In an event apparently initiated by the Women’s Resource Center and Utopiana Association, about 30 women and a few male supporters marched through Yerevan and burried the “red apple”. The procession was stopped by the police but was allowed to continue after some negotiations. The participants of the march disseminated posters to onlookers that read “Don’t give up and think you’re powerless”, “Women need equal rights, opportunities and a life free of violence, not flowers on March 8th”.
Some real red apples symbolizing the tradition were buried in the backyard of the Women’s Resource Center at the end of the march.
The whole concept of the ‘red apple’ comes from the tradition to show the bedsheets stained by blood left by a bride on her wedding night, to the relatives of the groom to demonstrate the fact that the bride was a virgin. If relatives on the groom’s side are satisfied with their observations of the bloody badsheets (gross!), they send a bowl of red apples to the bride’s parents’ house.
I have known cases when the bride turned back to her parents for missing the virginity marks. Meanwhile, men are expected to have some sexual experience before they get married. It is almost the responsability of the groom’s friends to make sure he spends some time with a prostitute before the marriage.
Hence, the traditon of the ‘red apple’ is yet another sign of double-standards excercised in the Armenian society. Moreover, even vague understanding of human biology, makes me feel, that this tradition has over time also become a health hazard to many Armenian girls and boys.
Admittedly, the ‘red apple’ made perfect sence in the old days when the tradition was instituted. We all know, that in old Armenia young people would get married when they were just kids, at the age of 13-15 years. Hence, keeping virginity at least to that age made perfect sence and was even necessary.
Today, as the modern society and the need to get education have shifted the age for marraige by at least 10 years, and when young people get married at 23-25 at most cases, often even later, the requirement for young girls to remain virgins has become dangerous for their health.
The problem is, that the modern reality requires girls to get education, work, make a carrer and while the society keeps looking down on premarital sax, the hormones, the genetic structure of the young body demand sex, and failure to fulfil this very human need has to inevitably result in health hazards.
I can further speculate, that the fact Armenian girls are often too hairy is a direct consequence of the inability for the young body to get necessary hormones generated during sex. So the girl’s body compensates it by producing more testesterone, which results in more hair… mmm, this is just a speculation, ok?
Now, as to the boys. At the age of 13-14 they start feeling the need for sex (for one thing, I did feel that need even earlier). And what are the options? The girls at their age are usually unavailable, because they have to remain virgins to meet the ‘red apple’ requirement, remember? So what’s the easy thing to do – go to the whores, of course! And that’s when the young, inexperienced kids, unaware of basic health and safety issues meet prostitutes (they are called sex-workers these days) full of germs and bugs, of which ‘tripper’ and ‘hepatytes’ are just the lesser of evils, and ‘syphilis’ reigns, and HIV/AIDs is often a possibility.
Ten years later these boys become man enough to marry the girls who were supposed to have stayed virgins. And we have a generation – conteminated with veneral deseases and unsatisfied sexual needs.
Considering all of this, all I can do is ask – do we really need this? What is the point of this virginity rite, after all? I’m not against the red apple tradition, nor am I against the symbolic white dress of the bride. Use it as a symbol as much as you like, but this virginity thing is just outrageous.
I must confess, that this post was inspired by Onnik Krikoryan’s excellent article about the event with accompanying photos, as well as the discussion that has taken shape there. I have also included a podcast of RFE/RL’s MaxLiberty program, which cover’s the ‘red apple burrial’ and has interviews with the participants of the event and the bloggers, namely Pigh, who came to make fun of it. Pigh has also posted his own account of the events, which are quite funny, I have to admit!