“Half Armenian, I live at the INTERSECTIONS”
“I may be half, but I have full PRIDE!”
3rd year double major in English and Women’s Studies
Were you born here and if so how did it feel to be raise by parents
who are from a different culture than the one you are currently being
I was born in California. My grandparents on my mom’s side came to America from Istanbul. They were Christian Armenians that grew up in a
Muslim country; so they were extremely divided in regards to culture
and religion in their home country. My grandfather received a
scholarship to come to America to pursue his studies, and my
grandmother shortly followed when she was pregnant with my mother. My
mother taught me all she knew about her Armenian culture and the
Turkish influence on it, as well. She sent me to Hye Camp (an Armenian
church camp in Dunlap, Calif.) when I was only 10 years old. I then
went for 9 years straight, learning about my culture. I decided to
join the Armenian sorority on campus, too. I later dropped out, but I
have always been a firm believer in the Armenian culture and have
always stayed close to my roots. My mother shares so many of her
traditions she grew up with, with me.
Is there anything you wish you could do if you were not tied down by
your cultural expectations?
I really wish Armenians had a different perspective on individuals who
are half. My grandfather did not go to my parent’s wedding – even
though my dad was baptized in an Armenian church to be married to my
mom. He desperately wanted her to marry an Armenian. I am not tainted,
or a showcase of disrespect to the Armenian culture. My mom married
for love, not for her ethnicity. I tried integrating myself in
Armenian culture more and more, just realized that some individuals
still go by this belief.
Do plan on marrying someone of your own race? Is that the same as
marrying someone in the Middle East from a different country?
I, personally, don’t have any future plans to get married. From a
feminist perspective, I feel that a man who treats me with respect and
sees me as an equal is far more important than the culture he has.
Have you been in anyways undermined for your gender in your culture?
I have been told to my face at Armenian functions that my opinion
means nothing because I am a woman. I have had Armenian men ignore me
and treat me as if I am not on their same level. I definitely feel
that the strong gender stereotypes and binaries set upon men and women
in the Armenian culture need to be remapped and renegotiated. In my
women’s studies classes, I learn nothing of Armenian feminists or any
Armenian women. Just recently, an organization called OneArmenia
raised money for shelters for women who have had to move out because
of domestic abuse. I am so glad that more individuals are making steps
to showcase this growing problem and to work to get these women away
from these environments.
Are there any scenarios you have been placed in that contradict your
culture that you have had to defend yourself for?
When I quit my Armenian sorority on campus, a lot of people asked
questions why. I removed myself from a collective that I just did not
feel made efforts on women’s equality or the betterment of Armenian
women. It was definitely a hard scenario to go through. It’s tough
making decisions based on your own feminist views, but sometimes you
have to place yourself out of situations to fully be yourself. Just
because you don’t go to a bunch of Armenian functions, it doesn’t mean
you’re any less or more. I feel that the “real” Armenians are the ones
helping our culture by studying it and changing it.
In front of other cultures, have you ever had to defend yourself, have
ever been looked at wrongly, or felt discriminated against?
I’ve had many friends tell me they didn’t even know Armenia existed as
a country before they met me. I feel that our culture is clearly
unknown and isolated. Sometimes, it’s almost like we don’t have a
culture because of this anonymity and forgotten-ness. Every time the
anniversary of the genocide comes in April, it brings back so many
emotions of being the culture that has almost been erased. I feel that
not many people are educated or understand Armenian efforts to be
What do you feel is one thing that empowers you within your culture?
The Armenian women in my family are so close and so supportive. I
also have many Armenian female friends who are like sisters to me. I
feel that the notion of being family, even though you may not share
the same last name but share the same culture, is so important. It
allows us to form a collective and empower ourselves.
What is your best quality/ characteristic?
I feel that my best quality is being able to express myself and
express my feminist views. I also enjoy my pale skin. Though sometimes
people think I’m anemic! (I’m not)
In opposition, is there anything that you regret about the Middle
Eastern culture or being Middle Eastern?
I regret most men being unable to understand equality for women. It
baffles me the ignorance so many men have. Stop hitting your wives,
controlling them, thinking that they will come home after their jobs
and cook and clean for you. Stop being misogynist. We are equal. We
will fight to be heard!
What myths and/or stereotypes would you like to address concerning your culture?
The myths that all Armenian women get plastic surgery and or conform
to the Glendale mold. My mom never puts on make-up or heavy eyeliner.
Some women prefer to be natural!
What are you personally passionate about?
I am personally passionate about feminist media and studies of
feminist girlhood. I also love, love, love writing!
What was your experience growing up as a Middle Eastern in America
during this specific time period?
My older brother has a very defined “Armenian nose.” I have seen his
location in society and I definitely feel Americans have a certain
disorientation with Middle Eastern men. They are not criminals, or
hyper-masculine. I feel that after September 11th, many people
unclearly focused on just those two stereotypes.
My own experience growing up as a Middle Eastern woman is one that has
always had to live in a double conscious experience. I was either
white, or Armenian. Never both. I always had to either play the part
of being a part of my culture or nothing much at all. It’s hard for me
to really “fit in.” I guess I’ve always been a weird outlier.
What do you want people to know about your culture?
We are strong. We are passionate. We have so many intellectual
individuals in pop culture and history that have really made a
positive footprint on our culture. We are doctors, writers,
scientists, etc. We are everywhere! And we want you to embrace us and