Should A Woman Obey Her Husband - In This Day And Age?
In Christian marriage ceremonies, it was once common for a bride to promise to "honour and obey" her husband-to-be.
But with the advent of women's lib, it became much more of an optional thing to do, and many women now choose not to include this part of the wording. Princess Diana and the Duchess of Cambridge both famously chose not to "obey" their future husbands.
And while nowadays this is commonplace and Kate's decision probably didn't shock or surprise too many people, back in the early eighties' when Charles and Diana got married it was a lot more controversial, and was no doubt quite a brave decision.
I have recently been reminded of this subject not by Christians, but by two friends, one of whom is Muslim and the other Jewish. Both are part of religious families, and have traditional beliefs according to their respective religion.
I met my first friend, who is Muslim, at my daughter's school. Our girls are in the same class, and we have lots in common. We have the same kind of personalities, sense of humour, and have similar outlooks on life. We get on very well, and often meet for coffee and visit one another's houses.
Recently another friend invited us both out for a meal in a pub to celebrate her birthday, along with some other (girl)friends.
Excited to be going out somewhere, (with a small child, it's not a common occurrence!), I asked my friend if she could come. And she told me that her husband doesn't let her go out at night.
I was so dumbfounded I didn't know what to say to her. So I didn't say anything for a while.
Sensing my shock she said that because of her religion she had never been out at night without him.
I was also recently talking to my other friend who is Jewish. I've known her for years. We met at a youth club in the days before she was religious, but when she married she decided to become orthodox like her husband.
She was feeling dissatisfaction with some of the things in her life, including her children's school and how mundane her own day-to-day life had become. I suggested that maybe she could look into some other schools. And now her children were all in school, why didn't she look for a job or do some voluntary work, and perhaps spend some time doing some things that she enjoyed?
Her reply was that her husband liked the children's school, even though it was very strict and they were not happy there. It had been his school. He also didn't want her to work and thought that her place was in the home. When I scoffed, she said that maybe I didn't understand as I wasn't religious, but a wife is supposed to support her husband's views.
- BBC News - Obedient Wives Club faces criticism in UK
An Islamic organisation which urges wives to be submissive in bed and to obey their husbands, arrives in the UK.
Am I wrong to be feeling a little uneasy?
Now while I can disagree with their views and know that it's not how I would choose to live my life, my friends are both firm in their beliefs that this is how life must be.
Whatever dissatisfactions they have are overshadowed by their wish to act according to their respective faiths, (or at least what they interpret them to mean). So what their man says, quite simply, is what goes.
I know that there are a lot of women (from all different religions and cultures) who believe that men should make all the important decisions in life. And everyone's entitled to their views; the world would undoubtedly be a very boring place if we all thought the same thing!
But despite knowing these things I was deeply shocked by these two conversations. And trying to think about why I was so shocked, I have come up with the following.
- Kate Middleton omits the word "obey" from her wedding vows.
KATE Middleton will copy Princess Diana and omit the word "obey" from her wedding vows.
Naively, I didn't expect any friends of mine to hold these views.
How could they have such different views to my own? Both friends are very intelligent, highly-educated women, and in my mind these views belonged to uneducated women, brought up in old-fashioned families.
My gut reaction was that they were unreasonable to think like this and accept their man's domination. I thought we lived in a more advanced age, and that we had come further than this.
A child of the 80's, I had been brought up to believe that I was equal to a man and could do everything that they could if I tried hard enough. And that I was entitled to the same rights, and equal powers of decision-making in a relationship.
I suppose I had expected that all my friends would have the same views as me! After all, our opinions on so many other things were the same. How could we have such different feelings about such a fundamental subject? I thought I knew these women well. They were close friends - how did I not know this about them before?
But being realistic, why should I expect my friends to hold all the same views as me? We are different people who have had non-identical backgrounds and different life experiences. And I guess this topic has just never come up before.
Women's lib gave women increased choices and opportunities. But only if they wanted them. There was nothing to say that women had to take up those opportunities. Some religions argue that men and women have "different but equal" roles in a marriage. (I'm never sure about this argument, which sounds a bit like a justification for men doing what the heck they like!) But as long as women aren't being forced to take a certain role within a marriage, then to do so is a choice too.
And is old-fashioned and traditional always bad? Of course not. On reflection, who am I to assume that my arrogant western views are the "correct" ones to have? Doesn't respecting other cultures mean respecting others' points of view? Just because we have been conditioned to think that something is right it doesn't mean that it is. Really, who am I to judge?
Would I criticise somebody so harshly for not eating certain foods, or not using electricity on a Saturday? These are rules I wouldn't want to follow myself as I feel they would be unnecessary to my life and somewhat irrelevant. However, I unquestionably respect the opinions of friends who choose to do these things. So shouldn't I do the same for my friends who choose to obey their husbands?
My own gut feeling is that it's wrong to blindly obey anybody, including your husband. To me, each adult individual who is capable of making decisions should have the right to make his or her own decisions.
But when an intelligent woman makes her own decision (with no pressure from anyone else), to delegate her decision-making to her husband, how can this be wrong?