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.
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.