June 30, 2010

How Marriage Proposals Became Negotiations

From Karmen:
I remember in high school the excitement of prom! Boys would craft up elaborate ways to ask a girl to be his date. Weeks leading up to the dance, there were BOLD signs of initiation across campus. It was during that week that I was reminded that chivalry was not dead.

Example: I still clearly remember walking to my friends locker after school to find a note along with a fish bowl complete with a fish saying: "I'm fishing for a date for prom and I want to hook you." Corny, yes, but we relished in these few accounts with the opposite sex where we were being wooed.

I always wondered what it was about prom that brought about mass participation in chivalry: the formal nature of prom, peer pressure from other guys...? Whatever it was, it always gave me hope, that when we all grew up and it was time to get married, men would again live up to the standards of chivalry and make elaborate plans to again woo a woman.

This morning an article was written about "the proposal." http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303828304575180190077376292.html?mod=WSJ_Opinion_LEFTTopOpinion This article, focuses on the loss of masculine initiation in proposals. The problems seems to be rooted in gender identity crisis. "The norm that the man has to take control of the proposal has been greatly undermined and eroded," says Kathleen Gerson, a professor of sociology at New York University. "Women want to feel they have more control of where a relationship is going instead of waiting to react."

Ladies and gentlemen, Let's hear it: What is going on and how can we reclaim a lost art: Chivalry!
from Karmen.
Thanks to http://www.ruthyouth.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/with-this-ring-i-thee-wed.jpg for the graphic.


  1. Critical power conflict theorists would note that chivalry is a tool of patriarchy. For a critique of chivalry in this context, see this blog analyzing romantic fiction: http://teachmetonight.blogspot.com/2006/10/femininity-chivalry-class-and_26.html

    Here is a critical power conflict perspective that is easy to read (if a bit psychological for my taste): http://www.understandingprejudice.org/asi/faq.htm

    If you want to get REALLY sociological, you can check out this article: Viki, G. T., Dominic Abrams and Paul Hutchison. 2003. "The "True" Romantic: Benevolent Sexism and Paternalistic Chivalry." Sex Roles, 49(9-10):533-537.

  2. When I define chivalry I do so using historical ideals from knighthood. During those times it was symbolic of a mans virtues. An example is a trusted handshake with ANOTHER MAN. There was chivalry towards woman but to a lesser extent.

    Our society equates chivalry only with the treatment of woman and the symbolic actions that are measured. Using this notion it is a tool to support patriarchy. The virtue ideal is taken out. Chivalry today is merely an act in order to pursue an end which can easily be messed up.