Are Traditional Marriage Proposals Redundant In The Age Of Equality?

Are traditional marriage proposals redundant in the age of equality? I think they are…

The internet is abuzz today with the news about one of the Chinese Olympic divers, He Zi being proposed to by her boyfriend of six years after she won the silver medal in the 3m springboard. This silver medal is Ms Zi’s third Olympic Medal and this current games is her second time competing for China at the Olympics. Her (now) fiancé Qin Kai, a five time medal winner over three consecutive Olympic Games himself has sparked controversy because there are those who do not see this as a romantic gesture; they see this solely as a man trying to take the limelight away from a woman and be the star of the show, dominating over her effort with his own “effort” of the proposal.

Without knowing them and knowing whether she was shocked by his proposal because it was unexpected, albeit something that she truly hoped he would do, I have two thoughts about this. One pro, and one con…

    1. CON: It was probably a silly thing to do by overshadowing the reason she was on the podium. That should have been her time to shine, and hers alone (well except for the gold and bronze medallists) for what she/they had achieved in the pool.
    2. PRO: I’ll be honest; if it wasn’t for this controversy bringing her this undue attention and making her a household name, me, like the 6,043,000,000 other people on this planet who aren’t from China wouldn’t give two hoots about He Zi. And so I can’t be accused of making that a sexist statement, I couldn’t give two hoots about her fiancé winning his medals. And to be fair as well, I would never have noticed the gold medal winner Shi Tingmao if it wasn’t for this controversial event. So maybe, just maybe, Qin Kai has done them an unintentional favour bringing these medallists into the spotlight more than it just being a number on the medal tally next to China.

I’m going to leave this current debate that is playing out on social media with those two thoughts and concentrate on something that I have been thinking about for a while…

Are Traditional Marriage Proposals Redundant In The Age Of Equality

A few months back I was having a discussion with a group of people regarding marriage proposals. I mentioned that although I bought a ring for my wife, though not a diamond ring, it was one that she found in the shops and “proposed” (excuse the pun) as the type of ring she would like to receive if or when I proposed to her. Although I did buy that ring, one that was under the $1,000 when, according to tradition, a ring worth between $6,000 and $7,000 should have been the budget I had set aside back then.

Tradition dictates that the man should aim to spend three weeks to a month’s wage on his fiancée’s engagement ring. When the value of the ring was equal to the amount that the bride’s family intended to spend on the wedding, the value of the engagement ring was a type of insurance should the man pull out of the relationship, but seeing that weddings can run into a dollar value higher than the average annual wage, one month’s pay isn’t going to cover much of those unless it’s just to cover non refundable deposits.

engagement ring
A diamond engagement ring. Photo courtesy Pixabay.

I was a little cynical when my, let’s call her de facto partner for want of a better term suggested to me that she would like to get engaged and have me propose. We already had one child together, were in the process of buying a new house together with both of our names on the title deeds, and we had talked about trying for a second child in about a year’s time. Although we had come to an informal agreement that we didn’t have to get married to be a family, she thought that it would be a good idea if we did get married and that she took my surname because it would just be easier when filling out forms like school enrolments or family allowances.

I know that many women keep their surname and I’m sure they don’t have trouble filling in forms with their children having their father’s surname, but who am I to argue with her logic? And who am I to argue with my partner wanting to take my name? Although I didn’t expect this of her, it’s a nice feeling to know someone loves you that much.

But it was the cynic in me that thought that getting down on bended knee, or simply muttering the phrase “will you marry me?” whilst holding out a ring she picked was a little unnecessary. I also thought it a weird thing to do seeing that we started planning the wedding before the engagement ring idea was broached. This was due to the fact that we decided to get married and have a formal wedding as something nice for my mum to look forward to after she was admitted to hospital and told that her cancer was now terminal. When we set the date and told her, little did we know that she’d be gone two weeks later.

Our wedding was planned before an engagement was discussed.
Our wedding was planned before an engagement was discussed. Photo courtesy Pixabay.

We are equal in our relationship. Well, that is to say that neither of us are locked into doing things that are “expected” of me as the man and her as the woman in a relationship, or her as the mother and me as the father in our family. I’ve written about this before. Hey, that’s really one of the reasons why I started this blog in the first place. Although I currently make more money in my full time job than my wife, it’s not because of the wage gap, but because she’s been working somewhere between two and four days a week, and as she’s been building up her business, there have been days when her appointment calendar is empty, and for her, no appointments means no income unless she gets a product sale from an existing client.

But the way she’s going, that will change. Chances are she’ll equal my income before the end of this current year, and with our youngest starting school next year, I expect she’ll be overtaking me and getting a greater income by the end of the financial year (that’s July to June in Australia). With her line of work, and the fact that she holds a degree, she’s always had the capability to make more than me but decided that she wanted to focus on being a 50/50 working mum with the emphasis on being a mum first and foremost while the kids were younger.

Had she had had the confidence and the ability to start her own consultancy business when we met nine years ago, although I was making twice her income back then, she could easily have been making the same income or even more than me back then. With more and more women finding themselves in high paying roles within the health, finance, marketing, business and other high paying industries, I’m sure that there are plenty of unmarried couples where the woman has the higher income.

If that’s the case, should the man be the one who has to fork out a month’s salary on an engagement ring? Or should the new tradition, in this age where we’re striving for equality be that the one who makes the most money needs to fork out their had earned cash on their lower paid lover?

"He'll be happy if I just buy him a car, right?"
“He’ll be happy if I just buy him an engagement motorbike, right?” Photo courtesy Pixabay.

Back in September 2000 Destiny’s Child released the single Independent Women (Part 1) where they told the world how they don’t need a man to buy them things because they had their own jobs, their own money, their own independence, and were quite happy to go out an fork out a huge wad of cash on a rock if they should feel like it. Eight years later, Beyoncé released the hit single that had the phenomenal award winning music video to accompany it. That song was Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It).

“Cause if you liked it, then you should have put a ring on it
If you liked it, then you shoulda put a ring on it
Don’t be mad once you see that he want it
‘Cause if you liked it, then you shoulda put a ring on it
Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh”

I always wondered why the very vocal and outspoken feminist role model, Ms Beyoncé Giselle Knowles didn’t think that a strong independent woman could have stepped up and “put a ring” on her man if SHE liked HIM. Surely in these modern times where women are no longer “owned by” or are the property of her man, it’s something that more women would consider doing rather than waiting every four years to ask her man to marry him on the exclusive date of February 29.

In fact, looking at the results on Google when I type in “when can a woman…,” Google filled it in with “propose to a man” as this is a very popular thing to search for.

A very popular Google search. You can read more about the tradition here.
A very popular Google search. You can read more about the tradition here.

But if we are looking at the changing face of society and we truly want a world where there is equality, there is little place for romance in the process in betrothment when discussions about marriage should be decided on by mutual agreement when the time is ready. As it stands at the moment, with the element of surprise falling squarely on the shoulders of the guys, unless an elaborate public proposal has been organised much to the horror of the woman, the embarrassment of rejection is the domain of the fellow. Just like in the video below.

Protip guys: DON’T DO IT. (I should have told Qin Kai that yesterday. Sorry people of the internet).

Having said that, there are plenty of over the top public engagements that have gone viral on social media where the woman has accepted the proposal and both the man and the woman involved have very “out there” personalities. If that’s for you, fine, but you really need to make sure the decision is going to be a positive one before you try it. Of course, if that’s based on prior discussions about marriage, and you both agree that getting engaged with the “end game” being marriage, you can pretty much consider yourselves engaged.

So if you take away the ring, the potential embarrassment of the asking party if there’s a negative response, and the couple is already engaged (excuse the pun) in conversation about the future of their relationship and both see the “happily ever after” fairytale as their expectations, then the question has to be asked once more; are traditional marriage proposals redundant in the age of equality?

I think they are…

What do you think? Should it only be the man that asks the question? And guys, if your partner was going to propose to you, instead of an engagement ring, what would be something she could give you?


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