Feminists are insufferable: The latent sexism of the male marriage proposal

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The Week: When I got engaged earlier this year, well-meaning friends excitedly asked “how he proposed” — and then immediately looked at my left hand.
I’ve been told I can thank the Archduke Maximilian of Austria, who proposed to Mary of Burgundy with a diamond ring in 1477, for such instincts. But maybe I should thank the originators: the prehistoric men who demonstrated their control over women by tying braided grass around their wrists and ankles.
You’d think the obvious sexism of the modern proposal would rankle my progressive friends. Yes, plenty of brides have men in their bridal parties, more and more women are ditching the “virginal” white dress, and guys aren’t running to ask their fiancees’ fathers for “permission” to marry them anymore. But our culture still, overwhelmingly, pushes the traditional male proposal: down on one knee, with a sparkly diamond (and often a flash mob) in tow.
Tracy Clark-Flory at Salon argues that the male proposal is “a culturally sanctioned time for a man to show his tenderness.” But the tradition pushes stereotypical gender roles: The “tender” man is still in control of the situation, while the woman is forced to take a passive role. And if a woman proposes to a man, it’s seen as emasculating.
It’s not just men pushing the tradition, either: A 2012 study at the University of California, Santa Cruz, found that two-thirds of heterosexual students, both male and female, were “definitely” in favor of the male marriage proposal. A recent study by The Knot and Men’s Health found that 76 percent of men think they should go down on one knee to propose. And a poll by The Associated Press found that just 5 percent of current American marriages began with a female proposal.
The engagement ring is a sort of 21st-century dowry in the Western world, too. The traditional two-month salary rule not only signals a man’s interest in spending a life with his partner, it inadvertently sets the relationship up for a lifetime of inequality. It’s vestigial sexism at which no one seems to blink.
If anything, women are more to blame for the sexism of the male proposal. Instagram and Facebook posts of sparkly rings — complete with the obligatory “oohs” and “aahs” — perpetuate the idea that women’s affections can be purchased.
So maybe it’s time for couples to rethink the meaning of engagement rings and male proposals. In a society where many wives work and keep their last names, the male proposal seems terribly antiquated.
Of course, as many traditionalists will be quick to note, the modern proposal isn’t as one-sided as it was: Women are permitted to “drop hints” about their desires to get engaged, joking about diamond cuts and offering peeks at their dream proposals. And women still have the power to decline the offer. But if the fantasy “proposal” is a symbolic gesture, with couples often discussing marriage before the event, why are we holding onto it, and what, exactly, is it a symbol of?

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0 responses to “Feminists are insufferable: The latent sexism of the male marriage proposal

  1. This idiocy just keeps flowing,doesn’t it?

  2. To Meghan DeMaria, The Week‘s staff writer who authored this rant:
    With all the problems in this country and the world, *this* is what gets your panties all twisted into a wad? Seriously?

  3. two months salary? ha…. he did it with less, had cash, and received a discount. …no down one knee though. He told me… This is as good as time as any….

  4. It’s a shame that these militant females want to take the romance out of EVERYTHING that’s beautiful between a man and a woman. If they prefer to be treated like a man they are free to have at it but they should keep their BS to themselves. If the engagement tradition was so offensive to people I doubt it would have lasted as long as it has. Some of us still love being treated as a feminine woman by our men.

    • Thank you Northerngirl. There are still a few of us old school romantic men around. Feminazi or Feminine woman???? The latter wins out every time for this hopeless romantic dude.

  5. If they prefer to be treated like a man they are free to have at it but they should keep their BS to themselves.

    That would take the fun out of it for them. Their whole reason for existing is to rant about how oppressed they are: an ill-concealed bid for privileges, immunity from criticism, and control over men (and women who refuse to buy their line).
    Contemporary feminism is nothing but a power play. Fortunately, smart women are seeing it for exactly that. In a generation or two mention of it will likely evoke only knowing nods and comments about “how stupid they were.” (Hopefully not “how stupid we were.”)

  6. Why would anyone with half brain demean a man for this wonderful, tender show of affection? Please, God save us all from these misguided half-wits. From time to time I look at my mother’s wedding rings (which were not buried with her.) Yes, they are not some fantastic show of bling, but somehow they survived the 42 years they were together here on this earth; and they are sweet, and wonderful, and represented the best my father had to offer at the time. I wish I had asked either of my parents how my father proposed to my mother. In hindsight, I now think of so many things I wish I would have asked when I got the chance.

  7. there’s a reason we have traditions and cultures…because they work. These idiot libs trying to change everything will simply end up with the same result; pregnancy and out of wedlock babies. Marriage is designed to protect the woman and child(ren). If they shun marriage traditions then they shouldn’t marry and if they really want to shun tradition all together, then they should get sterilized so they can’t pass their ignorance to the next generation. This is a prime example of how previous generations understood a lot more than today’s generation…even with technology.

    • Civilization… some folk (e.g., various progressive idjiots) will only miss it when it’s gone and not one minute before then.


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