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The Heart Beat The Heart Beat blog

Happy Proposal Day! Should women pop the question?

The times might be changing, but apparently, some traditions are here to stay.

By Kristin Wong Mar 20, 2013 2:06PM

It's long been tradition for the man to get down on one knee and ask for the woman's hand in marriage. But traditions change, social norms progress, and gender roles evolve. So we can't help but wonder — is it time for women to propose marriage? Isn't it OK for ladies to pop the question?

Surprisingly, most people say no.

Photo: National Proposal Day / Tara Moore/Getty ImagesMore on MSN Living: GQ's foolproof guide to online dating

The University of California recently conducted a study about gender roles among 277 of its students.  Two-thirds of subjects said the man should "definitely" be the one to propose marriage in a relationship. Only 2.8 percent of women said they would want to do the proposing — and they weren't even completely confident. Those women said they would only "kind of" want to be the one to pop the question.

Not a single man in the survey said they would prefer the woman to propose. And not a single student, male or female, "definitely" wanted the woman to propose.

"Kind of" was as close as it got.

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"No one, not a single person, expressed that type of a preference, which was surprising," researcher Rachael Robnett told LiveScience. She also pointed out that the University is liberal leaning, and the students have flexible views on gender roles.

In this case, tradition wins.

"A really commonly cited [explanation] was a desire to adhere to gender-role traditions, so this is something that is coming through very explicitly, straight from the mouths of our participants," Robnett added.

LiveScience conducted its own informal poll, and we were surprised that only 2.19 percent of readers said the woman should propose marriage. But to be fair, the majority (63 percent) responded: "Either one — it's a free country." Still, 33.92 percent stuck to the tradition that only the man should propose.

Although men and women alike seem to agree on this issue, some refer to this outlook as "benevolent sexism" — what LiveScience describes as, "attitudes that women should be cherished, protected and given special treatment."

A possibly less benevolent argument is that women proposing "castrates men of their last traditional role as the one who wears the pants." As one AskMen.com contributor put it:

"Proposing…is our last vestige of dominance over women. There are more women in college than men, their numbers continue to grow in the workforce and now they want to own us—because that’s what marriage is, ownership."

In that case, neither gender popping the question sounds terribly romantic. And don't even get us started on the college and workforce bit.

What do you think — is it out of the question for women to pop the question? Or does this tradition need a gender transformation?

More from The Heart Beat:
In honor of 'Proposal Day': Engagement by the numbers
Bride and groom adopt new last name
Proposal planners help guys pop the question

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Photo: National Proposal Day / Tara Moore/Getty Images

106Comments
Mar 20, 2013 10:27PM
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There is absolutely nothing wrong with a woman proposing to a man...not at all.  After traveling the world, I've learned that most of these social norms existing in the USA are backwards and needs to be addressed.  For example, with me women on a daily basis makes passes that involves body language expecting a response leading to a conversation, number exchange, or even having some sexual exchange.  And if I don't respond...they get very angry and storm off, laugh, talk dirty about me to their friends...I mean the list goes on.  On the other hand when I traveled throughout Africa, Mexico and Europe, women approached me...it was shocking and a learning experience for me.  Women outside of the US says that women here are crazy for doing that...and they are right.  So with this being said...if a woman likes a guy, wants to marry him, have sex or just strike a nice conversation, then she should approach and speak...otherwise she will most likely miss out...
Mar 20, 2013 6:49PM
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Only, if she'll pick-up the tab for the engagement ring ... I'll say YES!
Mar 20, 2013 6:47PM
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Thats too much like the executioner asking you if they can pull the switch
Mar 20, 2013 6:41PM
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yep, it's fine. why should WE men be the only ones who do this? if ya love someone that much, just say it. we'd never know unless ya said so.

Mar 20, 2013 6:28PM
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It depends on the couple.  My mom asked my dad (bonus dad / step) on Sadie Hawkins and they were together until death.  And they shared the pants in the family, they both worked and we all did the chores, cooking and babysitting when needed.  It was a wonderful and loving childhood.  And I got lucky to have a bonus dad not a step dad. Thank You Mom for asking.
Mar 20, 2013 6:27PM
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if a woman proposes to me i know it is real and they are in it for love, not my money, power, nor social status. the woman would have to be libertarian or no dice.
Mar 20, 2013 6:20PM
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My wife proposed to me 40 years ago.  She is the best thing that ever happened to me and we have enjoyed 40 years of marital bliss. Our two sons were a blessing, they are both lawyers today.  She obviously knew what she was doing.
Mar 20, 2013 6:10PM
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I'm not the one to ask this question of - I firmly believe in all the traditional gender roles.  I believe that my husband should make more money than me.  I would love to stay home, but society has him convinced the woman should work, too.  Ugh. I needed to be a wife in the 50's.  I hate how it is now. It has all been ruined for us traditional women.
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