Although characterisations of “good vs. evil,” “us vs. them,” “right vs. wrong” to both the things that happen and to interpersonal relationships are theoretically old-fashioned, Azerbaijanis remain loyal to such dualistic divisions and measures.
A set of meanings given to the concepts of “man” and “woman” are one of the areas where these divisions and measures are applied.
Like other Turkic languages, the Azerbaijani language system is not sexist. In other words, we do not assign grammatical genders of feminine, masculine and neuter to objects the way that, for instance, Germans or Russians do. If we go deeper, in the Sirmauri language of India, the words denoting “big living things” belong to the masculine gender, whilst the words denoting small living things, are to the feminine gender. In the Alamblak language of New Guinea, long, sharp and big living things (e.g. crocodile, arrow, snake) are masculine; whereas, short, squat and small living things (e.g. frog, shield, turtle) are feminine.
To reiterate, the words denoting objects and living things in our language are sexless. Instead, however, there are concepts in our minds that are associated either only with males, or only with females. For instance, the notions like heroism, courage, fighting spirit, willpower, liberty, etc. make us think of men, whilst jewellery, make up, weakness, honour, cowardice, etc., of women.
The concepts of “woman-wife” and “man-husband” perform an ethical rather than an ontological function. It seems like almost all the positive ethical and virtuous representations are fit into the connotations of the word “man” (bravery, trustworthiness, honesty, activism, initiative, determination, truthfulness, reliability, genuineness, perfection) and their opposites (treachery, passivity, indecisiveness, deception, hypocrisy, incompleteness, cowardice, weakness, slander, unreliability), into the connotations of the word “woman”. Men are idolized, while women are demonized. It is not coincidental that the word “man” is employed to praise, whereas the word “woman,” to scold.
Proverbs are one of the best mediums portraying national reasoning, or mentality. They were certainly developed by both men and women over the time. However, the proverbs in Azerbaijani had been termed “atalar sözü,” literally “fathers’ words” with no alternative like “mothers’ words,” which promotes the message that aphorisms can only be authored by men, while women are not intelligent enough to do so.
Demonization of women
The ways women are represented in our proverbs and aphorisms:
A woman makes shoes (soft fabric shoes) for the devil.
A woman may lead a man astray.
A home (family) destroyed by a woman could not be destroyed by the devil.
Listen to your wife and do the opposite.
Think of your death once you need a help of your wife.
A woman without a husband, like a horse without a bridle.
The doors of a man entering a woman’s house are open.
A woman has long hair and short intellect.
A woman’s intellect is in her ankles.
The ankles of a promiscuous woman shall be hit with a stone.
Women heard of a wedding in heaven and started looking for a ladder.
Husbands hold wives like sheepskin holds cheese.
A wife and a horse depend on a brave man’s luck.
A wife’s property may hit like a mallet.
A wife’s property is like a low door frame: you will hit your head both when you enter and when you exit.
A man is a river and a woman is a lake.
The end of a path chosen by a woman will be uphill.
A woman should keep away from a brazen man and a man, from a brazen woman.
The beard of a man whose wife is mean will grey faster.
A grumpy wife will make her husband age faster.
A woman may make the devil wear shoes (soft fabric shoes) backwards.
A woman cannot be a leader.
A woman cannot be trusted.
A woman should not meddle in man’s affairs.
A woman has her place and a man, his place.
A woman has woman affairs and a man, man affairs.
Speaks like a woman.
Sheds tears like a woman.
A wife cannot object to her husband.
A woman was named “woman,” a man, “man.”
Doing household chores like a woman.
He is coward like a woman.
Behaves like a woman.
Mincing like a woman.
Does not keep his word like a woman.
Weaves webs like a woman.
Hypocritical like a woman.
Lives by the mind of a woman.
A man, who fears a woman.
He is a blabber like a woman.
Like a woman he cannot be trusted.
He has a big mouth like a woman.
He is treacherous like a woman.
Talks behind backs like a woman.
He is well off like a woman.
He is ungrateful like a woman.
He holds the child, as if he is a woman.
He is adorned like a woman.
Do not meddle in man’s affairs with your doughy hands.
He has a face of a woman.
A wife should fear her husband.
He is like a woman.
A woman does not have an Adam’s apple.
A woman should not speak where there is a man.
Do not share your secrets with a woman.
He gossips like a woman.
Idolization of Men
God in heaven, husband at home.
A man is the master of the house.
A man should sit at the head of the table.
A man does not change his words.
A man should be faced by a man.
A hundred women cannot replace one man.
A man should be cared after.
A man has spoken and the conversation is over.
A man should not argue with a woman.
A man should protect the honor of his woman.
A man should not trust a woman.
A man has an Adam’s apple.
A man can do anything he wants.
A man should not lie.
A man should be brave.
A man should not fear.
A man should not cry.
A man should provide.
A man may both scold and beat his woman.
A man should not do household chores.
A man should be untidy.
A man should be rough.
A man may play around (fornicate).
A man should not leave his wife alone.
A man should not live at his wife’s expense.
A man should smell of sweat.
A man should not pour himself a cup of tea.
A man should not get involved with his wife.
A man has to be only slightly more beautiful than a monkey.
She is like a man (implying positive representations).
She kept her promise like a man.
She earns like a man.
A man should not disclose what he saw.
Come forward if you are a man.
A wife should stand up when her husband enters.
He is a man… (Let him be)
He is a man… (Denoting pride)
Be a man.
I will have to finish here because there is not enough space left, although there is a need for further comment.
The original post was published by Meydan TV in Azerbaijani