existence of such a phenomenon as gender equality, women’s right to personal opinion etc. Because they were raised far from the capital, in the patriarchal atmosphere, almost in total information isolation. They perceive obedience to a man as a norm and escaping from home with a lover is the only available form of protest for them.
Since unity is one of the major keys to success in any struggle, Azerbaijan obviously runs no risk of gender equality in the foreseeable future. And, by the way, our great-grandmothers weren’t necessarily striving for that enfranchisement that much. Maybe they just felt awkward to refuse a ‘gift’.