In a new ad, Jared the Galleria of Diamonds urges women to “Dare to ask.” The ask in question is a marriage proposal. In the 15-second ad, a woman drops to one knee before her man on a fancy balcony and presents a ring that he accepts, then displays to a crowded restaurant.
I get the idea here. But, honestly, no. Just no.
Men should propose to women, not the other way around. I know that’s controversial in 2018, and I do not hold cheap the marriages that no doubt exist in which some young woman summoned her inner Bette Davis and popped the question. But there really are good, sound, and sensible reasons this tradition exists.
Before getting into those reasons, let’s get something out of the way. Yes, the practice of men asking women to marry them is rooted in a dark past in which women were sometimes viewed as not much more than property to be bartered for kingdoms, fortunes, or cows. But every custom that exists in our culture, every norm, was crafted in the crucible of unimaginable bigotry, violence, and cruelty. That doesn’t mean they all deserve the dustbin.
Before progressives start throwing tomatoes at me and yelling about equality, let me bring up a word they often use: consent. There was a time, and it wasn’t that long ago, when sex before marriage was considered, well, bad. In no small way, historically, when a man asks a woman to marry him, he is asking if he can have sex with her. This ritual, this rite of passage for consent is a powerful symbol for young men.
The cultural norm that it is the man who asks to engage in courtship is an important one. It teaches men that a woman’s consent is more important than his desires. It places immeasurable value on the word “yes,” as in “she said yes.” With all due respect to the ad copy guys at Jared’s agency, I’m not sure they understand what cultural forces they are playing with in attempting to upend that to sell a few rings. Now that I mention it: if a man isn’t a member of the Rat Pack or Rudy Giuliani, wearing a diamond ring is a little weird.
In addition to reinforcing the concept of consent, the male marriage proposal is a traditional culmination of the passage of boyhood into manhood. Just as there is nothing wrong with little girls dreaming of looking stunning in their wedding dresses, there is nothing wrong with little boys imagining that they have won a girl’s heart and earned her hand in marriage.
Women are not without means to make clear that they want a proposal. Even in today’s world, where people swipe their way through myriad sex with strangers, women can still nudge, cajole, or flat out demand a proposal. As Beyoncé taught us, if you liked it then you should have put a ring on it.
The desire of most men to find a woman he loves and have that reciprocated and confirmed through acceptance of a marriage proposal is deep and powerful. In taking that away from a man to uphold equality for equality’s sake, he is denied the opportunity to offer himself to the woman he loves. Lest anyone think this disempowers women, they are the ones who say yes or no.
For women considering this option, proceed with caution. Most men won’t enjoy this surprise and send off thrilled selfies of the engagement ring they were just presented. They want to take that leap; they want to make themselves completely vulnerable as a display of their love. Let them. Don’t make them the subject of barbs and snickering. Let them be the man.
Progressives and advertisers like to pull at threads, but they never think much about what might unravel. According a CBS news report in 2014, only 5 percent of marriages were the result of a woman’s proposal, and surprisingly, younger respondents found the practice less acceptable. So maybe this tradition isn’t on the ropes.
Rituals and traditions for marriage are important. In the gay and lesbian community, such rituals will no doubt continue to develop as their marriages increase. They develop to symbolize the sanctity of marriage that we all agree upon. The traditions aren’t just for us; they are for future generations, to let them know what things like marriage have always meant for human beings.
Let men have this one. We really need it. We want to think we have something to offer; we want to put it on display and have it accepted. Ladies, don’t deny the guy you love that chance.