On the way into work this morning, I found myself listening to the soothing sound of Osher Gunsberg in my ears.
In the spirit of February, and Valentine’s day, Mamamia launched a love podcast with the love God himself, the Bachelor host spilling his best secrets about love, life and relationships.
And there was one conversation that made me particularly awake for a Friday morning where I had slept through my alarm and was yet to skull a coffee.
Is it emasculating for a woman to propose to a man?
Both Gunsberg and his co-host, psychologist Leanne Hall, came to the conclusion that if your partner felt emasculated if you proposed, then it says a lot about him.
The entire concept of feminism would settle on a similar thread. Conceivably, I should be able to propose to whoever I please. I’m independent, I can make my own decisions and I can certainly plan for my own future. There’s absolutely no reason that, when the time comes, I can’t be the one to get on one knee and pop the question.
You can listen to the conversation on Love Life here. Post continues after audio.
And yet, I know right now, I probably never will.
In writing, and as a confidently staunch feminist, I can see the hypocrisy seeping through my own writing. Why wouldn’t I? What’s stopping me?
The combination of my own hesitation, and Hall and Gunsberg’s conversation had me settling on one, overriding reason: Him.
I think, deep down, my hesitation comes in taking something from him that society has always told him he has the monopoly on.
If it sounds decidedly un-feminist, perhaps it’s because it is. Or, maybe, it’s more of a case of us entering a very messy vortex of sexist traditions that have morphed into societal norms.
In other words, can I take something that was born from wholly sexist undertones — the idea that a man can only propose to a woman — and separate it from them? Can I take it, skin it from history and debate and sexism, and see it for how it is now?
Some would argue no. I would argue yes.
By raising my hand and saying that right now, I don’t see myself proposing, I’m not inherently saying my future husband owns me. I’m not saying he will sit in the driver’s seat for our entire relationship. And I’m not saying I’m happy to sit back and wait for someone else to give me what I need.
I’m saying something else entirely.
I think there’s a point to be made about joy here. And sentimentality, too. Tradition doesn’t have to be political, but it can be about our emotions and our desires and our happiness. We’ve spent decades, if not hundreds of years, telling men it’s their role to propose. We’ve spent time shaming the ones who take too long, praising the ones who go above and beyond and framing the conversation as one that’s centred on the idea that he asks the question.
If it’s something he sees as his thing, who am I to take that away from him? If it’s something that’s promised to him on the premise that this will give him genuine, pure joy, why is it mine for the taking? If it’s something he sees so much more about sentiment and emotion and love, why can’t it be his?
And when every conversation we ever have about engagements is focused on the man’s role, why are we then so surprised when women don’t want to propose?
I think what's also missing here is the acknowledgment in how much our perception of marriage has changed over the ages. At the exception of allowing everyone in our community to marry (here's looking at you, Turnbull), marriage is no longer a contract between families. It's no longer for financial gain. It's no longer about men owning women and men dictating who women will spent their life with.
Marriage, today, is so much more than that. And by natural extension, proposals are too.
Letting my partner have his moment - his time to be vulnerable - is my choice.
It's doesn't make me less feminist, nor does it make me passive in getting what I want.
It just means I'm not going to take something from him that he has always been promised.
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