Tradition

When a couple gets married in church, according to the Armenian Apostolic rites, certain vows are spoken. The husband has to proclaim himself the “Ter” (Master/Owner) of the wife, and the wife has to agree to be “Hnazand” (Obedient) to the husband.

Disclaimer: I’m not a religious person. I’m an agnostic, who leans towards atheism, and my philosophical views on life are best described as being an absurdist. I respect the long history of the Armenian Apostolic Church, and I realize that it has played a huge role in the history of my country. I disagree strongly with the Church on a truckload of definitions, principles and teachings.

Due to the disclaimer, I suppose I’m not even qualified to express an opinion on this matter. It’s not like I’m getting married anytime soon. Even if I did, I would never have gotten married in a church ceremony. Yet, I feel compelled to condemn this practice in the Armenian Apostolic wedding ceremony. It’s not a matter of religion-bashing, it’s just a matter of sexism-bashing.

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 These vows irk me to the point of physical recoil. How are they still in use in the 21st century? Why are people criticizing me for choosing to condemn them? Are these vows not more appropriate for a relationship between a dog and its master? (FYI, I’m not an expert feminist and I’m not an expert on Dom/Sub relationships, so no offense to two consenting adults, who choose the Dom/Sub relationship model. It’s a valid choice.).

In a society like ours, where patriarchy is the only norm and where women struggle with their rights every day, why do we need to enforce these vows? Why teach our girls to be submissive? Why diminish their role in the marriage right off the bat? Is there no way they can be changed to a simple “Hamadzayn em” (I do/I agree)? Christians all over the world use variations of “I do”, don’t they?

I’m not going to recap the hundreds of inane discussions on the topic I’ve had over the years. I’ve even argued with actual priests over this ridiculousness. I’ve gotten weird anatomical analogies (husband is the head of the family and wife is the heart) as reasoning. I’ve gotten the brush-off of “You just don’t understand the deeper meaning of marriage/wedding/life”. I’ve gotten speeches on how the spouses are totally equal to each other and I just don’t have sophisticated knowledge of the wedding ceremony.

Call it feminist intuition, call it bullshit radar…I just know that these wedding vows are sexist and idiotic. I know that there wouldn’t be a distinction between the vows, if women and men were truly so wonderfully equal in the eyes of the church.

The saddest rebuke I always get is that it’s “tradition”, nobody cares and it should just stay the way it is. People can’t see that “traditions” and symbols are the most important, seminal conventions that need to be changed. As long as traditions like these are acceptable, nothing can be changed in the society. When a progressive, independent woman is asked to bend her head and be obedient to her husband, it takes us all back to the Middle Ages.

I hope more and more women realize that “tradition” is not something to blindly follow. I really hope more men realize that it’s demeaning and insulting to ask your partner to be “obedient” for the sake of tradition. It’s ok to have a relationship of equals.

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9 thoughts on “Tradition

  1. *sigh* I hate that ‘it’s just tradition’ BS. There is no such thing as ‘just tradition’. I can relate to so much of this. I hope your society and mine progress beyond these discriminatory ‘traditions’.

  2. Can we change it so that both have to say they’re obedient? 😛 I hate how modern marriages fall apart at the slightest provocation as well. I think the medium is when both parties realize that though these types of vows are sexist, they place a role on the individuals. The woman can endure a lot more emotionally than a man could. It’s why men rarely live long after a wife’s passing away. A woman can survive a lot more. A man, on the other hand, should support his family to the fullest of his ability and then some. Being master doesn’t simply mean ordering people about and lounging by all day. On the contrary, you have the care of the whole household on your shoulders and whether you succeed or fail in life depends on you. Should the latter occur, you are now responsible for destroying the lives of your wife and children. Taken face value, it’s very sexist. However, going by the true values they are meant to instill, the gender roles are rather important. Women have been manipulating their husbands and getting their way for centuries. It’s not merely tradition, it’s an adaptation to human failings and strengths.

    • Life, lifestyle and gender roles have de facto changed. The de jure change in traditions and behaviors hasn’t happened, and that’s the problem. The archaic typecasting of husbands as providers and wives as the keepers of the household is no longer working. Women work as much as their husbands now, sometimes they even provide for the family. Yet, to keep up with the tradition, with the values, they still have to play the expected part of the cooking/cleaning/doing all the chores wife. The obedient moderator of the house has to be her, she has to be the one to take care of her husband’s ego….Why? I know, that these gender roles have existed for centuries. I know, that problems of equality are relevant all over the world, not only in Armenia. I even know that most Armenian women are super happy with this situation (either they’ve been conditioned all their lives or are just accepting the rules of the game). I know all this. And I think it needs to change.

      • Yet in the West, where things have changed. all I see is chaos, throwing away marriages instead of working on fixing them, both parties demanding to be heard with no one listening. I despise the fact that over 1 in 2 marriages end in failure. Children are the ones who suffer most, and then people wonder why their grades slip and they react violently and with lack of tolerence to different situations. Certain things need to change. Those words should say “do you vow to respect your spouse and be patient through thick or thin, always supportive of one another and striving for a good marriage?”

      • I love your version! Yes! 🙂 I do agree that the institution of marriages is failing (East or West). Difference is in the West people are getting divorced and in the East people are acting like nothing is wrong, but living a lie.

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