Friday, December 8, 2006

Servitude and Obeyance

When I got married, that whole, "love, honour and obey" part was intentionally left in our wedding vows, especially the "obey" part. My vows. It turns out that my husband didn't think he needed to say his part, but that, unfortunately is a choice he made in the moment.

MY choice was to leave it in.

Not because I think women should live in total subservience to men. Oh no, thank you very much for my post-feminist-movement education at a fine Canadian University, I know better than to think a woman is owned or that she should live in total subjugation to any man.

I left that one word, "obey" in my vows of marriage (I'm sure to the shock and horror of some of my school friends & relatives) because I believed I was entering into an agreement to live a life with someone whereby I would love, and be loved, enough to feel secure enough to want to make them happy...thereby doing as they ask, whatever they ask. Secure enough in the thought that they would never ask me to do something that made me feel uncomfortable, dishonoured or disembodied.

With the willingness to offer servitude to any person with whom you are bound, or feel bound, comes a great price...the responsibility of the other person NOT to abuse or neglect your offering.

I believe that when someone crosses the line, dishonours you or your intentions, the vow/promise/agreement is already broken, and there is no further need for you to choose to make good on what it is that you my case obeyance.

However, I also believe it IS possible to find someone with whom you are able to experience that level of trust. Not everyone on this earthly plane is going to find someone they can or are able to find this level of intimacy and trust with...but when you's magical.

I had a discussion recently with my closest of closest friends, and I told him that IF I lived in a country where it would honour my husband to walk ten feet behind him, and IF he treated me well at home, in front of my children, in our culture and in his heart, I would find no difficulty in walking ten feet behind him...not because I am less of a person for being a woman and having to walk that far behind him, but because it would please me to please him and not harm his honour within our culture to do so. I could do this with ease of heart for being fully appreciated in his eyes, and through his actions.

Lack of appreciation within a relationship is the ONE thing that can bring about that relationship's demise. As well lack of appreciation may bring about the demise of the choice to continue to serve your spouse/partner/soul-mate lovingly and live in obeyance. To serve someone is a choice. To be served by someone who loves you is a privilege. Not a Right. It is a gift.

There is a level of self-servience that needs to be preserved when a fundamental lack of appreciation, love or support is given freely from your life-partner.

However, when the vitality of loving appreciation and support exists in a life, that life, when shared, is vibrant, full, intoxicating and a place where the realms of true-sharing, obeyance and servitude can be explored.

Where my service is of no pleasing, and my gifts not appreciated or supported...I still offer my thanks for the experience, and walk away.

In this lifetime, I enjoy the gifts that my service, or servitude, brings to those I love.


Sammy-Sam said...

Regardless why you would choose to follow 10 paces behind your man, you are still giving an outward sign to the world that you condone/support the subservience of women in various cultures of the world. Please understand that though you may "choose" this type of behaviour, other women are not afforded that choice. Yes, we have a serious responsibility to our own happiness and fulfillment but we also have a greater responsibility, if our intention truly is to "serve," in NOT supporting, in ANY way, the subservience of women. Your husband should feel the same way. If he truly reveres you, he would never ask nor expect you to EVER walk even 1/2 a pace behind him, regardless the cultural baggage. In fact, if he was worthy of any respect at all, he would have you walk beside him, as his true partner, DESPITE the cultural norm. Either that, or he'd get you the friggin' heck out of the danger zone, toute friggin' suite. It's that simple.

Gypsy Princessa said...

Thank you for your comments. I appreciate your point of view.

You begin your comments with "Regardless [of] why you would choose to follow 10 paces behind your man,..." which ignores completely the REASONS why I make this argument and jumps straight to what you perceive as my condoning this kind of subservience. My REASONS for taking this stand are vital to the stand itself.

I am not suggesting that ALL women follow 10 paces behind their men. I set out what I consider dynamic criteria as to why I would BE ABLE to follow 10 paces behind my man IF, AND ONLY IF, I was afforded the kind of respect and love that would endear me to WANT to not shame my man in that kind of cultural context.

I also make an argument for when and why I think servitude and obeyance is no longer a choice or necessary.

I am not condoning the NON-choice of women.

Interestingly, I agree with you...I think that IF a person (a man) loves a woman in this manner...he probably wouldn't WANT her walking 10 paces behind, and so think many of my male (post-feminist, Canadian, liberally educated) friends and relatives.

However, in some cultures it doesn't matter what you WANT and my argument is...IF afforded the kindness, love and respect at home, in a culture that demands this kind of outward subservience, me personally, I could do it.

I'm not suggesting anyone else could or should or would.

And yes, we would hope that if in fact we lived in this kind of place, in this kind of danger, that our man would get us out "toute suite".

On a larger scale, I would hope that we have enough love, kindness and respect between ourselves to feel good about serving one another, lovingly...male or female.

Sammy-Sam said...

I understand fully well the reasons you outlined for choosing to walk behind your man, etc. I did NOT "skip" over them. For the sake of brevity, I chose to get to my point which still remains unaddressed in your rebuttal i.e. the message your actions would send to all women, all over the world. Servitude is not something that we always do on a singular basis. Servitude also comprises accepting responsibility for the welfare (either physically, emotionally, or otherwise) of more than just our spouse, our kids, and our friends. The choices we make have much further reaching repercussions than that and sometimes, though it may give us a "warm and fuzzy" on a more nuclear level to choose one thing, we still have a responsibility to the greater good. To make a choice such as the one you outlined is therefore, at least to me, more SELF-serving than serving. That was the point I was trying to make in my earlier comment.

Gypsy Princessa said...

Once again, I appreciate your approach and your comments.

My message is not to women alone...service to one another, as human beings, regardless of gender, IS for the greater good.

However, in hostile evironments, I see no reason to serve anyone. Self-protection moves to the forefront.

WE currently live in a world that is completely and utterly Self-serving.

Perhaps I should add that if we lived in a culture where it is expected that men walk 10 paces behind their women, I would like to think that I would love, honour and respect my man enough in our home and elsewhere, that he would want, and offer, to walk 10 paces behind me...but that, me being me, would not expect it. I would allow him that choice.

I think you are right...there are repurcussions to each of our self-serving choices.

But, they are choices.

I realize there are women in the world WITHOUT choices, or feel they are without choices and are forced, culturally, politically, socially and personally, to do things like cover their faces and walk 10 paces behind their men. I'm not suggesting this way of living is correct or judging it as incorrect. I am merely saying that with the right kind of love, honour and respect, I personally would have no problem adhering to those cultural expectations (no matter what my logical Western post-feminist mind thinks of those expectations.)

There is great joy, under the right circumstances, to be found in serving one another.

My message, as I said earlier, isn't to women alone.

However, if my blog IS to be directed at women and women alone, then I applaud women for whatever choices they want to make for themselves, including your choice to disagree with me.
If that means saying f***you to doing anything for anyone but themselves, so be it...more evidence of the world we currently live in (self-effacing self-service.) Or, if that means embracing whatever pleasure a woman (or man) may find or give in her (or his) service to her (his) nuclear world, or to the world at large, so be's her (his) choice.

I hope (really hope) that in situations where women feel that they are unable to make choices that their journey through life (as tumultous or devastating as it can be) brings them to a point where they know they can, and are able to make choices for themselves.

This is mine.

Gypsy Princessa said...

And I really do know how to spell "repercussions" not "repurcussions" properly...I was on my lunch break and typing fast. oops on the typo.

Sammy-Sam said...

You're very clear and well-written so, it is fairly straightforward to understand what is your intent in the entry. And please don't get me wrong. I applaud what seems to be your enlightened approach/understanding to/of the various topics you broach in this venue.

My original intent was to compel you to revisit that one decision you surmise you would be able to make, given the right conditions. My contention is still the same. Without meaning to sound patronizing or insulting, I believe statements like that are at best, limited and ill-considered, or at worst, irresponsible.

You are afforded the ability to make that choice, should it ever arise, by virtue of the fact that you were not born into/raised in that type of culture. Our society has been at least attempting to drag itself out of this type of cultural dogma over the past century. The cultures of the world that prescribe an (at best) outward show of subservience by women, rarely permit women that same choice.

The significance of this, for me at least, is compounded by yet another point. Consider that if indeed the ideal conditions you outlined existed, and somehow you found yourself in that type of society. What if your mate then ceases to respect and/or revere you? By your own reasoning, this would absolve you of any further responsibility to servitude within the relationship, and rightfully so. The problem however arises when you try to extract yourself from this now defunct contract. In a culture such as that, you would not be permitted to leave. Your choice would no longer exist. At that point, if you attempted to NOT walk behind your man by x number of paces, you might easily be beaten or worse yet, stoned.

Perhaps you could rationalize that to yourself as a direct result of your own choice. Even further, perhaps you would be able to sustain the injuries as a type of spiritual/mental trial. How would you rationalize it to the children you mention? The same children by the way who would also not be permitted to leave, should they be female.

Again, I understand the intent of your entry was not to provoke a debate on the right of choice. I am also fully aware that you intended the remark as an example to portray your beliefs re servitude. Unfortunately however statements such as yours, that basically amount to you stating you would give up your rights as not only a woman but as a human being, can and will provoke some. Human rights are not something to be thrown away, regardless the personal journey. Too many of your ancestors and contemporaries have suffered inordinate amounts in an effort to grant and protect you, and your children, those rights.

I apologize if my comments seem abrasive. They are not meant to be. I have a way of putting my foot in my mouth when I'm worried about someone I hold in extremely high esteem.

By the way, never worry about typos or spelling errors. Your points are clear and well-considered. Anyone partially educated should be capable of understanding your entries, even if they were riddled with error (which I'm sure they never would be.)

One last thing. Have you figured out who I am yet? If so, do you still love me? I hope so.....

Gypsy Princessa said...

You don't happen to work for the military, do you?

Are you an abrasive desk-jockey? Sexy but cute?

Anyway, I appreciate the argument about my not being raised in a culture where, if I wanted to choose to leave this life of outward servitude, I may be stoned to death. Me being me...I'd be stoned to death. And perhaps you're right...I shouldn't surmise to know what servitude means to those that are forced into it.

I happen to live a life, and in a culture, whereby I AM afforded choices and I take those choices seriously, responsibly and completely well-considered.

However, you make a good argument for a culture and a life that I have NOT experienced, and can't pretend to understand fully. I stand argued with, and perhaps this once, won over.

Having said that...I still like to serve those I love, fully, completely and with unadulterated affection.

Yorkshire puddings anyone?