Gender roles in Azerbaijan: A cross-generational continuum

While the choice of pink versus blue has come to symbolize how parents and other adults establish a gendered order throughout youngsters’ childhood, the construction of gender roles dynamically accompanies people throughout their life. It starts from early childhood with how children are supposed to play, dress, talk and, most importantly, how they are supposed to act, what competences they are supposed to develop, and what they are encouraged to do as adults. Thus, children’s potentials are largely defined by societies according to their gender – which is a priori defined by their sex. This comes to define not only what men and women “should do”, but also what they can and cannot do. CRRC-Azerbaijan’s 2012 Social Capital, Media and Gender Survey in Azerbaijan, funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), provides the opportunity to explore this normative dimension of gender roles and its promotion from childhood through adulthood in Azerbaijan.
Tracing gender role construction during childhood is an ambitious aim for a blog post, but nevertheless some basic insights can be discussed while looking at the answers to the questions “When you were a child or teenager, were you taught how to cook // clean the house // clean the bathroom/toilet // fix home appliances // do laundry // drive a car // do shopping for groceries // care for younger siblings?” From the chart below it is clear that as children, people were taught how to perform different tasks in accordance to their gender. Thus, females were taught how to cook, clean the house and the bathroom/toilet as well as do laundry much more frequently than males. Males were predominantly taught how to drive a car and how to fix home appliances. In almost all of these cases, the difference between males’ and females’ answers is greater than 50%.

Note: Options “Do not know” and “Refuse to answer” are excluded from the analysis throughout this blog post.

One might wonder if there are any generational differences in what children in Azerbaijan were taught to do in different decades and, thus, what duties and activities different generations were expected to perform. In other words, did people of different ages report learning different tasks during their childhood? As is clear from the next chart, different age groups did not report differences in the nature of tasks they were taught to perform as children or teenagers. Although one might expect the gendered character of taught activities to be less visible in younger generations, the data does not support this supposition.
In order to have a clear picture of what children of different generations were taught in Azerbaijan, the predominantly female-taught activities such as cooking, cleaning the house, cleaning the bathroom/toilet and doing laundry were combined into ‘taught to do housework,’ while predominantly male-taught activities such as drive a car and fix home appliances were combined into ‘taught how to drive a car and/or fix home appliances’. Interestingly, no variation can be seen by age groups, thus showing that children have been taught what to perform in a gendered manner over the decades – females were consistently taught how to cook, clean the house, clean the bathroom/toilet and/or do laundry, while males were taught how to drive a car and/or fix home appliances.

Note: A positive answer to at least one of the predominantly “female-taught” activities (“taught how to cook”, “taught how to clean the house”, “taught how to clean the bathroom/toilet”, and “taught how to do laundry”) was coded as “Yes” in “taught to do housework”. Similarly, a positive answer to at least one of the predominantly “male-taught” activities (“taught how to drive a car” and “taught how to fix home appliances”) was coded as “Yes” for ‘taught how to drive a car and/or fix home appliances’.

While it is a jump to explain adults’ perceptions of gender roles and occupations by what they were taught to do as children or teenagers, it is nevertheless interesting to see if these roles are internalized and thus there is a gendered consensus on what men and women are supposed to do as adults. Indeed, the chart below shows that stereotypes on gender roles are commonly accepted in Azerbaijan, despite the fact that women tend to hold these views slightly less than men. Thus, there is no difference between genders when it comes to agreeing with the statements that “A women’s most important role is to take care of her home and cook for her family” and “Changing diapers, giving kids a bath and feeding kids are the mother’s responsibility.” Furthermore, although women tend to agree less with the following statements “Men should have the final word about decisions in the home,” “On the whole, men make better political leaders than women do” and “On the whole, men make better business executives than women do,” more than 60% of women still agree with each of these statements.

Note: Answer options to all the above statement were re-coded as follows: “Strongly agree”/“Completely agree” and “Agree”/“Somewhat agree” into “Agree”; and “Strongly disagree”/“Completely disagree” and “Disagree”/“Somewhat disagree” into “Disagree”. 

This blog post explored the attitudes of Azerbaijanis towards gender roles, and whether these have changed over time. It showed that there is a cross-generational continuum in the defined gendered character of the activities children and teenagers have been taught to perform. Furthermore, the blog post described the continuity of the embedded gender roles, noting the fact that as adults, people continued to see men and women as having very distinct roles and responsibilities and that there is a general consensus in Azerbaijan that the outer-home public space is still the domain of men. 
To what extent are gender roles embedded in the Azerbaijani, Armenian and Georgian societies? Join the conversation on the CRRC Facebook page or in the comments section below.

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