On Beauty Contests and Violence Against Women

adrineh
Posted October 8, 2010 from Armenia
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Armenia’s Ministry of Diaspora organizes a beauty contest for local and Diasporan Armenian women, while another woman suffers abuse at the hands of her husband and mother-in-law.

“As you are already informed, on October 1, 2010 in Masis town a shocking murder was committed. A 20 year old Zaruhi Petrosyan was killed by her husband and mother in law as a result of torture and physical violence,” reads an open letter by local NGO Society Without Violence.

The case, covered by local news agency News.am, is getting little attention in other media. The latest news is that Zaruhi’s husband, Yanis Sarkisovi, has been detained and charged with “causing severe bodily harm.” This is as much as has been reported so far.

“Petrosyan’s case, while unique by the fact that her family has spoken publicly about her ordeal, is common. Over a quarter of women in Armenia are said to have been hit by a family member, yet authorities failed to prevent, investigate and punish violence against women, according to a 2009 Amnesty International Report,” writes Liana Aghajanian in an article on domestic violence in Armenia in Ianyan magazine.

Meanwhile, the country’s diaspora ministry organizes a beauty contest in which contestants are expected to have 'mastered' the Armenian language, to be familiar with Armenian cuisine (including how to cook Armenian food), and to top it off, to "preserve the image of an Armenian woman."

When asked what exactly defines “the image of an Armenian woman,” the minister responded by saying, "To tell you the truth, I don't accept filthy, ill-mannered girls." According to her, a woman must be "modest." (Epress.am, Oct. 8, 2010)

Furthermore, she goes on to say that though she understands there are other many other examples of women around the world, the “traditional Armenian woman” is different: she is a good mother, a good daughter, a good wife (apparently in that order).

And then we wonder why gender stereotypes prevail in our country and why women continue to be abused at the hands of men. When notions of “man” and “woman” get defined and confirmed by government officials, why are we surprised when violence — physical, emotional, financial — prevails in society?

When are we going to say enough is enough?

A video (in Armenian with English subtitles) of two women who knew Zaruhi and speak candidly on camera about the incidents before her death can be viewed here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QHhYVPBk7y8

Comments 7

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adrineh
Oct 08, 2010
Oct 08, 2010

Incidentally, in a different but parallel topic, 6 female Russian journalism students have published their own calendar to rival an "erotic" calendar published by 12 other female students in the same program who dedicated their calendar to the country's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on his birthday. The first calendar (by the 12 students) featured scantily-clad women in seductive poses with suggestive messages to Putin. The second calendar features journalism students dressed in black with their mouths taped shut, asking the hard questions to Putin: "Who killed Anna Politkovskaya?" and "When will the next terrorist attack be?"

Here's the story by The Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/oct/07/russian-journalism-students-...

Some of the photos from the second calendar can be seen here: http://www.epress.am/FNew.aspx?nid=5703

While those from the first calendar can be found here: http://www.epress.am/FNew.aspx?nid=5540

Iffat Gill
Oct 10, 2010
Oct 10, 2010

Thanks for sharing this news here. The six young journalists are very brave to be part of such an unusual protest. I do not understand the first calender though as it does not match with the vision and mission of the journalism students who posed for Putin, or at least in my head it doesn't. Best, Rose.

adrineh
Oct 11, 2010
Oct 11, 2010

Which is why the women made another calendar — they didn't want the image of them as journalism students (and from this particular university) to be as "play toys" for Putin, not really students as much as sex bombs. I love the second calendar and I love that they asked the hard questions and addressed the problems under Putin's leadership, instead of simply posing half-naked and asking him questions that are suggestive of sex (as the girls in the first calendar did).

Olutosin
Oct 09, 2010
Oct 09, 2010

Dear, thank you so much for posting this news item, and my prayer and hope is that women are liberated form every shackle of oppression and bondage. Please keep on posting. You are the voice of these women.

adrineh
Oct 11, 2010
Oct 11, 2010

Thanks, Olutosin, for your comment. Remember you too are a voice. We are all voices of women ;)

Fungai Machirori
Oct 10, 2010
Oct 10, 2010

Hey, funny thing that I was reading up about beauty pageants this weekend. Below is a copy and paste of the email I received with the links...

Greetings to all, I'm writing with two links that interested me, not particularly on education, but on gender-related use of imagery in development, particularly health information campaigns on stigma. The first is on an HIV stigma, a campaign in Botswana using a beauty pageant as its messaging vehicle for: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1032288,00.html

The second, not on HIV, I include because it has a more extensive analysis of development aid imagery, ethics, and gender. It is on a pageant for landmine victims in Cambodia. http://www.awid.org/eng/Issues-and-Analysis/Issues-and-Analysis/Miss-Lan...Can anyone comment further from their own perspective on aspects of the issues raised here? I ask myself: are the gender issues the same or different whether the project is imposed by an external donor/organiser or comes as a grassroots effort? And if participants are well informed of the ethical issues and possible political and personal risks and are still enthusiastic about such a pageant, does that shift the ethical debate? Comments are welcome!

adrineh
Oct 12, 2010
Oct 12, 2010

Hi Fungai! Thank you so much for your comment and for providing resources of beauty contests that are different than the usual fare. To be honest, I haven't had a chance to read the stories in the links you posted and that's part of the reason why I haven't yet responded. I want to read the stories first then be able to try to answer some of the questions you've asked here. So this is just to say, I will follow up at a later date ;)