Whoa. It turns out a new trend has emerged. The promposal. It is apparently a fancy way of labeling the act of asking someone to prom. Making the internet rounds lately was an example of a promposal by a high school senior who asked his girlfriend to prom via a fake letter rescinding her acceptance to the University of South Carolina.
Never hearing of such a thing as a promposal, I decided to investigate. I started where all outstanding sociology graduate students do to conduct research. Wikipedia. Turns out, there is no Wikipedia entry for promposal. "How could this be?!" I asked myself. Undeterred, I turned to Google.
The first hint of the usage of the word promposal, according to Google, comes from the Canadian newspaper Ottawa Citizen, who apparently held a promposal contest. Unfortunately, the link provided leads to a "page not found" screen. The term makes a minor appearance in 2012 but seems to pick up traction in 2013. You can blame Huffington Post for reviving it and bringing it to the U.S. national stage. Regional interest has been mostly limited to Ottawa, Toronto, and New York, but given the widespread attention of the trend this year, it seems to be catching on elsewhere.
There are now tumblr pages, Pintrest pages, and even a Twitter handle (@ThePromposal) for documenting promposals. As far as I can tell, they seem to replicate the stereotypical courtship norms of dating and engagement proposals. One Huffington Post article calls attention to girls who are bucking the norms and asking their partners to the dance. However, this more gender flexible behavior is clearly not the norm, as evidenced in this statement: "With that said, here are some of our favorite #ladypromposals so far." Thus, promposals in general are assumed to be male initiated. Qualifications such as lady are used otherwise. By the way, if you go to Twitter and #ladypromposals, no tweets exist. On the other hand, #promposals is popular.
Despite gains in youth's attitudes about gender egaitarianism in relationships, promposals seem to evidence Ellen Lamont's findings (published in Gender and Society) that young women attempt to reconcile egalitarian ideology with conventional gendered courtship norms. While the promposal trend is still developing, how it reinforces or transforms gendered courtship norms remains to be seen.