The question appears at first to be clear. Should she promise “To obey”, or not? Recently, the choice has gone either way, equally. Those who deliberately excluded the “O” word felt it to be an anachronistic slur on their rightful independence. Those who changed the word “Obey” to “Respect” would also change the man’s promise from “Worship” to, “Cherish” and would thus join with the “Obeyers” in acknowledging an asymmetry in male and female needs. Those who declined the option (it’s now an option) would do so insisting that equality must prevail. Either both or neither should obey, but not one.
So here are my two questions. Firstly, were the original vows written by single men in an obsolete patriarchal society, in order to cement the subservience of women? Or have we lost sight of the beauty of humility in our blind acceptance of the modern cult of individuality. When somebody says in a 1940s movie, “I know my place”, we have lost any memory of what anyone might have meant by that.
Secondly, what about this “Equality”. I do NOT mean equality of status. A plug and a socket have equal status in an electrical connection. But each has a complementary role; they are different. So, in a marriage, can we be equal, but different, and express our equal commitment to each others’ needs in complementary vows? Or on the other hand, does equality mean total equivalence of needs and demand totally identical expression of that commitment?
Some couples want both the tradition and the equality and so elect to both obey each other. I think that is missing out on the best of both approaches. One chap lucidly and succinctly questioned each approach with different questions, “Where’s my engagement ring?” and “Who’s going to protect me?”