Why can’t he be the one to say “Yes I Do?”

Yes I do

Yes I do

Why can he not be the one to say “Yes I Do”? The question of who should propose marriage is a debatable question in which men almost always triumph. In most societies, men are the ones to propose. However, in some isolated cases women propose. For instance, there is an unconventional custom in the U.S. whereby women propose to men during a leap year. Furthermore, women may also propose marriage when men have taken too long to do so in a relationship or they are not courageous enough to face the woman and say, “will you marry me?” In these situations, women who are courageous may take action.

This research paper attempts to address the issue of marriage proposal by considering men’s and women’s views on the issue. The problem to be addressed is whether it is right for women to propose to men. The question is, “Will men be comfortable with women proposing?” Some men think that women who ask men to marry them are desperate, unfeminine and aggressive. Some women also prefer to wait for men to propose no matter how urging their need for marriage is. They think that getting married is romantic if men propose to them while they are down on one knee (Forde, 2013). There are also those women who find no problem with proposing. This research paper expounds on this problem and provides a basis on which men and women view the issue of marriage proposal.

According to theories of gender issues, men and women are two “items” that are socially constructed in today’s society. For many women, a romantic marriage proposal is the highlight and beginning of a marriage life, but for men, it is a time of expectations.

In order to determine whether it is right for women to propose in marriage, it is important to outline some of the traditional roles of men and women in a relationship and the intimate gender inequalities that exist between men and women. Arguably, women view a romantic marriage proposal as an important element in the beginning of a marriage life because of their feminine role in relationships and marriage. Parkin (2012) argues that if a woman asks for a man’s hand in marriage, it would make her look less womanly and the man less manly. On the part of men, marriage proposal is just a time of expectation. Parkin (2012) says that an ideal marriage proposal is characterised by men asking women to marry them from bended knee. This aspect is romantic for the woman, and for the man it is just an expectation for the beginning of a marriage life. Parkin (2012) also argues that it seems unromantic for a woman to ask for a man’s hand in marriage.

Another role of women in relationships and marriage is determined by their dependence on men economically. This traditional economic dependence of women on men compels women to wait for men to propose marriage to them (Stets & Burke, 2000). Culture and custom has emphasized women’s traditional roles as wives and mothers. Such cultures do not encourage women to train for work in order to be economically equal to men.

The role of men and women in American culture has established a status quo which has forced women to accept what is offered to them instead of asking for what they could if they had the privilege to do so. Proposal in marriage has been considered as an exclusive role and right of men as an intractable element of romance for women and a time of expectation for men. Women consider romance and individual choice as important factors in marriage decisions. However, for men marriage proposal is just an expectation of their role as primary economic providers in marriage life.

The economic power of men contributes to the role of men as decision makers in relationships. Women are considered as subordinates to men, and they take what men decide and provide in marriage. The economic power of men encourages the role of men as decision makers in relationships. The role of men as decision makers in relationships is demonstrated in various issues of a relationship such as from courtship, dances, phone calls and dating, and such roles of men cannot be violated when it comes to a time of marriage proposal and the entire matrimonial life (Illouz, 1997). Traditionally, women are only dependent in matrimonial issues.

Traditionally, romantic love was considered as an element of a relationship. This was common in the 19th century. However, during the 20th century this role of romantic love was transformed in men into a fearful and angry rejection of it. Men developed the notion that women were anxious to marry; hence men considered them as too emotional to be entrusted in selecting a man for a soul mate (Probst, 2012). Men were considered to lose more than gain during marriage; hence they assumed the role of decision making in relationships and the final matrimonial decisions beginning with marriage proposal.

The issue of the leap year is a customary practice which allows women to ask for men’s hand in marriage, disrupting the role of gender in relationships. The concept of leap year courtship began in early 1900s. By giving women the power to propose, the leap year created a shift of traditional power from men to women. According to Parkin (2012), this power seemed ridiculous.

The leap year custom also gave women economic power by allowing them to have the economic means to ask men to marry them (Parkin, 2012). This was demonstrated in the front cover of post cards. Women used money to lure men into a marriage trap. Furthermore, women used power and coercive force during the leap year to get men to marry them. This is shown in the front cover picture of a postcard as shown below.

Women are empowered during the leap year to have strength and power to force men into marriage. However, Parkin (2012) suggests that this is a false empowerment for women. In fact, it undermines their efforts to control their matrimonial life. Like many other liberties of women, leap year’s women empowerment in marriage proposal is just a mockery. Parkin (2012) also argues that the leap year women empowerment is a valve of safety for women in their frustrations of being dependent on men. As a result, the leap year helped to reinforce traditional gender roles. Men remain to be decision makers in relationships and marriage while women remain to be dependent on in all economic and matrimonial issues.

This reflects intimate gender inequalities. Intimate inequalities are reflected in the story of Yone Noguchi. This Japanese immigrant in USA faced rampant racism from whites in form of repressive legislation, daily assaults and pejorative depiction (Sueyoshi, 2010). His marriage with two white women and one white man were hardly approved in US. American laws did not allow whites and non-whites to marry and revoked American citizenship of women who married nonwhites. Sueyoshi (2010) argues that friendship and love are attracted to racialized and gendered meanings. American women became casualties as inequalities based on gender and race increased.

There are various social entities including gender views on marriage life and reasons for women not to propose marriage. Women view romantic marriage proposal as a beginning of marriage life while men view marriage proposals as just but a time of expectations. Vannini (2004) argues that modern consumer culture plays a significant role in the ritual of marriage proposal. The growth of capitalism and consumer culture has led to the commodification of love, which is highly demanded by a specific market segment – women. Specifically, the ritual of marriage proposal is a reflection of the commodification of human feelings (Vannini, 2004). Feeling is considered as a social act in which participants express themselves emotionally and perceive their emotions in a socially appropriate way. As a result, marriage proposal makes us become integral part of the society. For men in this integral society, marriage proposal is an expectation of symbolic interaction which enables them to understand future family and relationship processes as decision makers. Women consider it as a commodity of human feelings which romantically adds flavour to marriage life.

There are two reasons why women do not propose marriage: feminism and fear of shame and ridicule. As suggested by Parkin (2012), if women propose to men it would make them less womanly. This is as far as traditional views of marriage are concerned. Women who propose marriage are reflected as being unfeminine. Therefore, they should avoid proposing marriage in order to show their femininity.

According to the role of gender, it is apparently clear that women act as subordinates of men. Women depend on men economically and in terms of matrimonial decisions. These are feminine activities which make them to prefer waiting for men to propose. Parkin (2012) also observes that the feminine characteristic of being romantic and emotional makes men to prefer to assume the responsibilities of decision making in relationships. This is because women are too emotional to make decisions concerning the person they would wish to marry. In this case, the role of men as economic providers and matrimonial decision makers is essentially the reason why men propose marriage.

Another reason why men propose marriage is because women perceive that it is unromantic for them to propose marriage. Parkin (2012) suggests that women feel emotional and romantic when a man goes down on his knee to propose marriage. Therefore, if men propose marriage it becomes romantic to women and signifies the beginning of marriage life. As a decision maker and economic provider in matrimonial life, men consider marriage proposal as their role since it is an expectation for their future roles as economic providers and decision makers in marriage.

Women also prefer to wait for men to propose marriage because if they propose, they would be seen as aggressive and desperate. As a result, they would attract ridicule and become ashamed of themselves. Women who propose are undermined in the society because they are considered as people who have assumed responsibilities that are not part of their subscriptions in the society. So they get nothing but pure ridicule and shame. Moreover, men and women are two “items” that are socially constructed in today’s society and each one of them should carry out their roles and responsibilities as prescribed by the society’s norms and traditions.

One of the counterarguments of this view is the unconventional view of women proposing during the leap year. In this case, women are allowed to propose to men during the leap year which falls after every four years. In this period, women are also allowed to have economic power over men. The argument in this perspective is that women can work and earn income to become economically powerful and equal to men, so they can also assume the responsibility of making decisions in relationships and marriage e.g. marriage proposal.

Another argument is that of intimate and gender equality in which women can have control of their marriage destiny as equally as men. Sueyoski (2010) suggests that in the current world, women have the ability to chosose their marriage partner from any racial background and make decisions in the relationship.

In conclusion, it is clear that women and men have exclusively different roles in relationships and marriage. As such, they cannot be treated as equals. Both of them have rights in marriage, but their duties and responsibilities are also separable. Since men and women are two “items” that are socially constructed in today’s society, men and women have different roles in relationships and marriage. Men are decision makers in matrimonial and economic matters while women are dependent on men on such issues. Therefore, men should propose marriage to men. A romantic marriage proposal for women is that which is made by the man, and it signifies the beginning of marriage. For men, it is but a time of expectations.


Works cited

Allman, J. Rounding up Spinsters: Gender Chaos and Unmarried Women in Colonial Asante. The Journal of African History, vol. 37, no. 2, 1996, pp. 195-214

Forde, Katie. A Perfect Proposal. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2013. Print.

Illouz, Eva. Consuming the Romantic Utopia: Love and the Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism. Berkeley: University of California Publishing. 1997. Print.

Lee, Miranda. The Ruthless Marriage Proposal. Richmond: Mills & Boon, 2007. Print.

Parkin, Katherine. “Glittering Mockery”: Twentieth-Century Leap Year Marriage Proposals.  Journal of Family History, vol. 37, no. 1, 2012, pp. 85-104.

Probst, Jennifer. The Marriage Trap. New York: Gallery Books, 2012. Print.

Stets, J. E., & Burke, P.J. Identity theory and social identity theory. Social Psychology Quarterly, vol. 63, 2000, pp. 224-237.

Sueyoshi, Amy. “Intimate inequalities: interracial affection and same-sex love in the Heterosexual life of Yone Noguchi, 1897-1909.” Journal of American Ethnic History,    vol. 29, no. 4, 2010, pp. 22-44.

Vannini, Phillip. “Will You Marry Me? Spectacle and Consumption in the Ritual of Marriage proposals.” Journal of popular culture, vol. 38, no. 1, 2004, pp. 139-185.

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