Why Is It Still A Rarity For Women To Propose Marriage To Men?
“He said yes!” These are words we seldom hear when it comes to marriage proposals. Even today it is a rarity for women to propose marriage to men, and the obligation of posing the question, with a ring and entailing fanfare, thus falls mostly on men. So, what keeps women from proposing to their partners? Have we internalised patriarchal ideology in this department, which make us see marriage proposal as a man’s duty? Or are women simply afraid of hurting their partner’s ego?
- It’s 2019, and we still don’t see a lot of heterosexual women propose marriage to their partners.
- Are they afraid of hurting their partner’s ego?
- Or is it that women still haven’t found a way out of gendered conditioning?
- Who proposed to whom? Shouldn’t this be based on who made up their mind first, rather than the gender?
There was this episode in the sitcom FRIENDS, where Phoebe goes on to propose to her boyfriend Mike at a basketball game and the latter gets booed. When I was young, it used to seem funny, but now, I find myself asking, just what was so wrong with a woman proposing to her boyfriend?
US Senator Elizabeth Warren shared a heartfelt anecdote about how she came to realise she wanted to marry her now husband of 39 years, Bruce Mann. She wrote, “One day at the grocery store soon after we first met, I saw Bruce gazing at the strawberry display. I said, “We can get some if you want!” He smiled, picked up a carton, and told me he was thinking about his family. “We didn’t eat things like fresh strawberries,” he explained. It made me think about my family, too, how my mother would work her grocery list to squeeze out every last nickel. In that moment, I knew Bruce and I would be bound to each other forever. And when I proposed to him, he said yes. Happy anniversary, Bruce! I love you.”
There was this episode in the sitcom FRIENDS, where Phoebe goes on to propose to her boyfriend Mike at a basketball game and the latter gets booed. When I was young, it used to seem funny, but now, I find myself asking, just what was so wrong with a woman proposing her boyfriend? The problem is that both men and women see proposing a marital alliance as a man’s job. It is for him to take the lead, and thus set a precedent for their alliance, where he leads and she follows. While the equation maybe changing in modern partnerships, when it comes to traditions like proposing marriage, we stick to the basics.
Like fixing a broken door, or changing the light bulb or paying the taxes, men have been conditioned into plastering their sexuality and masculinity with these ‘duties’ and ripping that them off naturally hurts.
Over the centuries, the romanticisation of this whole ‘man gets down on one knee with a ring in his hand’ has in fact made women fall in love with the said idea. This is how they want it to be, because this fits in their definition of romance. They want to be asked ‘The’ question, instead of themselves going ahead and asking it. But it’s not as if it is just one gender at fault. The male ego plays a big spoilsport here too, as it does in many other aspects of a heterosexual relationship.
Just like women, even men think that it is their job to get down on one knee and propose to their partner. Like fixing a broken door, or changing the light bulb or paying the taxes, men have been conditioned into plastering their sexuality and masculinity with these ‘duties’ and ripping that them off naturally hurts.
Gender equality in relationships also means to get rid of all kinds of conditioning and give your partner an equal footing. It also means to realign your understanding of gender to be accommodating and understanding. And this works both ways, as men and women are its victims to a similar extent, albeit on different parameters. Films and advertisements may want us to believe that a marriage proposal is only memorable and romantic if it unfolds in a certain way. But that’s not true. Every relationship is unique, so why should the proposals be so generic? Who proposes to whom, should this depend on who gets struck by the lightening first, i.e. who feels like taking the lead or on the politics of gender? Marriage has long been shackled by stereotypes, which keep heterosexual couples from steering their relationship in the direction they want to. Why not release your love from it by taking the lead and pose the big question because you want to and you can?
Picture Credit: Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash
Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are author’s own.