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Michelle Rosenthal

social worker, Dr Susan Smith McKinney Nursing and Rehabilitation Center

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Should heterosexual women propose marriage or even broach the topic first or should they passively wait for the man to ask first?

Do you think women should take the risk of proposing marriage more often or should that tradition be left for the men to initiate the marriage proposal as it has been for many years in many cultures?


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    Nov 17 2011: I think heterosexual women should definitely propose, but I think there are a few challenges facing the brave couple that dares have the woman initiate marriage. Here's the problem with women proposing: when a man says "will you marry me?" he offers a ring, and it plays a central symbolic role in the engagement process. The engagement ring is such an important symbol in our capitalistic society (American or otherwise) that in order for both man and woman to be validated within their families/friends/etc, the gift of the ring is imperative. So if a woman proposes, the man may read this as "now you gotta buy me a ring", which is massively inconvenient for obvious reasons.

    On the other hand, looking at it from this capitalist/materialistic perspective that I'm proposing, the family of the bride pays for the wedding, so arguably it should be the woman's prerogative since the biggest expenditure is coming from her family's pocket. The ring, however, remains a much more important symbol in the ritual of the wedding than who paid for the reception, in fact the latter custom is rather outdated.

    I think this question is good because it reveals the subtle sexism that exist within really well established capitalistic traditions. In a society where the wedding and marriage do not revolve around materialism then I see no problems at all with women proposing. A short term solution for this problem? Engagement rings for men. How's that for a business idea?

    Also, I am using a western-centric, capitalistic perspective on this issue. I would love to hear how this question is answered from views around the world! What inherent cultural norms prevent or facilitate women to initiate marriage?
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      Nov 17 2011: Hi Ana, Thanks for your response. I never even thought of an engagement ring for men. I am sure that someone will start designing masculine looking engagement rings for men too. Possibly with a square shape diamond in a thick gold ring band. I guess just like both the men and women wear wedding rings it may be a good idea for them both to wear engagement rings. If the men wear an engagement ring it will let other women know that this man is engaged before initiating contact with him. I guess who ever proposes may come prepared with both rings of a matching set to let the world know they are engaged. But really I am sure if a woman proposes to a man or a man to a woman a ring is nice but not essential to the commitment.
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        Nov 17 2011: Absolutely! Noone needs any rings. I like the design ideas for engagement rings for men. I think we're onto something here.
    • Nov 18 2011: I think (even though I am not a material person) that a physical object such as a ring is important for a couple devoted for life. clearly the world agrees or we woulnd't have paper that represents our degrees or money, even with us becoming more digital a plastic card is used to prove it.
      • Nov 20 2011: Wow Zachary, I have to disagree. Ringing or pinning is in my opinion just another form of branding.
        • Nov 21 2011: why? is she forced to wear it? I'm a guy but, I wouldn't mind if I was "claimed" its no more branding than a title such as "Dr." A ring doesn't claim ownership, the point is that it is a circle representing their love (continuos(sp?) and unbroken). It also is a sign that neither of them are on "the market" persay(sp?). Other cultures would signify marrige with their clothes (be it colour, style, or what have you). It is simply a public symbol of their relationship(sp?). (I think i might be a horrible speller(is that even a word?))
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        . . 100+

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        Nov 22 2011: I think both men and women should wear "in relationship" rings. This way while in a serious relationship innocent singles won't be confused by them. This will avoid wasted time and emotions not to mention broken hearts. Of course all this works for honest people who actually don't need any symbol to remind them of their commitments. The more important question is what would ever keep "players" from playing?!!!
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      Nov 22 2011: The custom you describe is typical English and for countries that they influenced.
      Practice today as I observe around me is that if the woman doesn't mention marriage nothing much will happen.

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