Intro by Guy Edmunds
Curated by Monica Ellena
For many men, the answer is bound up with tradition: toughness and bravery, independence and self-control. Being a man is loyalty, patriotism and strength, inner and physical. In a region long caught between the ebb and flow of competing empires – Russian, Ottoman, Persian and others – a man’s role is to fight, defend his homeland, and protect and provide for his family.
Recent history, in the shape of the bitter wars over Nagorno-Karabakh, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, has reinforced those ideas. Yet while armed conflict – however frozen – persists in the region, most men no longer have wars to fight; their battles are closer to home, as traditional ways of life are disrupted by urbanisation, migration, technology, and the challenges of life in a market economy. As Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia undergo their own transitions - political, economic, social – concepts of masculinity are evolving too.
For some men, this is cause for regret: as more and more people trade small communities for the comparative anonymity of life in the city, a man’s word is no longer his bond; instead, money trumps older virtues as the main measure of a man’s worth. Other men find solace in the traditional gender roles prescribed by organised religion, which offer a sense of certainty in an age of flux – regardless of the impact on women.
Still other men find the changes brought by the modern world liberating. For some men, doing business in the twenty-first century means embracing technology to manage complexity. Others use modern transport and communication technology to experience different cultures and choose their own path; that can mean challenging restrictive gender roles and exploring different sides to their identity. That offers hope for women’s rights advocates too: for instance, as more and more women embrace the role of breadwinner, should men embrace a greater role in the home? What of paternity leave for new fathers? Such conversations are just beginning.
But life in the modern world can be unforgiving. Job insecurity, unemployment and poverty can be constant sources of anxiety for men who see their roles as the head of the family. Nor does the government necessarily offer much hope, with allegations of corruption and nepotism widespread in the region. With men trained not to show weakness, those frustrations can emerge in other ways, such as alcoholism and addiction. At one extreme, we see men driven to suicide. More often, the result is domestic violence, which is rife in the region.
Masculinity matters – to men and women alike.
Artak Gevorgyan, 47, jeweler (Dilijan)
“Being a man for me means being determined and tough. [Yet] women also have those qualities. Masculinity is setting up targets and making them happen. My main life goal is that my daughter and son achieve their goals. Masculinity is when you stay strong. My father died too early, I was young. I am sorry that he never met his grandchildren and couldn't see me and my brothers grow up. Keeping the family [safe] should be the most important value for men -- you start with your family, that’s how you keep your country safe, too. For me it is also very important to give my children the right education, so that they become good people."