Stereotypes within the culture

ANI AMIRKHANIAN

It always amazes me how Armenian stereotypes are more prevalent

within the Armenian culture than they are within the general

populace.

As with any culture, people feel offended and insulted if someone

uses stereotypes to label the actions, lifestyles, traditions or

customs of their culture.

The Armenian subcultures or subgroups are quite different from

each other, so naturally they are conflicted with varying

stereotypes.

I have always taken an interest in these stereotypes, sort of

studied them, because I usually hear a variety of statements people

make about each other's groups.

Let me also clarify a few things before I proceed. For those who

are unfamiliar with the Armenian subgroups, there are three prominent

ones in the Glendale Armenian community. There are "Hyastancis," or

Armenians from Armenia; "Barskahyes," Iranian-Armenians; and

"Beirutsis," or Lebanese-Armenians. The word "Hye" simply means

"Armenian." These three subcultures live in their own pockets of the

community and speak in distinct Armenian dialects.

Just last week, I came across a listing of typical Armenian

stereotypes on the Internet. The stereotypes were divided into three

categories all corresponding to their respective subgroups. As I

began reading, I couldn't help but laugh because all of them were in

good taste and I could relate to some of them.

The list was created all in the name of fun and in no way was

insulting to the Armenian culture, or so I thought.

I forwarded a copy of this list to a friend of mine, who happens

to be Armenian, and moments later, I received a phone call from her.

As I answered the phone, I heard nothing but ecstatic laughter coming

from the other end of the line.

"Oh, my God," she said with her uncontrollable laugh. "This is so

true."

The listing of stereotypes was "true" in the sense that she knew

Armenian people who fit the stereotype. I could relate to her

reaction because I know and have known people who fit into the

stereotypical profile as well.

After reading the list from the Internet, I made some observations

of my own.

What was most interesting about this list -- after careful

consideration and comparison -- was that the generalizations made

about each sub-group varied distinctively.

For example, one said, "You're Hyastanci if your rims cost more

than your house," and another said, "You're Beirutsi if you're very,

very, very tight with money.

These two statements really made me think about the way the

actions of these two subgroups are translated by the Armenian and

even non-Armenian populations.

My first thought after reading the above sentences was that maybe

Armenians designate themselves according to their socio-economic

status.

Could stereotypes likes the ones above suggest, for example, that

Hyastancis favor material possessions and are willing to spend all

kinds of money in order to acquire material and at the same time gain

the social status they seek? On the other hand, do Beirutsis budget

their spending and care little about going up on the social ladder?

Whatever the case may be, stereotypes often reflect personal

experiences with the culture.

In another example -- one that is reflective of certain

characteristics of the culture -- it says, "You're Barskahye if your

name or your cousin's is Artin or Arbi or Narbeh." Yes, it is very

common for Barskahye Armenians to name their kids Artin, Arbi or

Narbeh, as it is uncommon or even rare for the other two subgroups to

choose these names. But there is also an increase in nontraditional

and non-Armenian names such as "Brandon" or "Jordan."

There is no doubt the Armenian subgroups make these

generalizations after interacting with each other, even only for a

short period of time.

But what bothers me is when some stereotypes, unlike the ones

listed on the Internet, hurt and insult people and injure the

reputation of the Armenian people as a whole. When it comes to casual

talk or gossip involving stereotypes, Armenians quickly designate

themselves into their own subgroups in order not to associate with

their counterparts.

How unfortunate, in my opinion. Shouldn't just one stereotype be

enough to affect all Armenians?

I wait for the day that Armenians put aside their differences and

integrate as one group known as just "Hyes." An unlikely integration,

but one could only hope.

* ANI AMIRKHANIAN is a resident of Glendale, a graduate of USC and

a freelance writer. Reach her at anisaccount@yahoo.com.

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