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.

84753-320x240-WeddingRing

 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.

Advertisements

Taxi, taxi…

Dear taxi drivers of Yerevan,

Let’s face the facts here, you will never read this open letter. Well, never say never, but I’m 95% sure, it is after all in English, plus  it’s on my personal blog. I just need to get this out of my system.

As I’m a super lazy person, who detests all kinds of public transportation that require standing, bending over and/or squatting (this rules out ALL types of public transportation in Yerevan), I prefer taxis.

Taxi drivers (you won’t mind, if I call you TDs, will you? Of course, you won’t…you’re not reading this), I have some questions for you (rhetorical, obviously…cause, again, none of you is reading this):

  • Why do you think that your taxi is an ashtray?
  • Why don’t you EVER know how to get where I want to go? Isn’t it in your job description to “drive and know where to drive”?
  • Why do you get horribly offended when I offer you directions? It’s only fair I do so, cause you most definitely don’t know how to get to my destination (see previous point)?
  • Why must you scream at every passing car? Why must you then turn around and seek approval and encouragement for being such an ace screamer?
  • Why must you drive either a) like it’s your first time behind the wheel, or b) like you’re in Formula 1 and I’m the only one, who didn’t get the memo?
  • Why do you have only two modes of communication: a) fucking rude and b) fucking creepy?
  • Why do you ask me weird personal questions? (This, btw, falls under “fucking creepy”).
  • Why do you feel the need to share your fascinating life story with me?
  • Why must you charge poor clueless tourists five times the regular fare?
  • Why must you try and scam me for extra money by choosing a particularly long route/driving like a turtle on pot/telling me a sob story?

Look, TDs, I know…Your job is not the most rewarding job in the world. It’s a hard job, and I’m sure you have your reasons for behaving the way you do. BUT. BUT…(ok, this is gonna make me sound like an entitled asshole) I DON’T CARE. Be better at your job. Don’t make an ordeal of each and every day of commute for honest, hard-working people, who have chosen to use your services.

Phew…at least this was therapeutic.

A pledge to myself

I love my country. I wouldn’t want to be born anywhere else. But it’s hard sometimes. It’s hard to be a woman with liberal and feminist values in Armenia. Not that I’m disparaging the experiences of women in developed countries, but trust me, our kind of patriarchy is hardcore. I live in a society with strict gender roles, with conservative views on every aspect of human life, a society, where traditionalism is celebrated and equated with patriotism.

It’s hard, no, it’s TIRING to live surrounded by people, who don’t share the same values as you. Why? Because at some point you realize that you can’t beat them. You can’t even start a dialogue with them, because they simply don’t want to understand a different point of view.

What do you do when you get too tired of speaking out? What do you do when you’re not sure speaking out will help? When you think that vocalizing your values and principles will get you ostracized from your friends and family?

I wish I could say that there’s a clear-cut answer to these questions. Lately I have noticed that I’ve been taking the cowardly (and easy) way out of this situation. I’ve been turning a blind eye and a deaf ear. I’ve been pretending I don’t hear the homophobic comments, sexist jokes, or racist assumptions.

It turns out it’s goddamn easy to ignore bigotry, misogyny and social injustice. It saves you a lot of time, effort and red-faced yelling. Of course, it adds a ton of HEAVY bricks to your conscious and makes you feel like you’re the worst person that ever lived.

Oh, you try and make excuses for yourself. You tell yourself that Armenians don’t self-censor as much as people in Europe or the US. Political correctness is not even a blimp on Armenia’s radar! Phooey! We were trapped under the Soviet rule for years! Come on, conscious!

Even though these excuses sound very good (and are partially true), after a very short while, that pesky ton of bricks topples all of them. And you’re left with a nasty feeling. A feeling that you’re a failure and a fraud. A person, who knows better and betrays that knowledge every fucking day.

So, here goes…I’m not saying I’m going to join an NGO or become an activist. But this is a pledge to myself, that I’m going to try and be more outspoken about the issues that matter to me. I’m going to try and educate people around me. I’m gonna stop making excuses.