We thought gender roles had advanced slightly from the 1950s and ’60s, but it looks like young Americans still think that the guy is the one who ought to get down on bended knee when it comes to marriage proposals. A new study from the University of California–Santa Cruz found that zero respondents (that’s right: none) desired a proposal that involved the woman asking the man. Wow.
Study researcher Rachael Robnett said the culprit behind these views is something called “benevolent sexism,” which at first listen sounds nice but is actually rife with outdated attitudes toward women. LiveScience reports:
People who hold these attitudes might say that women should be saved first in a disaster, for example. They’re likely to say that women should be put on a pedestal or cared for. Such beliefs are often seen as polite and kind, she said.
“The flip side, which is more insidious, is that it is robbing women of some agency,” or self-direction, Robnett said.
This downside is perhaps best described in a quote widely attributed to feminist activist Gloria Steinem: “A pedestal is as much a prison as any small, confined space.”
Two hundred seventy-seven students were surveyed for this study, so it’s no small amount of “no girls allowed” responses, and Robnett says the university is a fairly liberal one. Here’s why she thinks the students answered the way they did:
“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 said.
About a quarter of women cited “romance” as the reason the man should propose, as did 17 percent of men. Twenty percent of women also said they feared rejection or being seen as coming on too strong, while 14 percent said proposing would be awkward or scary.
Although we had hoped for a bit more from college students, who we’d think would be—in theory at least—supposed to be more progressive than their less educated peers or older people in general, they have less life experience than more mature adults, and despite the university’s reportedly liberal leanings, it’s still not a geographically diverse population. There’s also the possibility that with reports of women outpacing men in both work and college, the idea of adhering to some type of prescribed behavior seems quaint, if not desirable. (Think: Mad Men taken way too literally.)
All we have to say is, if you don’t think a woman proposing can be friggin’ amazing, we suggest you check out these female-to-male proposals we’ve mentioned in the past:
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