Friday, January 7, 2011

Women Proposing is Treated as Lesser

In today’s world it often seems like shifting gender roles have fallen behind modernization. Though traditional gender roles have eroded somewhat, many ideas of what girls and boys should do remain. Boys are most definitely treated differently from girls when they are born. Often, boys are still surrounded by blue and other “masculine” colors while girls find themselves among pink and “girly” colors. Despite many modern ideas about allowing boys and girls to find and be who they are regardless of their sex, many people feel as if they must do certain things to help form gender-related identities. Included in this are many things, but one that is perhaps most relevant to people around and above our age is proposing marriage.

Why? The idea of a woman proposing to a man throws many people off. On one hand the man is absolutely expected by society to be the one to ask the question. Beyond that there are what one might call logistical questions: does the man still buy a woman the ring if she is the one to ask? Does the woman go down on one knee or is that not allowed? Is it even smart for the woman to ask when it might possibly make a man feel emasculated? The sad thing is these questions that arise after we have accepted that a woman can propose to a man miss the point of feminism and female empowerment.

Our society may be at the point at which a woman “popping the question” is acceptable, but it has far to go before woman stand on equal footing with men. For one thing, if the woman asks the question, it seems to me she should bear the burden of whatever sign of engagement the couple chooses, like a ring. Yet, the popular opinion is that the man should buy the ring regardless of who asks the question. Another, somewhat superfluous issue is that many people seem to think a woman should absolutely not go down on one knee when asking. This is somehow forbidden as something only a man should do, though it makes very little sense to me either way. Finally, the idea that a woman asking the question would make a man feel like less of a man is ridiculously off point. To begin with, a woman willing to go against such a strong cultural norm doubtfully would be in a relationship with a man at risk of feeling less manly. Secondly, clearly the acceptance of women proposing requires some change in the societal idea of what is and is not “manly”. A woman proposing should not be considered to be acting in a man’s role – ideally a proposal should be viewed as a gender-neutral action acceptable for either gender to take on.

There are various “how-to’s” available on the web about how to propose, including specific directions for women proposing to men. These sites often seem to miss the whole point of a woman proposing, suggesting the three issues above as well as espousing the idea that a woman should only propose if she knows the answer beforehand to be yes, yet they do not necessarily require the same surety for men. Overall the expectation of a woman proposing is that she cannot expect the “conventional” proposal because the woman choosing to propose is in itself unconventional. And that is the issue. We allow for proposals from women, yet we force unequal ideas on those women, basically creating a situation in which a woman’s proposal is less respectable and spectacular than a man’s. Yes, a woman can propose, but they should not expect to be treated like a man is treated when he proposes. Honestly, the entire situation is angering; changing gender roles need to catch up with other modernization. The changing roles are a positive aspect of modernization and yet are held back by pathetic clinging to tradition.