Brace yourselves – an onslaught of cringey ‘I proposed to my boyfriend’ media stories is imminent.
Yep, it’s a Leap Year. And February 29th, as everyone knows, is the only time women are allowed to play a powerful role in determining the future of their relationships. *eyeroll*
Well, I think it’s about time this ridiculously outdated custom went the way of fax machines and scrunchies (i.e. filed under ‘embarrassing’ in the history books).
Look, I know not everyone is a fan of marriage. Personally, I have no strong feelings either way. If ritual and a legally binding contract are important to you, that’s terrific. If you don’t feel a wedding is integral to the integrity and longevity of your relationship, that’s great too. What I do have strong feelings about, however, is the way that a marriage certificate is held up as a badge of honour and a measure of success for women. And that’s what’s really going on underneath this whole ‘waiting to be proposed to’ caper, I suspect.
When a woman gets engaged, we rush in with comments like: ‘finally!’, ‘took him long enough!’ and ‘he put a ring on it!’ We never ask the woman whether it was her idea, or why she felt it was time to tie the knot (because she jumped at the chance to get married, obviously… that’s what every girl dreams of, right?!). Equally, we never congratulate a man for his ‘patience’ or applaud him for ‘wearing his partner down’.
And for those women who do take the opportunity to propose, on February 29 or any other day, it’s treated as an oddity – something that warrants a newspaper or magazine story in which the woman justifies her (somewhat pushy) behaviour, and the man is gently asked how he felt about it (because, you know, emasculation).
Oh, I know what you’re thinking – it’s TRADITION for the man to do the proposing. But if a tradition harks back to a time when women had no power to determine their own futures, and when their security (financial, social and physical) was dependent on being awarded a wedding ring, is it really worth striving to uphold?
As recently as 2012, an (admittedly limited) study from the University of California Santa Cruz of 277 men and women found that 0 per cent of respondents wanted the woman in their relationship to do the proposing. Let me repeat that for emphasis… ZERO per cent! Yikes.
A while back a wise friend of mine made the clever observation that the most likely reason many women are eager to have their man get down on bended knee is because we want to be CHOSEN. We want to be able to declare that we’ve been selected by someone and deemed worthy of shared cohabitation forevermore. In short, in the year 2016 many of us still feel we need a glittery ring to affirm our value. This really bothers me.
It bothers me in the first instance because the notion that it’s a man’s job to propose is sexist, and that’s a gender inequality being perpetuated by both men AND women. Furthermore, as someone committed to helping people discover and develop their self-worth, I feel uncomfortable about this because it implies that there are a lot of women who still believe their value in this world is determined by their ability to attract and maintain a long-term relationship. On top of that, it bothers me because it would suggest many women believe gaining someone else’s approval is the only legitimate way for them to feel like they matter – which is waaaaay too much pressure to put on your partner, BTW. Let me make this very clear: if you treat someone as your anchor, they will drown.
And, finally, it also bothers me because it means many women see themselves as lacking power when it comes to the future of their primary relationships. ICYMI: you are the only one in charge of your future. If you can’t ask the person nearest and dearest to you for what you want, how can you expect to create a life you can be proud of? There will always be times in a partnership when one person’s needs will come before the other’s, but that will fluctuate. A healthy relationship is a mutual distribution of power. If you don’t feel like you have a say in the very big question of if and when you will become Mr and Mrs, perhaps you need to ask yourself some other big questions about your relationship’s future.