By Mackenzie Pedersen, Staff Writer
Since the early 1900s, there has been a lot of change, especially in regard to women’s rights. This has been witnessed across a myriad of movements from women’s suffrage to the recent #MeToo movement. With the latest activist movements, we are at a point in time where women are emboldened! Women’s voices are being heard and people are understanding the injustices that women suffer through, day in and day out. With this enhanced sense of women empowerment, can women take charge of popping the question?
Beyoncé stated boldly, “‘Cause if you like it then you should have put a ring on it.” This serves as a statement to encourage men to take commitment seriously with their partners. This statement further empowered the ‘single ladies’ to be bold, and make it known that they want that long-term commitment. But then again, why do women have to wait for men to propose? Why don’t women propose to men?
To answer a very complex question in a simple way: culture.
In today’s western culture, stringent expectations of gender roles still run rampant. While many cultural expectations are beginning to be challenged, some are particularly stubborn. Weddings and proposals serve as an example of roles that remain gender role specific. As one woman stated, “Women are told both that the proposal means everything and that we have no control over whether or not it happens,” on her guest post of the online publication ‘A Practical Wedding’. She is an example of a woman who took the plunge and popped the life-changing question. For those wondering, her boyfriend said “Yes” without any hesitation to her proposal. After putting herself in the shoes of the proposal process, she began to understand the sheer weight of proposing. Not to mention the added stress associated with changing the status quo!
She feared that if she proposed, she would appear desperate and he would only say yes because he pitied her. This is supported by Lisa M.B., in her article on Brides about the five real reasons women can’t propose. Lisa’s first reason why is that “People pity you.” Friends and family say things like ‘aww, you had to propose to him?’ This makes women feel awful for even thinking about taking the initiative. Moreover, men proposing to women has been a tradition for hundreds of years. And people like tradition. People find it hopelessly romantic and crave the fairy tale proposals they see on the silver screen. Further, Lisa states that women can’t propose because “Men AND women saying that a woman proposing to her husband steals her husband’s masculinity.”
Women Face Pushback When They Look to Propose
Society is still dominated by masculine versus feminine, which is heavily reinforced in gender roles. During a CBS News interview with Katherine Parkin, she explained that “A woman who proposes also risks criticism for her boldness.” If a woman proposes, people see this act as a threat. It represents a threat not only to tradition and masculinity, but to expected femininity as well.
In her interview with the New York Times, Ms. Velazquez states that “Women traditionally want to be courted, and men still want to propose. Most men are not comfortable being asked.” She added: “Men can feel powerless or rushed.” Much of this is because women often feel ready to be engaged and move forward before men are. When a woman proposes, a man might think, “Why isn’t she waiting? I want to do it on my time,” as Ms. Velzquez further described.
Additionally, the man-asks-woman proposal tradition still reigns supreme. This tradition has even been updated to a more public art form. People can view proposals all over Facebook and YouTube. These sometimes feature flash mobs, scavenger hunts, proposals while skydiving, or in front of Cinderella’s castle. Proposing in exotic destinations are trending, too. Men are taking their soon-to-be betrothed to fabulous California beaches or on romantic vacations to Paris. With engagement rings symbolizing a man’s ability to provide, some are wondering if proposals are beginning to have the same meaning.
Good Luck on Leap Year
However, there is a tradition that has withstood hundreds of years where women can propose to men on Leap Year. Supposedly, the tradition began in Scotland: “[A]n unmarried Queen Margaret allegedly enacted a law in 1288 allowing women to propose on leap-year day.” Legend states that if a woman proposes to a man and he accepts, good luck will befall upon the couple. Additionally, if the gentleman refused, he was to provide the woman with some sort of payment. This payment was often enough to purchase material for a new skirt or women’s gloves.
However, like many situations where women take a traditional men’s role, it was met with excessive ridicule. This ridicule was seen in the form of postcards, ads and articles. These advertisements portrayed women with the intentions of proposing as desperate, aggressive and pitiful. Additionally, much like wedding traditions, proposals are founded in culture. Each culture offers its own tradition for how proposals are conducted. If you’d like to learn about other cultural traditions, check out these great articles:
- Proposal Customs From Around the World
- Marriage proposal customs from around the world
- On African Island: Only women are allowed to propose marriage
Social and Cultural Change Takes Time
This is not to say that women can’t propose, it is just uncommon. However, if you would like to see some great stories of women who have decided to make that decision for themselves, check out 7 Women On What It Was Like to Propose to Men or When Women Propose, This Is How It’s Done. Overall, there’s nothing wrong with being a woman and wanting to be asked. Some women argue that ladies are often ready for marriage long before their guys are, and when they finally propose, it shows that they are ready. Additionally, if you are a woman who wants to propose, go for it! It all depends on what you want out of the experience and the dynamics of your relationship.