I’m a bit mixed on the notion of marriage. There’s a lot tangled up in that word: The legalities, how every legal system in the world (that I’m aware of) privileges a spouse over an acquaintance in multiple sectors of society, how estates can be combined or divided, how taxation can be collected as an entity rather than individuals. But there’s also the ceremony, how some folks spend an absurd amount on their wedding, something which I find difficult to stomach knowing how many resources are out there just barely scraping by who fill vital community functions.
Today, I’ll just signal boost one particular position–public marriage proposals are a shitty idea.
Recently, I had the abject misfortune to find myself part of a captive audience to a public proposal. I veered between burning mortification, obsessive checking that the woman was in fact definitely happy about this, and fury because I really needed a wee and this public proposal was going on right in front of my route to the toilet.
Public proposals have been discussed a lot in feminist circles, often viewed as coercive, rooted in insecurity, and not giving the person being proposed to a decent chance to say no. In short, they’re not romantic, they’re manipulative. This additional social pressure, with all eyes on you, makes it incredibly difficult to refuse, especially if the relationship you’re in already has overtones of coercive control. If you’re on TV, on a crowded street, on a packed aeroplane, you know that everyone is expecting you to say “yes” so everyone can feel good–and for women in particular this is the sort of situation where we’re socialised to avoid letting everyone down.
And of course, it’s almost always women being proposed to by men. You may have the odd same-sex couple or woman proposing to a man, and these are so remarkable they appear all over the bloody news (thus furthering the pressure).
Public proposals are, in short, dire. I don’t believe in carceral measures for massive social problems, but if I did, I’d make public proposals punishable by death.
(I gather from the rest of the blag that Stavvers is mostly joking.)
However, what I want to talk about is wider: the notion of the proposal itself. This, too, is unnecessary and actually rather weird when we drill down into it. Many couples, when deciding to get married, deploy the following format: one partner “pops the question” to the other, with a little bit of pomp and ceremony, perhaps kneeling and a bit of jewellery. The words uttered are usually a variation on the theme of “will you marry me?”, and the proposee will then say either yes or no.
Getting married is a major life decision, and yet it is the only major life decision I can think of which involves a bizarre ritual in making the decision. We do not buy a ring while figuring out whether to go to university or not. We do not book a fancy restaurant to have a think about buying a house. We do not get down on one knee when deciding if we want to have children. We do not put a cute little question in a fortune cookie when working through the various treatment options for an illness.
Read more about Stavver’s opinion here.