Intercultural Communication Hiccups

One of the most common complaints that Westerners have about Georgia is that the Georgian men treat Georgian women like servants and Georgian women treat Georgian men like kings. I understand that from a cultural perspective, Georgian society is ordered that way on purpose – that’s why it’s called a Patriarchy – and that this is by design and that if you ask a Georgian, and they were being honest, they’d tell you that it’s supposed to be that way. I have never heard a Georgian woman complain about having to cook, and clean, and raise the children, and generally be a 50’s housewife – even the ones who also manage to do all of this while holding down a full-time job.

I haven’t yet figured out a way to efficiently and effectively communicate my point of view regarding this setup to a person who grew up in such a situation. To an American, even if you do believe in gender roles, you’re at least aware of the alternative point of view. I can’t seem to make Georgians that I meet in day to day life understand what I perceive as wrong about gender relations in Georgia, and generally there’s a pattern to the interaction which basically starts off with Georgians being slightly put off by the existence of a person who does not see things the way they do and ends with Georgians saying something to the effect of “you have your views and I have mine” that strongly implies a complete lack of desire to understand what my views are or where they come from.

Maybe I’m going about it the wrong way. I think that one of the problems is that I try not to talk about this stuff in my day to day life because I don’t want to be seen as being disrespectful or culturally insensitive. Holding my tongue is stressful, though, and if I don’t get to vent to Westerners sometimes I’ll end up letting loose at the wrong time. I’m also a very honest and emotive person, and so I have trouble concealing my distaste when certain topics come up. When people ask me if I like Georgian people, if I’m being honest, I would have to say that I like almost all Georgian women and maybe a dozen or so Georgian men.

This is hard for Georgians to understand, and it’s also hard for foreigners who come to Georgia for a very short time to understand. The thing is, I love the hospitality of Georgian men and I have personally been treated extremely well by basically every Georgian man I have ever met. Based on my interactions with them, I’d have virtually no complaints about the Georgian man. On the other hand, I’m not female.

My female friends in Georgia – foreign and Georgian alike – have all been treated badly by Georgian men and have all suffered due to the Georgian gender system. Sometimes this mistreatment is subtle and sometimes it is overt, but in every case it is a persistent systemic problem about Georgian society itself and not an isolated incident or the result of a cultural misunderstanding. This trouble is compounded by the fact that Georgian women don’t think of themselves as being treated poorly by Georgian men, which is a fact that I have a lot of trouble understanding.

The thing is, many Georgian women have had incidents with men harassing or assaulting or kidnapping them, but they write these incidents off and never learn anything from them. Many Georgian women do in fact notice that the work distribution in the Georgian household isn’t exactly equitable, but they never seem to wonder why it’s that way or what could possibly be done about it and they certainly never get around to assigning the blame to men.

And I think that these problems in turn are part of the greater problem in Georgian society which is that there is a serious lack of initiative when it comes to questioning beliefs. To Georgians, beliefs are not the product of experience; instead, all experiences must be filtered through existing beliefs in order to make sense out of them. The same could be said of all people, but it is much more pronounced and extreme here than it was, for instance, in New York, where people are constantly prying up the floorboards of every belief and examining what’s at the bottom of them.

So I think that most Georgian women would agree with the statement “Georgian men respect Georgian women and treat them well” pretty much regardless of any amount of evidence to the contrary. I’ve seen people ignore evidence to the contrary because it doesn’t fit in with their worldview. Just the other day, I mentioned the high rate of sexual harassment and assault of foreign women in Georgia, and two of my Georgian acquaintances insisted that the TLG women were just making things up. I get that all the time on this blog, but to have someone say it in person was kind of a shocker. This is where the being honest and emotive and holding in frustrations about Georgian gender ideas became a problem, because a surefire way to piss me off is to perpetuate the culture of denial and victim-blaming, not to mention to call basically all of my female friends in Georgia liars. At that point I let loose about Georgian men and Patriarchy and then we all went to sleep feeling insulted.

I get that there are sometimes these stumbles in intercultural relations and that sometimes friends or colleagues have arguments, but I was pretty upset the next day, and in fact I’m still not particularly happy, which is one of the reasons motivating this post. It’s actually not the argument, but what’s behind it – the fact that I hold one set of views, Georgians hold another set of views, and having a conversation about those views inevitably involves putting up with Georgians insulting a large number of people that I care about very deeply. I know they don’t mean to be insulting, but somehow that doesn’t make me less unhappy about having to have this conversation. I guess I could just preface every such conversation with a warning that I will be insulted if anyone says that my friends are making things up and so if they’re not willing to believe that sexual harassment and assault ever happens in Georgia then we should just talk about something else. Still, I’ll know they’re thinking it.

And this bothers me because I don’t want to be friends with someone that I can’t have an honest conversation with. This goes back to what I was just saying about examining beliefs. I constantly examine my beliefs and part of that examination involves testing them out with other people. I want to know where we have the same beliefs, where we have different beliefs, and what’s behind the similarities and differences. Knowing these things increases my understanding of the world and of myself. I don’t have conversations just to hear myself talk and I honestly couldn’t give a shit what you think about the weather this summer. Small talk is a conversation starter, not a conversation.

With many Georgians, there are just too many things I can’t say. Every conversation – even the most basic ones, like “do you like Georgia?” – is a chore, because I have to sort through all of the thoughts that I can’t express for fear of seeming culturally insensitive or of provoking a conversation that I do not want to have. I like to say that I have many Georgian friends, but the truth is that there are relatively few who I can be totally honest with about things that would be a complete non-issue in the US. This bothers me because I really would like to have a real and meaningful dialogue of ideas but apparently I have to do it really, really slowly and carefully and until then the people who I think are my friends are really more like strangers than they are like the people I would call my friends in New York.

It also sort of tweaks me a little bit that everyone thinks it’s okay to say whatever they want about America and Americans but I have to walk on eggshells about Georgia and Georgians. I mean, I know that I’m a guest in a foreign country and I should be respectful, but I think being respectful is actually much harder in Georgia than it is in America. Georgians take themselves way too seriously sometimes and the whole national pride thing is just out of control.

When I lived in New York I never went to church unless there was a wedding or a funeral, and during those I would generally feel very uncomfortable. I could tell people “I don’t like going to church” and regardless of their religious views, not liking church in America just isn’t very controversial. If I tell Georgians that I don’t like going to church, they are generally very put off. Honestly, I don’t understand why Georgians like churches, they don’t understand why I don’t like churches, and it’s not really a big deal – or it wouldn’t be, except that Georgians feel that churches are part of their national identity, and so if I say I don’t like churches Georgians take this to mean that I don’t like them.

In fact, I’ve complained about the very same thing with Khinkali. When I say that I don’t like Khinkali, Georgians are usually somewhere between baffled and crushed. I’ve spoken before about the general aversion to negativity in this culture (and when you don’t like something, saying you don’t like it is impolite in Georgian, so instead when a Georgian doesn’t like something they say that they don’t love it) but I think also that Georgians genuinely believe Khinkali is the best food in the world and that it’s part of Georgian identity and so if I don’t like khinkali, not only do I not like them, but I am also fucking crazy.

Anyway, I can’t think of a single element of American identity that I hold so dear that if someone insulted it I would take it personally. If someone came up to me and said “I hate freedom, individuality, apple pie, McDonald’s, baseball, the word “soccer,” guns, American football, the colors red, white, and blue, Jazz, New York, Disneyworld, and the entire Western Hemisphere, so fuck every single one of those things!” I honestly wouldn’t even bat an eye. I just don’t care. If someone said they didn’t like chocolate, then I’d be surprised, because chocolate is the best thing ever, but chocolate isn’t associated with America and in fact America generally produces crap chocolate anyway, which I can say without any fear of insulting any Americans that might be reading.

I’ve digressed, but my overall point is that this intercultural communication stuff is tricky and I would even go so far as to say that what I’ve described here fits into the framework of what is known as “culture shock” – although not perfectly, because rather than a desire to associate with more Americans I had a desire to associate with particular Georgians with whom I have a history of good communication. I wish Georgians would be a little more open to new ideas and differing opinions, although to their credit Georgians never try to impose their own opinions on others (they just do the socially acceptable equivalent of covering their ears and going “la la la la la”). I wish Georgians would relax just a little bit with the nationalism stuff and realize that criticism can be constructive and that not every criticism of a particular thing about Georgia amounts to a condemnation of the whole country. But I think that Georgia actually is moving in that general direction and that communication between Georgians and Westerners is already getting better with practice. It’s hard work sometimes, is all.

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66 Responses to Intercultural Communication Hiccups

  1. --> says:

    Maaan… This is the article I could say – agree with every single word (which is quite unusual between us). The whole point is expressed in this sentence:

    ———–
    I’ve seen people ignore evidence to the contrary because it doesn’t fit in with their worldview.
    ———–

    Have you heard, Amway’s slogan – “If dream is big enough, facts do not matter”? Pretty much fits the Georgian cultural reality…

    I hear you. I’ve being treated the same way you’ve being and following was said about me: “He feels foreign in his own country”. This is because the way I am and the way I think.

    Seems this makes two of us, right?

  2. --> says:

    I really wish this article being translated and published in a Georgian newspaper/magazine which has wide audience, but…. ‘keep dreaming’, why would anyone do it if does not fit their worldview?

    • Rezo says:

      There are many critical articles about Georgian social norms, if uou would not be so arogant you would hear about it…
      you are coming here from country with slavery tradition, where the racial segregation exicted just some deacedes ago, where women were not allowed to vote until 1920, from country were 70% of population are advocating death penalty and moralizing your host country with this arogant atitude…it’s so fucking discausting!

      • panoptical says:

        Um… Rezo, I hate to burst your bubble, but the guy you’re responding to is actually Georgian. When you assume things, you make an ass out of yourself.

      • Steven Diamond says:

        Not sure 70% is an accurate number, but regardless, what is your point?

  3. agreed!! says:

    I agree completely with you! I can’t believe that someone told you women who were assaulted made those things up. I personally know FOUR women who were assaulted last semester–in the city and in the village. (Keep in mind, this was in a 4 month span, and none of these women had ever experienced an assault like they did before) I know for a fact these things happened to them–one was me, and the other 3 were friends. These women were assaulted by men from all walks of life–host fathers, fluent English speakers, taxi drivers and random men in the village. (I also heard rumors of muggings, other assaults by host fathers, gropings…)I really think think this is something that is quite impossible to change–TLG does not take it seriously–when my friend was assaulted by her host father they were going to leave her in the family until she kicked up enough of a fuss they let her leave the next day, but were still really bemused and thought she was making a big deal out of nothing—and really, no one is going to listen to a North American–especially a North American women. Georgian women can’t really speak out either, so….

    I also agree with you about the “Do you like Georgia” comment? Sometimes I feel like saying no–women are second class citizens here, the food is fatty and unhealthy and really not that great for vegetarians. I like Turkey and Armenia, too, and no, I am not going to stay in Georgia over vacation because I want to see other countries. This extreme xenophobia seems so childish to me. While I kind of understand their pride–with the Russian control being over, they want to celebrate-how can a country expect to progress if they can’t listen to even trivial criticism?

    Anyway, this seems like a super bitchy post, and maybe it is. I just feel like its hard to make a difference in these kids’ lives when don’t even feel safe in Georgian cities at night. I am willing to adjust how I dress for a few months but I am not willing to feel unsafe–I’m not productive because it makes me bitter and angry. I do like Georgia, for the most part–I enjoy the kids and the buildings, but its so radically different from everywhere I’ve been (I’ve mostly travelled in Asia) that it is hard to adjust to and accept things as part of the culture (nationalism).

  4. Anonymous says:

    My wonderful Americanized Georgian husband explained it this way:
    American viewpoint “Me, me, me and F*ck you”
    Georgian viewpoint “Us, Us, Us and F*ck everyone else”.

    I think Georgians may have developed this “We are right, everything about us is right, and if you criticize us, you are not one of us” as a reaction to continued outside threats to their national identity over thousands of years. Now, understanding how it might have developed doesn’t condone it continuing. When visiting in Georgia recently for an extended period of time (not my first visit either) I was shocked and dismayed to experience this complete aversion to open discussion about problems. Obvious problems were totally denied. It was a ‘shoot the messenger’ mentality.Even joking about it was not ok.

    No wonder the country has difficulty advancing, if they deny obvious issues and refuse to discuss alternative viewpoints. A major vehicle for advancing society, the economy, gender relations, etc. is open, honest, respectful dialog and debate. I found this quality extremely rare there, even among young and educated people.

    It is one of the main reasons I decided not to further engage in any business or development there. When will Georgians understand that closed mindsets perpetrate problems and inhibit advancement, both of society and the economy?

  5. anonymus says:

    o.k. i get it, we have to understand the culture and why we are behaving this way and history and what king david said and what our ancestors wrote on their gravestones for us to remember…but understanding this and seeing the flaws and even pointing them out and not improving sounds like we are making up excuses.
    i can see the difference in attitudes, but honestly, i try to walk on eggshells when i am in u.s. too, until i felt so american that i started treating it like my own country 🙂 and that is the greatest difference. u can’t treat georgia like ur own country unless u are georgian–even if u have lived here all of ur life. for example, people will tell u that u are armenian and that u should be quiet- even if u are the only one whose ancestors had lived in tbilisi for more than 2 centuries…
    pasumonok,
    a wife who is treated well 🙂

  6. Left Eye Looking says:

    @Neal
    “The thing is, many Georgian women have had incidents with men harassing or assaulting or kidnapping them, but they write these incidents off and never learn anything from them. Many Georgian women do in fact notice that the work distribution in the Georgian household isn’t exactly equitable, but they never seem to wonder why it’s that way or what could possibly be done about it and they certainly never get around to assigning the blame to men.”

    Of course they will “write these incidents and never learn anything from them” as you put it. They don’t know another way.

    I agree with some of what you’ve said but I think this topic is directly related to Relative Deprivation Theory or the lack of it in Georgian society, to be precise. Georgian women aren’t going to have a feminist revolution because of the lack of relative deprivation. Another way of putting it, you don’t know what you don’t know…or in the case of relative deprivation; you don’t know but you find out what you didn’t know and want to obtain what you don’t have.

    Person A from Land A has nothing or less than the people from Land B
    Person A is aware of the fact that the people from Land B have more or have something she doesn’t have.
    Person A wants to have more like the people from Land B
    Person A tries to obtain what people from Land B have
    Person A believes that it is reasonable and realistic to have what people from Land B have

    In Georgia, they aren’t aware of what they don’t have. Georgians are not Person/People A.
    How could they be? They were isolated from the world for decades and then when Soviet Union collapsed they didn’t electricity for more than 10 years.

    Now in 2011, some Georgians have tv and internet. But, it’s not just about watching television and using the internet, it’s coming in contact with different kinds of people on a regular basis.

    When I was living there it seemed that it was the opposite of Relative Deprivation Theory; most people weren’t aware of what they didn’t have socially. It’s about exposure.

    The lack of immigration into the country is one reason that things remain stagnant. Countries with higher amounts of immigrants are exposed to other cultures and other ways of doing things, new ideas, etc. The immigrants will acculturate over a period of time but they expose the indigenous population to new things, ideas, people.

    Case in point; Neal, you know I live in Sicily. It is the most conservative part of Italy and less than 40 years ago was strikingly similar to Georgia due to collectivisim, family structure, etc. Less than 20 years ago (around 1990-1992) there were waves of immigrants coming to Italy from Romania, Albania, Poland, Croatia, Serbia, and 10 years ago immigrants began to arrive from North Africa (Maghreb), Sri Lanka, China, and Nigeria. There are some good things about immigration and the main thing is that the local/indigenous population is exposed to other ideas, new food, different social structures. On top of that there is military and intelligence agencies here with personnnel from Sweden, Germany, France, UK, US, etc which affects the worldview (I’m NOT promoting military bases as a means to bring modernity and differen social structure to a country, I want to state that incase someone thinks I believe in military imperialism).

    Lastly, there is high tourism, so people come here from all over the globe and that also exposes the local population to new people, ideas, etc.

    I talk to many young Sicilians and they’re the opposite of their grandparents. Their grandparents have a worldview very similiar to Georgians, which is absolutely fine but doesn’t work in 2011. Countries that want to thrive have to be able to meet and compete at the global level. 1920’s-1950’s social structures from the Western and Eastern worlds aren’t as effective in 2011, if the goal is for a society to be competitive and thrive socially and economically on the world stage.

    The young Sicilians’ worldview is progressive, that doesn’t necessarily mean Western either. By progressive I mean that based on gathered statistics, the overall population is happier, physiclally and emotionally healthier now, than they were 40 years ago. They are more mobile now than they were 40 years ago.

    I think that social structure for women will improve in Georgia with exposure to more foreigners.
    Foreigners with the TLG program, immigration, and tourism.
    This is why the TLG program is a good thing, it’s not about spreading Western Imperialist ideas. Although, I’m sure some TLGers are guilty of that. It’s about exposure to a different way of doing things.
    Different isn’t always better, but different isn’t alway deficient either.

  7. Left Eye Looking says:

    @Neal

    “I’ve spoken before about the general aversion to negativity in this culture (and when you don’t like something, saying you don’t like it is impolite in Georgian, so instead when a Georgian doesn’t like something they say that they don’t love it) but I think also that Georgians genuinely believe Khinkali is the best food in the world and that it’s part of Georgian identity and so if I don’t like khinkali, not only do I not like them, but I am also fucking crazy……..Anyway, I can’t think of a single element of American identity that I hold so dear that if someone insulted it I would take it personally.”

    I think this has everything to do with nationalism. Many people in many countries around the world are nationalists so if you tell them that you don’t like the weeds and rocks in their country, they’ll still get offended. We do have some nationalists in the US, I’ve met a few them and they give me hives…it’s not like we need American nationalists running around the globe, irritating everyone.

    Nationalists LOVE EVERYTHING about their country. I’ve met nationalists in every single country I’ve traveled to and lived in. Really I have. Nationalists are everywhere.

    I think the reason why Georgia is unique is because there are SO MANY nationalists and it’s not a small minority of the population.

    Last week, I ran into some hardcore Irish nationalists and it was humorous for me but also fascinating, because they’re a dying breed in Ireland. They told me that they (Irish nationalists) were a dying breed as they lamented to me about the last 300 years of Irish history.

    In Georgia, they’re NOT a dying breed. Nationalists seem to be the majority of the population. I can see how being a Georgian nationalist would be beneficial and I can also see how it would be to the country’s detriment. Especially when they have a powerful enemy (Russia) and a powerful neighbor (Turkey). A little nationalism might help keep the morale up but too much can cause military leaders and politicians to underestimate their adversaries.

    RANDOM & OFF TOPIC: A friend of mine has a hypothesis that most of the countries that were a part of the former Ottoman Empire have more nationalists in their populations and culture that promote nationalism than countries that were never a part of the Ottoman Empire.
    I know that was random but this is her hypothesis and I haven’t decided if I agree or not.

    • panoptical says:

      I wouldn’t say that about post-Ottoman states – there’s nationalism all over – but the thing about the Ottoman empire is that they allowed people to retain something of their tribal/national/cultural/ethnic identity, and they allowed people to freely live and move throughout the territories that they had traditionally lived and moved around in, and so people had the feeling of both being Ottoman and also of being whatever else they had been before Ottoman rule. After the Ottoman Empire fell, the Europeans carved it up without regard for the ethnic/cultural/whatever considerations – thus dividing some peoples while cramming others together. Syria and Lebanon are a perfect example of this – Syria is a hodgepodge of several different groups and is very different from region to region; meanwhile historical associations with Lebanon are so strong that many consider Syrians and Lebanese to be one people, and this has justified continuing Syrian operations in Lebanon.

      So the Ottomans allowed nationalism in order to promote peace and order in society, and gave “nations” some autonomy; then the Europeans came and shat all over every post-Ottoman nation in the most obnoxious way possible. Add to that the oppressive post-colonial regimes, and of course everyone concludes that they’d be better off with their own country. The Kurds are a great example of this – they’ve been the minority under regimes like Ataturk’s Turkification program, Saddam Hussein’s brutal oppression, and Iran’s theocracy.

      And of course every ethnic/national group has to be thinking that if Israel gets its own country, why shouldn’t they?

      • You brought up some interesting points about the former Ottoman Empire. I’m wondering if, by permitting nationalism during the reign of the empire, has backfired and now there are countries that have nationalism that is very strong to their own social, military and political detriment. It’s not like the Ottoman Empire knew it was going to cease to exist when they had control of these countries. So now that it doesn’t exist, there are post-Ottoman states which have gov’ts that use nationalism as a vehicle to control the masses in a way that the former Ottomans hadn’t intended. Just my 2 cents.

  8. Beckett.88 says:

    I share most of the concerns that you usually call attention to on this blog. Though I don’t think there’s anything I can tell you that you don’t already know about these things, here’s my take on it:
    I do think that there are quite some societal problems in contemporary Georgia: fixed and somewhat unfair gender roles, pointless taboos such as religion (questioning any aspect of the supreme authority of the Georgian Orthodox Church and the Georgian Patriarch in particular is something unthinkable) and sexuality (any sort of overt sexuality is disliked, not even mentioning the despicable perception of lgbt people) and lack of openness to new ideas in general. I will also add here that I’m a relatively young Georgian man who happens to be quite liberal in general, as well as nonbeliever (agnostic/atheist/whatever you want call it) and part of at least one other sort of minority here; I also don’t live in Georgia at the moment. That being said, I somewhat disagree with the idea that these problems are characteristic of Georgia, or that Georgian society is more problematic than any other.
    I won’t go into social theory, as it’s not my area, but if you look at different nations of the world in some specific frameworks, then you really can place them at different positions on various spectra: individualistic vs collectivist, high context vs low context, secular vs religious, liberal social values vs conservative social values, etc.
    For one reason or another, Georgia just happens to be a country with relatively conservative social values and strong national pride and it is hardly unique in that regard – in fact most of the societies of the world are more socially conservative than the US, Australia, Western Europe, etc. Most of the societies (grouped into nations, ethnicities, tribes or in any other way) of the world also cling to the idea that their societies are somehow exceptional and unique more than the Western societies do, though certainly such beliefs are present in every society to a degree (American exceptionalism anyone?).
    I understand that what disappoints and irritates you are the degree to which Georgians hold conservative social values and the degree to which Georgians take the national pride so seriously. At the same time, surely you must realize that these sorts of things take a lot of time to change and you are predisposing yourselves to be disappointed unless you lower your expectations a bit. While Georgia hasn’t taken the religious and conservative zealotry to the degree that say Iran has, it also certainly is no Sweden. I’ve lived in a country (different from Georgia) of Eastern Europe and a country in Latin America for several months each, as well as some three years in the US, and I can attest that this is a ubiquitous problem, with varying degrees: in Latin America, upon introducing myself as a Georgian who temporarily lives in the US, many people directly inquired whether their country was better or not than the US, excepting me to nod, praise their country and criticize the US; in Eastern Europe I encountered a strange mix of ideas explaining the superiority of the particular country: that their country is much better than the supposedly debauched Western Europe and the allegedly uneducated and ethnically impure US (which was supposedly a bad thing). I’ve also debated US Americans who don’t believe gay people are entitled to full employment rights, justifying the stance and ending the discussion by stating their religious beliefs when pressed about the issue. And let’s also don’t pretend that an American who grew up in NYC and suddenly moved to a small town in, say, Alabama or Utah, wouldn’t encounter many of the same problems as you guys do here. For those of you who wonder if I’ve found that many Americans are not open to direct criticisms of their country or its vastly controversial foreign policy – I have. At the same time I’ve encountered and befriended many Americans who themselves are deeply critical of some aspects of the organization of their country and react well to constructive criticism. You also can find such Georgians in Tbilisi.
    I basically have three major points to summarize all this:
    1) Seek out Georgians you would feel comfortable with. Though vastly conservative and homogenous, Tbilisi has quite a large minority of people with progressive/secular beliefs and values who are bothered by jingoistic rhetoric and religious zealotry and are open to new ideas. What I would advise you to do is to look for such people and to stop going after every average Joe – because average Joes are disappointing here, in the US, and, well everywhere. Neal, I’ve been reading this blog for some time, and judging by some of the beliefs/opinions that you profess here I doubt you would agree with average American (especially one from some of the deeply red states) on that many things.
    2) If you find attitude towards you highly unpleasant, it would not be a bad or a degrading suggestion to propose that you adapt your behavior, dress code, etc a bit. This mostly refers to western women. In spite of being a Georgian man, I’m utterly incompetent when discussing what the rate of the mistreatment of western women at the hands of Georgian men are, or what the nature of these mistreatments are – I simply haven’t heard of any (though I don’t doubt that these things occur at all). Nevertheless, I suspect that many of these uncalled inappropriate touching occurs mostly when women’s behavior, dress code, body language, etc don’t correspond to what’s considered decent and befitting in Georgia. Think of it this way – say you’re a somewhat effeminate gay man who plans to live in Iran (or any Arab country for that matter) for a year. Now, wouldn’t you maybe consider of keeping the effeminate side a notch down and maybe not revealing your sexual orientation when you know that the country punishes “sodomy” acts with death sentences and that you might risk getting beaten up or even murdered on the street simply for being so open? Don’t get me wrong – I find the both of this sorts of mistreatment despicable and highly unjust and inhumane, but what I’m saying is that sometimes this is a harsh reality, and if one can adapt painlessly just a bit, then the probability that he/she might be mistreated might come down a bit. If you’re bringing up this issue simply to advocate against the occurrences in an activist nature, then disregard this whole comment of mine, as I fully agree with you, but if you’re looking for a partial solution or aversion of the problem then my suggestion might be of some use. Again this is just a suggestion – please don’t take it that I’m calling on anybody to dress more conservatively here or anything like that. I am a firm supporter of freedom of expression. As for Georgian women, I think they are quite adept and know how to handle the different situations – I don’t think they need anybody’s defense. One thing to take into consideration here is that Georgian women are not a minority – they compromise half of the population. Though I think Georgia could do much better in terms of gender equality, I think Neal is absolutely right to point out that Georgian women don’t think of themselves as being treated poorly by Georgian men.
    3) The important thing to emphasize here is that what disappoints and annoys you is not intrinsically Georgian in any way – you just happen to be much more secular and liberal and perhaps even cosmopolitan than average people here. Again – you would experience same thing in the overwhelming majority of the societies of the world. I’m pretty sure you perfectly know this, but I think it’s important to repeat it again, because as an expat of many years I know that sometimes the reality (that this really is a universal problem of the gap between the liberal and the conservative, secular and religious, etc peoples and not a problem specific to Georgia or Georgians) fades away or is lost after numerous bothersome incidents and systematic complaints/rants to fellow expatriates.

    • --> says:

      First of all, thank you. Good writing.

      Secondly, couple of points:

      > While Georgia hasn’t taken the religious and conservative zealotry
      > to the degree that say Iran has
      It has not. But it is now quite close and situation is not getting any better as time passes. Examples:

      1. “Union of Orthodox Parents” AKA მართლმადიდებელ მშობელთა კავშირი and their actions/stance/influence. One might dismiss them that they are tiny minority but they are getting more and more influential. When they first appeared people laughed at them, now people are afraid of them. In US State Department’s International Religious Freedom Report 2010 they are mentioned multiple times:
      http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2010/148936.htm

      2. Incident at “Caucasia TV” several month ago. Yes, one might say that those who beat people during the live air TV show got their punishment. But again – things needed to be looked at from historical prospective. Several years ago nobody would imagine that someone might start beating crap out from other people and hitting them in head with cross at TV.

      3. Request of Christian-Democratic Party to fire professors at Tbilisi State University because they are not Orthodox Christians. That also was several month ago.

      4. Finally, that 50 000 demonstration in Tbilisi a month ago to “protect faith and Church”, after adopting the law which allows religious organizations to be legal entities. However nobody who was on streets that day would be able to explain why they’ve being there and what kind of protection Church or faith needs and from who they want to protect it.
      ———–
      > I’m utterly incompetent when discussing what the rate of the
      > mistreatment of western women at the hands of Georgian men
      > are, or what the nature of these mistreatments are –
      > I simply haven’t heard of any

      Let me share again the quote from Peace Corps (US Government Organization) manual for volunteers coming to Georgia:

      http://www.peacecorps.gov/welcomebooks/gewb242.pdf – page 41

      The safety risks for Asians, particularly females, are very high. Some Georgians may believe Asian-American females to be prostitutes; therefore, Asian-American females are discouraged from traveling or being outside alone at night

      I could not find the same quote in the manual for PC going to Armenia or Azerbaijan. Quite telling, is not it?

      More telling is the statistics about sexual attack incidents to Peace Corps volunteers. Again, let’s take a look to Georgia’s situation compare to its neighbors:

      Here just one more piece of statistics from Peace Corps manual about sexual attacks on their volunteers. Statistics are from Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia
      —-
      Armenia, page53 : http://www.peacecorps.gov/welcomebooks/amwb305.pdf

      The average numbers of incidents are in parenthesis and equal the average reported assaults for each year between 2002–2006. Incident rates equal the number of assaults per 100 Volunteers and trainees per year (V/T years).
      Since most sexual assaults occur against females, only female V/Ts are calculated in rapes and minor sexual assaults. Numbers of incidents are approximate due to rounding.

      Rape – 0 (0)
      Aggr assault – 0 (0)
      Other sexual assault – 1 (1.4)
      —-
      Azerbaijan, page62: http://www.peacecorps.gov/welcomebooks/azwb314.pdf

      The average numbers of incidents are in parenthesis and equal the average reported assaults for each year between 2002–2006. Incident rates equal the number of assaults per 100 Volunteers and trainees per year (V/T years).
      Since most sexual assaults occur against females, only female V/Ts are calculated in rapes and minor sexual assaults. Numbers of incidents are approximate due to rounding.

      Rape – 0 (0)
      Aggr assault – 0.5 (10 times higher than in Armenia? Please do not resort to Turko-Arminian-Azeri-Russian conspiracy when explaining it.
      ————————-
      OK moving towards the situation with Georgian woman. Here are some quotes and links and (again) statistics:

      Georgia Gender Assessment, by USAID :
      http://georgia.usaid.gov/sites/default/files/Georgia_Gender_Assessment_1.pdf

      Page 8:
      The Government of Georgia has taken important steps to improve the legal system response to domestic violence, and victims now have a number of options for their protection. However, strong social pressures and shame around the issue of violence prevent the majority of female victims from seeking help. Fostering greater awareness of the problem in society and compassion for victims is still critically needed…. Healthcare professionals appear to be aware of the health consequences suffered by victims of domestic violence, but they often lack the knowledge and skills to address the problem and make appropriate referrals.

      Page 22:
      For example, a study of media reporting on children in Georgia found that news articles about violence committed against children is often sensationalized. This is especially harmful in rape cases involving adolescent girls in which information about their identities is revealed as well as comments made about their characters.

      Page 32:
      that of all registered cases of domestic violence for 2007-2008, 87% of the victims were female. According to a survey conducted by a Georgian NGO, 36% of female respondents said they were subject to violence by their husbands several times a month and 22% reported physical violence every week. A large group, 43%, said their husbands had used physical violence after learning that their wives were pregnant.

      Page 33:
      According to the countrywide study on the prevalence, causes and consequences of domestic violence in Georgia, 80% of respondents stated that domestic violence should only be discussed within the family and there should be no outside interference. When victims were asked about where they turned for help, 28% told no one about the violence, 70% told family members (primarily parents but also siblings), and 2% or fewer turned to police, medical professionals or NGOs.
      Indeed, discrepancies between the numbers of women reporting violence in social surveys and the numbers of victims in official domestic violence cases (358 in a two-year period) suggest that there are strong societal pressures to keep such information hidden.
      ————————
      GENDER EQUALITY AND SOCIAL INSTITUTIONS IN Georgia
      http://genderindex.org/country/georgia

      The physical integrity of Georgian women is not well protected and violence against women is common. Domestic violence was only recognized by the law in 2006, but is still not considered a crime. Even if the violence is frequent, victims rarely file complaints and the police are unlikely to arrest perpetrators.

      Female abductions, which occur in rural areas and generally involve rape, are considered as crimes, but the police rarely take action. One NGO helps women who escape from their abductors; the victims are usually rejected by their families.
      —————————————–
      NATIONAL RESEARCH ON DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN IN GEORGIA 2010. FINAL REPORT
      http://www.genderbasedviolence.ge/conimages/annual-eng.pdf
      Georgian version
      http://www.genderbasedviolence.ge/conimages/Annual-Geo%281%29.pdf

      151 pages, must read before starting discussion about greatly women are treated in Georgia. One quote (page 13):

      Another important finding of this survey is women’ perception of a family being a secret place, where anything can happen inside, but should never be put outside for discussion or public debate. This kind of perception is one of the factors maintaining the domestic violence. The number of women with such attitudes is 78,3%
      ——————————-
      GEORGIA: Domestic Violence Research Reveals Big Problem in Georgia
      http://www.peacewomen.org/news_article.php?id=3243&type=news

      Gender based violence is among the most important social problems in Georgia. There have been lots of anti-violence campaigns carried out by both local and international organizations in recent years but the problem remains unchanged.

      The research aimed at raising awareness on family violence carried out in 2010, interviewed 1252 female respondents aged 18-78 from ten different regions: 66% were from the cities and the remaining 34% from the countryside. 852 respondents considered themselves as victims of family violence, while 400 of them did not. These are mostly housewives lacking a personal income and feel fully dependent on their husbands. Such women usually become used to their conditions, they accept all the insults; hesitate from addressing others for help or calling police for assistance.
      ——————————————
      Fighting domestic violence in Georgia
      http://www.georgiatoday.ge/article_details.php?id=8885

      According to the latest data by the World Economic Forum, Georgia stands on the 84th place among 124 countries in the gender gap index.
      ——————————————————–

      Enough on my side, but significant population of Georgia remain Flatlanders.

      • Rezo says:

        you are using your surveys very selectivly……let me contradict your finding…
        check this UN survey about gender inequaity:
        http://hdr.undp.org/en/media/HDR_2010_EN_Table4_reprint.pdf

      • Rezo says:

        There are extremist in any country, those whi were participing in caucasia incident were put on trial…and you laugheble argument about PEACEFULL demostration against goverment law, is the an example of the you motivation and igronence…

        • Beckett.88 says:

          Could you elaborate a bit on how that argument is laughable? He merely stated that nobody who attended the demonstration seemed to be able to identify any actual threats to the Church or give an account of what the alleged hazards of the passed law were. All of that did in fact happen – there are numerous videos on youtube of journalists asking the attendees to identify any actual threats to the Patriarchate (საპატრიარქო) or the Orthodox Christianity in Georgia and none of the respondents seemed to be aware of any in particular. In fact most of them demonstrated no knowledge of what the passed legislation contained. Maybe you can explain what the purpose of this “peaceful” demonstration was?

      • Rezo says:

        Sense of safety in Georgia reached impressive level during the last years. 95% of respondents feel safe at their residential places
        during night and day. 85% of population gives high evaluation of effectiveness of the Police, 72% thinks that level of crime has
        decreased during the last 5 years and 14% thinks that it has increased. 45% of respondents expect farther decrease in crime
        estimates for the next 5 years, 8% thinks it will increase and 35% cannot tell.
        http://www.justice.gov.ge/files/Documents/analitikuri/Final__Report_of_Crime_and_Security_Survey_of_georgia_1.pdf

      • Beckett.88 says:

        Thanks for providing these informative links. I know about the “Union of Orthodox Parents” and the problem of religious fundamentalism in Georgia and I share those concerns. I’m also what would be considered a religious minority (I’m not an Orthodox Christian and don’t believe in deities or the supernatural in general) so you can imagine how dismayed I am by the recent developments (the incident at Caucasia TV, the incident in front of the Ilia State University, brutal attack of the Halloween party at the hands of the aforementioned organization and members of the Orthodox clergy, and the list goes on).

        As for doing the comparative analysis for gender-equality in the three Caucasian countries – well I’m usually highly suspicious and cautious of any sort of anecdotal evidence, but I find it very hard to believe that there’s less abuse of women and gender discrimination in Azerbaijan than in Georgia; in fact I find the claim quite frivolous. Even if a professional study was conducted in both countries by the same firm using the same methodology and the result somehow was that the rate of abuse of women of Georgia exceeded that of Azerbaijan, if anything it’s probably because fewer women reported abuse out of fear or humiliation. So I do think that there’s more gender discrimination in Azerbaijan and Turkey than there is in Georgia; I also suspect that the situation in Armenia is very akin to the situation in Georgia. At the same time, its not like having neighbors with similar performances somehow vindicate the poor performance of Georgia on gender issues.

        • panoptical says:

          Your argument boils down to “I believe what I believe about Georgia and no amount of evidence will ever convince me otherwise no matter what.” That’s exactly the kind of thing that frustrates me so intensely about trying to have communication with Georgians – they are, for the most part, completely unwilling to acknowledge their own problems regardless of how blindingly obvious those problems are.

        • Steven Diamond says:

          Perhaps as overall this holds true, I can’t really say, but most of the Georgian people I know are from a more privileged background and they know. Being from families of means they don’t have to deal with the blindingly obvious problems on a daily basis, but having lived through the darker times they know that things were and could be again radically shittier than they are now.

          I think for the elite classes at least, it is more of a “it’s not my problem” mentality more than anything else. Oddly enough though, if my wealthier friends are not married to foreign women they still feel, in general, that traditional gender roles is the way it should be with a few extra jewels thrown in and a driver. The women are actually regarded as babysitters in many instances while the men gallivant around the world.

        • Beckett.88 says:

          No, that’s actually not what my argument boils down to, it boils down to the exact opposite. Reread my comment and try harder next time. While there’s plenty of evidence to show that the abuse of women and discrimination on the basis of gender do take place in Georgia, so far I haven’t seen any evidence on this blog to suggest that Georgia is doing worse than even the “land of the free” (the U S of A) in this regard, not to mention Azerbaijan or some other small and relatively under-studied country. As for Georgians being in a state of denial – are you trying to tell me that Georgians are somehow unique in this? or that Georgians are more reluctant to “acknowledge their own problems” than the overwhelming majority of other nations/societies are? If you are, then you need to back that up with something, because all I’ve seen you do is fix on some universal problems (which I agree are real and happen in actuality) and then portray them as uniquely Georgian. I really get the impression that you’ve only ever lived in the NYC and/or some other liberal bastions in the US that worship political correctness, but that are nevertheless also overrun with countless accidents of the abuse of women, both reported and unreported.

        • panoptical says:

          You said: “Even if a professional study was conducted in both countries by the same firm using the same methodology and the result somehow was that the rate of abuse of women of Georgia exceeded that of Azerbaijan, if anything it’s probably because fewer women reported abuse out of fear or humiliation.”

          A professional study done by an unbiased firm in two countries using the same methodology is an example of something that we call “evidence.” In fact, it is one of the kinds of evidence that all sorts of professional people from all walks of life routinely rely upon in forming opinions about the world. There can hardly be a more convincing sort of evidence to back up a belief about the comparative situation in two countries.

          You say that this sort of evidence would not be enough to convince you to change your mind about one of your beliefs. Perhaps I was wrong in extrapolating from “this sort of evidence would not convince you” to “no evidence would convince you.” I don’t know what your threshold is for admitting new information into your worldview, but my point remains: it’s way too high.

          Furthermore, and I will say this until I’m blue in the face, this argument doesn’t even matter. Talking about Georgia’s performance on gender issues relative to Azerbaijan, America, or Narnia is just a really obnoxious and trollish way of distracting the reader from the real problems that really exist in Georgia. If you want to move to Azerbaijan (or NYC) and advocate for women’s rights there, I fully applaud and encourage you. However, if you’re just putting your fingers in your ears and yelling “Azerbaijan is worse and NYC is just as bad, la dee da dee da” then you are being unproductive and refusing to have genuine communication about a genuine issue.

          In other words, if you’re really so concerned about women’s issues in Azerbaijan, the US, or the world at large, then why wouldn’t you add your voice to the struggle for women’s rights rather than engaging in petty, pointless arguments against somebody who is advocating for change?

          What have you said to refute any of what I’ve said about Georgia? Absolutely nothing. All you have done is attack other places and cultures (and attack me for being from a “liberal bastion”). It’s a distraction tactic. It’s straight out of the Fox News playbook. It’s cheap and trollish and irritating. Quit it.

        • Beckett.88 says:

          On the first point I’m simply going to say “გამგებმა გაიგო”. As for Azerbaijan and Narnia – I wasn’t the one to bring them up; look at the chronology of who mentioned them first.

          You said: “In other words, if you’re really so concerned about women’s issues in Azerbaijan, the US, or the world at large, then why wouldn’t you add your voice to the struggle for women’s rights rather than engaging in petty, pointless arguments against somebody who is advocating for change?”

          How do you know that I’m not adding my voice to the struggle? Maybe I am doing more than that. As far as I know you don’t know anything about my age, occupation, areas of interest and specialization (though I know some of these things about you). You don’t know anything about me, so could you stop moving to personal attacks rather than concentrating on the subject matter? This is what’s cheap and distracting. Also, I don’t see how you’re advocating anything – all you do is blame the common problems of the mankind on Georgian culture (whatever you think that that is) and Georgianness.

          You said: “What have you said to refute any of what I’ve said about Georgia? Absolutely nothing.”

          You’re absolutely right, I have not! I’ve also never tried to – I have been stating in every single post on this blog that the problem that you identify is real and very much needs to be addressed! More than that, I strongly criticized those nationalists who tried to deny such things occur. On the other hand I have been saying all along that Georgia is hardly the only (or even among the minority) of places that have these problems. This is, sadly, a universal problem with varying degrees, and I have yet to see any evidence (of whatever type you wish) that would suggest that Georgia is even among the 50% of the world where this particular problem is gravest. Please, look up the rate of the abuse of women and rape in Stockholm, Sweden – considered to be one of the most liberal, secular and culturally unbiased places in the world; just look at those numbers and the gravity of cases.

          To this you said: “Talking about Georgia’s performance on gender issues relative to Azerbaijan, America, or Narnia is just a really obnoxious and trollish way of distracting the reader from the real problems that really exist in Georgia.”

          That is the most basic fallacy I’ve encountered in weeks. Ignoring that these problems exist to the same degree or to the higher degree in the overwhelming majority of the world – is distracting from the truth that this is a ubiquitous problem that we face.
          Imagine I cited a police investigation that said X number of people were brutally murdered in NYC (or any place for that matter) in XY year. Then I started deducing from this that NYC culture has serious unique problems and that it encourages murderous intent. Then when someone mentioned that close to as many (and some times much more) people were murdered in Chicago, Beijing, Johannesburg and Buenos Aires the same year and I said they should quit citing info from those cities as that constituted distracting from the problem. Do you think I would be right? Do you think that by ignoring the fact that homicide, sadly, occurs everywhere, and that the rates of murder are not lower in most places of the world than in NYC, and by acclaiming that this is the problem that uniquely characterizes NYC and that NYC-ers ar backwards and whatever because of this, I would make any sense? Obviously you can repeat until you’re blue in the face that we should ignore the occurrence of the very same problem in other countries when deciding whether it’s the Georgian mentality that encourages such acts to happen in such an abundance, or not, but that won’t make your point valid.

          And I certainly never “attacked you for being from a liberal bastion”. I never even used the word “liberal” (with which I actually identify myself) in a negative context. I simply said that many of the so-called liberal bastions that are supposed to be free of such problems, are often home to more homicides, rapes and other problems than small town conservative places. I also said that its true that people from liberal bastions talk in a politically correct manner (which I will add that I find is good), but that sadly, in spite of having inhabitants that speak in a politically correct manner these places are as replete (and often more so) with crime and abuse of rights (whether those of women or of other groups) as other places. That was a nice try to distort my words, but I won’t engage in further repudiation of demagogy from your side. And don’t try to explain my comments based on Fox News and other US-centered political machines – believe it or not, the ideas, debates, as well as propagation of beliefs and ideologies occurs outside the US too, and not everyone who has an opinion different from you is a Fox News watcher. You might like to believe that the world is decided into two groups (Democrats vs Republicans, or Fox News watchers vs whatever you watch) but the reality is that its not – there’s much more diversity than that in the world, political or non-political.

          I just recently got back to my country of residence and work after spending a vacation in Georgia, which is where I was told about your blog. I’m back to working full-time, so I won’t be bothering you with my comments much henceforth.Though I disagree with many of your claims and find them generalized and wish that you were more open to opposing ideas, I find your blog as well as those of some other TLG members to be a positive development in general, as well as good places to hold discussions among foreigners and those Georgians who speak English. I wish you good luck with your undertakings in Georgia, I hope you take some worthwhile inter-cultural experience by the time you leave that country. Peace.

        • Hmmm..... says:

          Panoptical,

          If you were to read his argument he doesn’t say that at all- in the end he clearly states “it’s not like having neighbors with similar performances somehow vindicate the poor performance of Georgia on gender issues.” This means that he’s saying that while our neighbors (and other countries) have the same problems, it’s not an excuse to ignore and excuse our problems.

          Beckett is right when he says that Azeri women are probably more ashamed and humiliated to report abuse, so therefore the statistics would be lower in Azerbaijan. Azeri culture is more strict with women than the Georgian one. As for Armenia, there culture (and mentality, and poverty level) is not too different from Georgia’s, so it doesn’t make sense why there is such a noticeable difference between the three countries with regards to domestic violence and gender issues. I suspect the fact that police in Armenia and Azerbaijan are more corrupt has something to do with less rates of REPORTED domestic abuse- after all, most corrupt cops have a “what’s in it for me” mentality. If they can’t get a bribe, why bother?

          Georgia does have domestic abuse issues, but if anyone thinks that it’s safer for women in Armenia or Azerbaijan, than he/she is blind. In general, Georgia is the most liberal out of the three South Caucasus countries (which is not saying much), so I think it’s just that Georgian women report domestic abuse more than Armenian and Azeri women, and Georgian police respond, rather than Georgian men being more likely to commit domestic violence.

  9. sophie says:

    You will probably never truly understand Georgian nationalism, neither attachment to Orthodoxy and churches, neither why we love what we have, even the simplest thing like “xinkali”, because you come from a county that is only couple hundreed years old and has never been invaded by others, also has no true understanding or appreciation for architecture, neither can distinguish basilica from uninspiring American church building, that used to be a warehouse. You probably think we are nuts because we say poems and toasts during out dinner parties, you don’t understand why don’t we just drink, because that’s what you and your people do(never mind the wasteful plastic cups)….you also belong to a nation that people do not touch each other, have this crazy personal space bubble BS, and make no eye contact. Sometimes I wonder if you guys have blood in your vains….lifeless!!! you will never understand why Georgian man pay bus fare for strangers and just go with their day, because in USA, if someone is doing you a favor the same is expected back….we don’t work that way. You sound like culturally diluted person when you say that you don’t care for “red, white, and blue”…people died for that flag, I am Georgain and I honor those people…you know there is a Georgian saying about people like you :”zagli shin ar vargoda, sanadirod garboda”…so wise, so fitting!!!

    • panoptical says:

      Thank you for demonstrating my point that Georgians feel totally free to insult America and Americans without shame.

      Also, the US has been invaded at least twice, try studying history before spouting off bullshit. Your other statements about the US have a similar level of accuracy. Idiot.

      • --> says:

        “There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance— that principle is contempt prior to investigation.”
        H. Spencer

        Perfect demonstration.

      • Beckett.88 says:

        She (I’m assuming that “sophie” is a female) certainly is demonstrating your point, sadly. On the other hand I’m bemused as to why you publish or approve to be published comments from those Georgians who prove your point, but seem reluctant to publish comments posted by Georgians who offer other opinions?

        • panoptical says:

          I don’t discriminate based on nationality when it comes to approving comments. Your comment threw up a red flag because of this sentence in particular: “I suspect that many of these uncalled inappropriate touching occurs mostly when women’s behavior, dress code, body language, etc don’t correspond to what’s considered decent and befitting in Georgia.” I am reluctant to publish comments that might be construed as victim-blaming and as I am on a tight schedule I’ve been following the “when in doubt, toss it out” guideline. I took a second look and approved your comment after taking a much longer look at it. If I don’t have time to respond at length, I can tell you from personal experience that there is no rhyme or reason to the pattern of incidents here – it happens regardless of how women dress or act – as long as they are recognizably foreign, it’s like women have a target on their back. Unless you think that things like “getting in a cab” or “walking around in public” are not considered decent in Georgia.

    • --> says:

      How long have you lived in USA?

    • Steven Diamond says:

      Wow! Just listen to yourself. So much hate. You also aren’t making true points except the plastic cups.

      1. Some people don’t like khinkali, it happens.
      2. We appreciate architecture.
      3. We been invaded.
      4. Toasting is not nuts, boring at times, long-winded perhaps, not nuts.
      5. We touch each other.
      6. We certainly make eye contact, that’s just total nonsense.

      We have an expression in English, “Watchu talkin bout Willis?”

  10. sophie says:

    See, this is what I am talking about. If you were Georgian man you would simply curse me out and tell me to f…off, but you don’t have a backbone do you? God, I love georgian man!!!

    • panoptical says:

      You know what, don’t insult Georgian men, because many of the people who read and comment on this journal are Georgian men who are polite, engaged, and conversational. There are assholes in every culture, American and Georgian alike, and some are men, and some, like yourself, are women.

    • Tom says:

      Sophie, I’m sorry to point out your level of ignorance. What purpose with the author or anyone else here have to tell you to “f…off”? It serves no purpose, because he has made a reasonable defense based argument, and you’re just trying to manipulate him into getting angry and thereby discrediting himself. If you want to be verbally abused that’s your own problem, but don’t come asking anyone here to do it.

      With that said, I do think you have a point that nationalism is so prevalent because Georgia has been invaded so many times. This has in turn caused a significant amount of xenophobia. I had a man tell me “Teach your language, but not your culture”. And at the Halloween party I planned at my school there were Georgian teachers who said “You should only do Georgian traditions”. I told them, “Hey, you’re the Georgian teacher, do Georgian traditions in your class, and I’m an English teacher so I’ll do American traditions.”

      Holding onto your rich culture does not mean insulting and putting down others. It also doesn’t mean you don’t have completely disregard all other cultures. I don’t think you’ve ever been to the USA, and are therefore unable to make any real comparison. If you have lived in America then you went with a xenophobic mindset and therefore really missed out on a lot of things.

      Don’t go insulting the author of a reasonable, thought-provoking post, just because you are unable to be reasonable or think.

      Great post.

    • @ Sophie

      Sophie said: “If you were Georgian man you would simply curse me out and tell me to f…off, but you don’t have a backbone do you? God, I love georgian man!!!”

      So if a man curses you out then he is masculine? If he tells you to F*** off that is showing that he is a strong individual?

      Sophie, do you know what misyogyny is and what it means? It’s a sincere question. Please answer that question with a well thought out response.

      Aside from misogyny, what about polite discourse? The type of behavior you describe is crude, crass, and it’s not right to curse anyone out (regardless of gender, nationality, or social status). It makes the person who is doing the cursing appear ignorant, uncouth, and someone who ran out of ideas.

      The first person who has to curse, cuss, and denigrate another human being is the person who ran out of ideas in a debate.

      We can agree to disagree and be agreeable about it.

    • @Sophie
      Sophie said: “If you were Georgian man you would simply curse me out and tell me to f…off, but you don’t have a backbone do you? God, I love georgian man!!!”

      By making that statement, are you saying that the measure of a man is how much he can curse and denigrate another human being?

      That’s not a marker of someone who is mature and able to engage in civil discourse.

      Sophie, I know some Georgian men who do not behave in the way that you just suggested and they would be very offended to know that this is the sincere opinion you have about your fellow countrymen. When you think about it, you just grossly insulted the men you are trying to defend.

      Your statement makes it clear that you applaud violent language, uncouth behavior and misogyny. That type of behavior doesn’t create a space for functional, mature dialogue and debate.

  11. loe says:

    That’s always been my concern. Georgian women are simply slaves, treated like slaves and they don’t even mind it . A woman is supposed to get good education, work, cook, clean, raise kids, take care of a baby husband, care about her looks, keep in shape, stay calm and collected, smiley and loving. She has to serve the hubby friends with a zillion dish so that he will live up to the image of a good generous georgian man…then they will give a toast or two to what great mothers Georgian women are and continue talk on how they love to have fun with Russian beauties.
    Now that Georgian women do practically everything in this country, seems to me that men are left functionless. They won’t even be sexual partners, because georgian women are not supposed to ever have sex unless a descendant’s wanted.
    I ask myself a question how is it possible to be around a typical Georgian man and I really can’t answer. Probably you should just be born as open-minded as for instance sophie was.

    • Anonymous says:

      I can honestly say that the majority of Georgian men with whom I’ve been fortunate enough to become acquainted are benevolent, fair, tolerant, and rather intelligent. I find these gentlemen to be very open-minded and it disappoints me to see this obviously shared negative perception of Georgian men. But that’s life, isn’t it? You say a Georgian man cheats on his wife? Is this an entirely foreign concept to any other civilized country? The U.S. (from which I do hail) has tremendous rates of divorce, obviously not including those of general infidelity which are not ever conclusively settled through the divorce process. Let’s get real: it’s clearly an inherent human problem, and to freely criticize (often exaggerating, misinformed, or even lying) Georgian society truly expresses a degree of Western arrogance which I see speckled throughout TLG specifically. It’s rather hypocritical, as we have our own monumental national problems. I’d post a picture of a dead horse being beaten, but I reckon you get the idea.

      • panoptical says:

        So from that entire comment – a comment about systemic gender inequality, a comment about how women do the vast majority of the work in this country – housework and employment alike – you chose to ignore everything except the part about Georgian men cheating?

        You are creating a straw man argument. Arguing using disingenuous tactics and twisting people’s words and selectively cherry-picking statements that weren’t even the main point are all really dickish things to do. Stop being a troll.

        Western arrogance? Maybe, but at least we’re having an honest discussion.

        And I should reiterate a point I’ve made previously – Georgian men are incredibly fair, benevolent, and tolerant – provided that you are not a woman, a “sexual minority,” or one of the other myriad groups of people that Georgian men find sufficiently different from themselves to justify treating them as less than human.

        • Anonymous says:

          I still disagree. I’ll thumb my nose at your accusing me of being a troll, as I am not the Westerner with a blog who insists on highlighting and often exaggerating the problems of another sovereign while holding them to some standards which really aren’t even met on average in his homeland. Are you so naive as to think there are no housewives with similar workloads and in similar conditions in the United States?

          “That’s always been my concern. Georgian women are simply slaves, treated like slaves and they don’t even mind it ” I’m addressing this very exaggerated accusation, as it is an insult to any human being who has genuinely been forced into slavery. I’m sorry, but it’s a sap statement.

          My older students (most of whom were US highschool age) actually enjoyed comparing marriage, divorce, and the femaily life when I presented it in one of our classes. I asked my co-teachers beforehand whether or not it was too sensitive a topic, and there were no restraints. It should already be apparent that this is a topic that the younger generation is quite willing to discuss (at least in this case) thus indicating a presence of Georgians who wouldn’t mind discussing gender, marriage, and family issues relating to Georgia. This very presence is something you seem to be convinced does not exist, Neal.

          I do appreciate that you are attempting to go to some lengths in this cultural comparison. It’s interesting to read what other volunteers are experiencing, finding difficult, etc. That being said, I think it could all use less exaggeration. Of course I say this knowing full well that it won’t amount to much in front of your eyes, but there’s the hope that you might just once realize something like “Oh, they aren’t actually MAD at me for not liking xinkali, they just find it to be a shock!” Good luck Neal, this is not a troll.

        • panoptical says:

          Pretentious language isn’t going to save you from being a troll.. For that, actually reading what people write and engaging with it rather than tossing around false accusations and half-truths would be a better strategy.

          Also, I’m really fucking tired of rehashing the same idiotic arguments over and over and over again. No matter how many times I say that I write this blog from personal experience, someone always has to come along and point out that there are also problems outside of Georgia. That is not an excuse – it is a distraction. The existence of problems outside of Georgia is not a valid argument against discussing problems within Georgia – instead, it is a trollish and dishonest way to derail an actual genuine conversation by resorting to pointless provocations and nationalistic bullshit.

          Yes, there are housewives in the US, and there is a committed core of idiotic nutjobs who think that women belong in the home washing dishes and popping out babies, and every time they garner media attention they are roundly mocked by anyone with two brain cells to rub together. My point is that something that is a fringe belief held only by morons and assholes in the US is one of the cornerstones of Georgian society.

          The phrase “sap statement” has no meaning in English. If you’re going to insult something do it using a coherent sentence and not random words strung together.

          I never said or even implied that Georgians do not want to discuss gender, marriage, and “femaily life” – what I said was that Georgian opinions on these things are antiquated and stupid. If you’re going to disagree with something you read on the internet, learning to read would be a good first step.

          Ditto for “MAD” – I never said or implied that Georgians are MAD because I don’t like khinkali – just that their excessively provincial mentalities cause them to be unable to process such information, leaving them staring at me with their jaws on the floor as though I just grew a third arm out of my forehead.

        • Anonymous says:

          If you’re tired of rehashing them, you might consider writing productive, informative, and positive entries regarding Georgia, rather than linking together the tales you hear of isolted incidents of misogyny, or even assuming the opinions of a handful of misogynists you (as you say) associate with and approach reflect the majority or even a considerable minority of Georgian males. I’m also disappointed that you make the blanket statement (check it out, a logical fallacy) that Georgian opinions on these issues are antiquated and stupid. If you would actually take the time to sit down and talk with adults and teenagers regarding these issues instead of sucking down gelato in cafes you might actually discover that, by and large, Georgia and the U.S. share considerable similarities when it comes to these issues. I don’t see how you or other people are taking these entries seriously. You aren’t a reporter, but you’re really preaching as if you were one. Don’t present your misguided opinion as researched fact you fucking amateur. So you can take these half-assed attempts at assaulting my diction and stick them and pray that you get your delusions in check one of these days.

          You’re saying this tendency is a cornerstone of Georgian society. Say this to yourself in front of a mirror.

        • panoptical says:

          The fact that you think the misogyny in Georgia consists only of isolated incidents means that you are deluded. I’ll respond positively to your comments when you come and join us in the real world.

        • Anonymous says:

          I’d rather not partake in a subconsciously nationalist tirade of half-assed assumption. Sticking feathers up your ass doesn’t make you a chicken, just as spewing opinion doesn’t make you a journalist or accurate source for information. Your whole motivation in your entries seems to stem for a shallow, ego-driven desire to have this feeling of superiority and relatively higher degree of decency than these other human beings you generalize about. You might get the clue by reading the hailstorm of critical comments you’re likely to receive. Mark my words they’ll be of the same nature. Good day, sir.

        • panoptical says:

          Again with the straw men. I’ve never claimed to be a journalist or a reporter, yet you keep trying to insult me for not acting like one. I don’t understand why anyone should take your opinions about Georgia (or anything else, for that matter) seriously when you are obviously and repeatedly making shit up in every comment you leave.

      • loe says:

        @ Anonymous
        Here’s home truth for you – Certain human beings do happen to be benevolent, fair, tolerant, and rather intelligent. And imagine they happen to be representatives of different nationalities and gender too at times.
        “You say a Georgian man cheats on his wife?” Yes he does. “Is this an entirely foreign concept to any other civilized country? ” – No it is not. Now if you don’t mind let’s go back to things Georgian men do that are ENTIRELY foreign concepts to any other CIVILIZED countries.
        “and to freely criticize Georgian society (paraphrasing: On this trivial “inherent human problem”) truly expresses a degree of Western arrogance” – It should express Georgian arrogance in my case.
        It puts you in a beneficial position to turn a blind eye to ‘unimportant’ matters such as predominance of sexism in your country, I get your annoyance. Time to get used to the idea that not everyone likes to play as if it’s okay, though.

        • Anonymous says:

          How do I benefit from such a negative behavior? You know I don’t, and that’s absurd. However, I do apologize for venting the bulk of my frustration towards you, as it is is generally toward such Western internationals who are shocked and disgusted when other places don’t meet their narrow worldviews. If women in general are dissatisfied with the exaggerated conditions of squalor and servitude as you go on to proclaim them they are living in, then they should be doing all that they can to empower themselves and studying Western feminist movements to adapt them to their own struggle. At any rate, I don’t think they’re turly discriminated in such a manner. Women are in politics, holding steady jobs, and in many cases even living lives independent of any male partner or family unit. I don’t believe your exaggerations, but of course I acknowledge the occurence of isolated incidents. I’m not a misogynist, but I’m not about to criticize and demonize the majority of Georgian males or married males. That would be foolish, naive, and an insult to the people I am working for.

        • loe says:

          @ Anonymous
          How awesome that your broad worldview helped you acknowledge the occurrences of “isolated incidents”. And how kind of you to so bravely encourage us to ‘do all we can to empower ourselves’.
          I don’t feel like responding and feeding you any further than this. You annoy me, goodbye.

        • agreed! says:

          How exactly is a woman supposed to simply read some feminist books? First of all, how many of these books are translated into Georgian? Where is she supposed to get them from? With what money? Books are expensive! Its not so easy! How is a woman, who is married and has children, supposed to just drop everything and study “feminism” as you put it? She needs moral support, she needs money, she needs a “room of her own”! (yay Virginia Woolf!) . These things are not easy to get when you have a job and a house and Soso and Mari to take care of. Women might have most of the jobs, but that doesn’t make it a good thing when she also has to clean up after her husband and make sure he’s fed while he goes off and drinks with his buddies and she cleans the kitchen, helps kids with homework, takes care of older relatives, and maybe puts in time watching TV. Why should she do all the work and the men have all the power? I don’t see how you can’t say that this isn’t the norm. Most villages and small towns are like this, and it is only in the cities that we see anything different. Even then, its still not much better because there is still widespread sexism. Is it a “narrow” worldview to take offense when women are forced into marriage? When she is groped on the bus? When she is taken advantage of by a taxi driver? When she is attacked by a respected man in her host village? When volunteers are told that most men consider a “maybe” to mean “yes”? No, it is not. Why should any woman have this happen to them? Yes, of course it can happen in any country, but I have had more…problems with the males…..in Georgia anywhere else I have ever been.

          Georgia has a little ways to go. It is ranked 74 out of 169 in the UN’s HDI. http://hdrstats.undp.org/en/countries/profiles/GEO.html

          Part of moving to another country and contributing to its growth is having the right to talk about what there is to like and don’t like. That is all that’s going on here. Some people have vaild complaints. I hope Georgia does progress,and I believe teaching English there is one of the ways to achieve it, but it needs to be able to take people being critical of its gender norms to do so.

        • #1 Fan USA says:

          http://www.cddc.vt.edu/feminism/geor.html

          The site has an index of listed women’s groups in Georgia, but they are exclusively in Tbilisi. This is a recurring problem in other areas of Georgian society as well as infrastructure: things are progressing very slowly outside of the capitol. Revolutionary educational technologies are introduced in renovated schools, while classrooms in some town municipalities don’t even have lighting! Not that I’m trying to sound overly negative, I’m just simply pointing out that the rates of change seem to vary from the rural to urban centers. I hope that these are only growing pains, and that Georgians continue to strive to safeguard equality, superior education and freedom for all Georgians.

  12. --> says:

    One interesting moment in the line of discussion – there was a large article in the last issue of Economist about declining marriage in Asia:

    http://www.economist.com/node/21526350

    The underlying reasons why this happening there is quite well applicable to Georgia’s future – increased wealth of Asian countries without social-cultural changes. As a result women there simply started to avoid getting married.

    So if income and education level continues to increase in Georgia, especially among women, the country will face the same problem Asian counties are facing now. Current country policymakers should read Economist article several times and then look around them to see where the country is heading.

  13. dfgdfg says:

    GO back to America (IT IS THAT SIMPLE) SINCE all of you dislike GEoriga so much LEAVE!

  14. dfgdfg says:

    You’re an idiot. Georgians are not crushed because you don’t like Khinkali! What an IDIOT.

  15. Rezo says:

    There are some positive changes, especialy regarding younger generation…..they are much more open to gender equality…. all we need is women to bacome more independent economicly…..i myself and meny my fellow Georgians trying too break those sick social norms and stereotyps…..
    althoigh I agree the problem exicting yI think you are generalizing to much, as you did in “sex in Georgia” thread….

    • Steven Diamond says:

      @Neal

      Hating freedom is something I think worth defending, the rest not so much, people are entitled to their opinions.

  16. In order for Georgia to be able to compete economically and have credibility on the international stage, it will have no choice but to change over the next 20 – 30 years.

    Socially and culturally it would be good for Georgia to have an influx of immigrants who are not from the Caucasus region. Of course this has to been done in the future since the economy in Georgia is not strong.

    Homogeneity can be good for some things but in this case, a little heterogeneity would do wonders and help with the xenophobia, fear, and false sense of security which comes from nationalism. I think for Georgia, nationalism is dangerous because it feeds a lie. I’m talking about military strategies, economics, and global politics. Lying to yourself or being indenial is lethal.

    There really isn’t a point in arguing about these hot buttons issues in Georgia about ‘gender equality’ or the lack thereof, constructed gender roles, etc. Change is coming to Georgia, it’s already happening right now.

    Change will continue to happen so that Georgia will prosper in the 21st century. It must prosper because there’s a big, bad, militarily muscular, boogie man called Russia that kicks ass, takes names, and asks questions later. (I’m being facetious by calling Russia a boogie man).

    Georgia has already proclaimed its alliance with the Western World instead of with Russia. That signifies the winds of change are here. So we can sit and argue on this blog day and night. Everyone has an opinion and a palpabable fear of losing their heritage and roots to another country.

    But lets look at the facts, Georgia is a tiny country near Russia, Turkey, and not far away from Iran.
    Russia, Turkey, and Iran. It’s a good thing Georgia is on good terms with Turkey and Iran.
    Those are NOT small, militarily weak countries.

    There’s also other countries that want a piece too…..
    Maybe Georgia has something that China wants? Maybe Georgia has something Turkey wants or Iran wants? Israel? Saudi Arabia? Maybe the EU wants something?
    Black sea pipeline maybe? A strategic position perhaps?

    Any takers? (I’m being very sarcastic)

    The other point I’m trying to make is that, it doesn’t matter which country it is, change is already here, it’s not leaving. More change is coming, that’s inevitable. Brace yourself and adapt.

    And yes, there is a feminist movement stirring in Georgia, it’s coming and Georgia will have it’s big gender role revolution. How do I know this? I’ve met numerous Georgian women who are NOT happy with the status quo and want a change and have told me this. Georgia will have it’s Simone De Beauvoir, Gloria Steinem and Angela Davis. Give it time. Rome wasn’t built in a day.

  17. sophie says:

    All these Americans, sit and type and type, analize and analize everything to death…get off your obese asses and start living life, instead of staring your computer screens and eating your bull shit TV dinners and GET THE HELL OUT OF SAKARTVELO!!! ES RA AMERIKELI SHPIONEBIS CHIRI GVCHIRS TO 😀
    …And what’s up with American women and their pink vibrator dildos? :DD Have real sex much?.:D

    • Hmmm..... says:

      Sophie, if you don’t like this blog so much, maybe you should take your own advice- leave this blog, stop staring at the computer screen, and live your life. Your comments make us look bad – yes, kartveli kali var da mrcxvenia roca shen eset ragaceebs cer.

      That’s actually ironic that you comment that about American women, since they *do* have real sex and more than Georgian women. Also, Americans in general are more mature and know more about sex (especially safe sex) than Georgians. This applies to both men and women.

      If you love Georgia this much and are so proud of being Georgian (which I gathered from your other posts), then I wonder why, as a Georgian woman, you are cursing, using “to”, and using vulgar language? That’s very frowned upon in our culture – it’s actually the opposite of what a Georgian woman is supposed to be like. Those Georgian men that you love would see you as a “nasha” because of your language, and not a “kai gogo.”

      For you non- Georgians, a “nasha” roughly equates to a “loose girl only good for a one night stand”, “to” means something like “yo” mixed with “ya feel me?” and “kai gogo” means “good girl.”

      I don’t know you personally, and I hope you weren’t offended, BUT from a Georgian perspective you are not acting like a lady, but a “nasha.”

  18. Nana Ioseliani-Meissner says:

    Loved the post! Unfortunately, had to agree to the most (if not all) of the things the author is not particularly happy about living in Georgia.

  19. Pingback: Gender in Georgia | Georgia On My Mind

  20. Left Eye Looking says:

    I’m making a final comment about this post because there was mention of nationalism by me and others. I’ve been thinking a lot about nationalism lately and countries whose governments promote nationalism to their detriment. I see all of the negative sides of nationalism. However, I have found one country that has benefitted from nationalism. **cue mariachi music** Viva Mexico!!!!!
    During the 1930’s and 40’s, the Mexican government promoted the idea that everyone born in Mexico were united as Mexicans so the majority Mezstizo population and minority populations of Africans,Italians, Germans, and French, were all viewed as equal and intermarried as a result. The Mexican government/politicians knew that inorder to have a strong Mexico, everyone would have to be united. This was to overcome anymore association and/or stigma with their former colonizer, Spain and to make a stronger nation in North America and Latin America in dealing with the U.S. and the surrounding countries. I think they did a good job of this.
    (I wish the United States had taken their cue and taken a similar approach, maybe the U.S. would be less divided along ethnic/racial lines.)
    So that is the only example of nationalism that I could find that has had a positive social benefit.
    Maybe the other one was Sparta? (300…This is Sparta!!!!!!!)

  21. Pingback: Sex in Georgia: The Anniversary | Georgia On My Mind

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