Life, Personal

International Women’s Day: Journey of an Immigrant Feminist

March 8, 2017

On this International Women’s Day, I’ve been thinking a lot about my journey as a woman and feminist, with thoughts and questions about how women are treated and raised in society in my mind…

  • What would women be like if we weren’t shaped and influenced by the society and culture of the place we were raised.
  • What would I be like if I didn’t see my mom cooking and cleaning after a long work day, but rather my mom and dad alternating their cooking and cleaning responsibilities?
  • What would I be like if I would never hear ‘that’s what good girls do‘ and ‘what would people say‘?
  • What would I be like if I wasn’t told that boys can’t cry like girls, and that girls would have to ‘be a man’ if they wanted to be strong?

I was born and raised in Armenia, and when I was born, my family was disappointed that I was a girl.

When I was 7…  I had to help mom in all her house chores. I didn’t think of asking my parents back then whether if I had a brother, would he have to do the same chores? 

When I was 13… I couldn’t dress in pants and edgy shirts, and wore knee length dresses instead.

When I was 17… I could not choose to study International Relations because no one would hire a girl for such a job.

When I was 23… I was married and had a child; and when I was twenty four, a brand new immigrant in the United States, standing at a crossroads, I decided not to study journalism because I thought I could never be louder than men and my questions would never be heard.

Finding True Freedom

Twenty three years past since then and I have come a long way. Natural instincts of the real me helped me find my path towards true freedom. The learning process was not easy, but it was very important for me to live my best life. Education gave me power and the confidence to make and trust my own decisions and earn my living. It also gave me the power to make a leap out of my community and explore the world where no-one knew me, where I would be free to be me, where I would not have to explain myself to anyone except to myself. You know, my mom was always fearful that society would reject me if I didn’t behave. I used to cry from my inability to fight it back then, but in the end, I rejected those notions to build a life for myself the way I liked it.

Having said that, I also want to say that a twenty three year journey towards my freedom was not enough to undo the social stigma instilled in me during my younger years. I still fight a voice in my head that tries to dictate how I ‘should’ do things and tries to stop me from moving forward. I still catch myself apologizing for things that are not my fault or refusing thanks I deserve. Undoing what was instilled in us as children is a tough task, but the awareness and daily practice, makes it better for me every day.

And here’s my final point. As difficult making changes can be, the quality of my life as a human has improved tremendously and not just for me. My husband is my friend and my equal partner, but also, I am his friend and his partner. Together we enjoyed each other’s company and friendship, together we raised and enjoyed our kids, together we bought our first cars and first house, and together we went through great times and tough times. And together we tell our kids to build a life they want and not the one we want for them. They are feminists too.

Today is an International Women’s Day, and I think of every woman who fights for the right to be herself and wish her the power and strength to be what she wants to be.

Have you ever felt restricted by your community rules and traditions? Share your stories, would so love to hear from you!! 

Lots of love, 

♡ Zuma Ayriyan

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1 Comment

  • Reply Laurie March 15, 2017 at 2:03 pm

    So beautifully written Zuma. You like me were raised to do everything regarding housework and be the good wife. I can be very controlling and insist on doing things my way in the house, sometimes making it hard work for myself! I just can’t break the habit xx
    Thank you so much for linking this post at Celebrating Style .

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