US writer and traveler Gregory Diehl has traveled to more than 50 countries around the world. In the pursuit of learning more about his roots and his Armenian grandmother, he moved to Kalavan in 2019 and has settled down here. During his time in Armenia, he has written multiple books and started a blog, as well as an innovative English course.
NEWS.am STYLE talked to Gregory about what he likes and what annoys him, what shocked him, who attracted him, and more importantly who, in the opinion of a seasoned traveler, should rule in Armenia. Gregory shared his opinion about the treatment of Armenian women. He touched upon the issues of discrimination and inequality of women in our society.
The mystery of the feminine education
“A funny thing I noticed when I started teaching here, is that my English classes were almost entirely composed of women. I didn’t advertise to women. I didn’t make it a women’s only class, that’s just who showed up. Almost always, it was 90% or 100% women. And I kept asking why? Where are all the young men who wanna learn useful and interesting things? And they just say men in this country don’t care about learning things. Or they’re too busy fighting in a war. But even after they come back, they just think it’s lame, stupid, or gay to learn things voluntarily.”
Gregory was shocked over how these “intelligent, open-minded, creative women” feel utterly controlled and powerless against these “crude, brutish men” who they’re terrified of.
“What will my husband think? What will my father think? Nobody will marry me if I dress the wrong way or hang out with the wrong people in public or smoke a cigarette.”
“To a third-party perspective, it looks utterly insane and heartbreaking.”
“And this would be a tragedy anywhere, but it’s a bigger tragedy here, because I see the potential of the women it’s happening to. These intelligent and ambitious women, frankly, deserve better. They shouldn’t be controlled by subhuman cavemen.”
Gregory believes that “women should be the ones in control here,” and not because of his “staunch feminism”, but because “this is what he sees”.
“I see the most intelligent and capable class in this country terrified of the dumbest, most immature, childish class, and I feel like if we could just change that power balance a little bit and liberate women from the constraints that men have forced on them, this whole culture could get a lot more intelligent and a lot more progressive very quickly. The benefits would affect everyone. I think that’s what men are afraid of, and that’s why they wanna kill someone like me for promoting these ideas. They see me as a threat to their power.”
“Propaganda is dangerous”
Gregory has received multiple online death threats, saying that his “propaganda is dangerous”. He assures that all he’s trying to do is “reverse brainwashing”.
He’s trying to undo the damage that the “Soviet and outdated mentality” has done on the subconscious of all Armenians and the self-image of women especially.
“Everyone here is a victim to the outdated mentality that passes from generation to generation. Armenia’s approach to life is very conservative and is deeply connected to tradition. To abandon that approach feels like a crime to most Armenians.”
In order to destroy the existing patriarchal stereotypes, Gregory introduces “cultural and moral debates”.
“I’ve started to introduce new philosophical ideas to Armenian minds during my online group English classes. I don’t want to lecture them about different worldviews, but to help them arrive at their own conclusions during debates and discussions. It helps open their minds to new possibilities so they can express who they really are while improving their cognitive English fluency in unique ways.”
Captain America or Steve Rogers?
While speaking to Gregory, he expressed how unheard and ignored he is in our society. A person so willing to be the Captain America for women…
Who is he then? A kind of woke messiah of Kalavan or a simple guy in love with a magnificent Armenian woman?
“She’s such a brilliant woman; smart, beautiful, a hopeless romantic. I feel like she knows and completes me. I’ve been around the world more than a few times and I’ve never met anyone like her. But as soon as her parents found out about what was going on, she got terrified and withdrew completely, because she knew her parents would never approve of me, because I’m not Armenian. Not because they think I’m a bad person or might beat her up or break her heart or something, but because I don’t have the Armenian traditional view of marriage and family, and that makes me a threat to them.”
“It’s just astounding. In every other way this woman is so beautiful, so open-minded, so intelligent, we’re so perfect for each other. And then she turns into someone very vulnerable when she thinks that her father won’t approve of something she does. And it breaks my heart.”
“I asked her once: If I brought you to America and my father refused to meet you because you’re not American, you’d say he’s a racist, and you’d be correct. How would that make you feel to be devalued like that in the eyes of someone you love? So if the same thing is happening here, how should I feel? She responds with: He just doesn’t want me to marry the wrong person and he’s worried you wouldn’t treat me right. Really? That’s why he refuses to meet me? Because he wants to make sure that I’m a good person, and the best way to do that is to not meet me and not learn anything about me. Makes sense.”
“Frankly, it’s like everyone is just trying to ignore me here. It’s like they cannot tell the difference between reality and simulation, between what they say and what they do. It’s total Fantasyland here. Conservatism, subconscious fear of failure and judgment makes Armenia the Land of Pretend. It’s a country where people get off saying beautiful words, and that’s it. They don’t embody their progressive values enough. They just don’t care! They don’t have a sense of responsibility, duty, obligation to the ambitions they set or the promises they make, or even a lasting memory that they ever even set these ambitions! It’s astounding! It’s very dangerous and self-defeating because it means they could theoretically justify almost anything to themselves…”
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