Canadian band Magic! received international accolades for their song "Rude." The premise of the song is about a man asking his girlfriend's father for permission to marry her.
I was surprised to hear a new song about a ritual that seems so out of date given the modern times of normative cohabitation before marriage, rising egalitarian ideology, and increasing delay in marriage (meaning more people are well into adulthood before considering marriage). In the song, the singer refers to his potential father-in-law as an "old-fashioned" man. This echoes research findings that couples often enact gendered engagement roles and frame them positively as traditional and old-fashioned. This same study also found that most couples plan their engagement together, rendering the request a performance for his father-in-law and girlfriend, who often viewed it as romantic.
While still popular, there is some evidence that this ritual is up for debate. A Slate article this year asked, "Is it seemly or sexist to ask your future in-laws for their daughter’s hand in marriage?" Notably, the lyrics to "Rude" reference seeking the father's blessing, rather than permission. While permission invokes imagery of women as property, blessing implies the request is symbolic of respect rather than objectification.
In the song, the girlfriend's father says no to the request to marry his daughter. The boyfriend labels him rude and insists he's going to marry her anyway. Responding, Benji Cowart parodied the song to tell the "dad's side of the story."
While it's telling that he refers to his daughter as a princess and threatens violence if his daughter elopes, what stands out the most was why the dad found the boyfriend un-marriageable. In the late 1980s, William Julius Wilson called attention to the association between joblessness and rates of female-headed families, referred to as the male marriageable pool index. Recently, the Pew Research Center released survey data that found men's steady employment is important to women in choosing a partner. This parallels research findings that Professor Philip Cohen and I are working on (previewed here).
At last, another parody video was created with the "daughter's side of the story." She rejects outright the premise that either man in her life should make decisions for her. After pointing out how outdated the concept is, that women are not possessions, and that these are controlling actions, she asks, "How about what I say?"
Although couples are increasingly deciding together to get engaged, proposals continue to be performed, largely by men for women. A 2012 study found that 2/3 of college undergraduates "definitely" want a man to propose, often citing gender roles, tradition, and romance. An exception to this cultural ideology appears during Leap Years in some countries when superstition allows for women to propose to men. For example, in Scotland and Ireland, on February 29th, women propose to men. They made a movie about it, so it must be true.
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.
I have moved into my data "generating" phase for my research analysis of online news coverage of celebrity and sport's figures in the headlines for domestic violence. As part of my sample, I am trying to document the race of victims and perpetrators, which has led me back into my data challenges of race as a social construct. Oh the complications- do I document what their race actually is (according to the official interwebs)? Simplify the data to overarching categories based on assumed public perception? What about people of mixed-race? Oh, how I dislike quantifying race.
Anyway, while plugging along hating this process, looking for the race of a girlfriend of a former MLB player (I'm looking at you Andruw Jones) I found this website: www.athleteswives.com. The purpose of the site is for “A 10 star rating system (which) allows visitors to rate the hottest wives and girlfriends of professional athletes.” Really?! What a despicable website. I am not sure why this surprised me, but I am flabbergasted that someone created the virtual equivalent of a high school ranked hot list for the partners of sports figures. They even have a twitter account @athleteswives.
So, I typed “athletes wives” into google to see if there were other sites like it, and sure enough!
Pro Athletes' Wives & Girlfriends (NBC New York)
Pro Athletes' Wives & Girlfriends (NBC Chicago)
Pictures: Hottest Sports Wives and Girlfriends (Chicago Tribune)
http://www.examiner.com/article/beautiful-wives-and-girlfriends-of-new-york-yankees-players (The Examiner)
30 Hottest Athletes' Wives and Girlfriends (Zimbio)
Now, these are NOT mostly websites created by high school boys and drunk and immature college students. These are on actual news sites! What a terrible statement about our culture, rape culture if you will. Instead of using the platform to hold up healthy, respectful and equal relationships, websites are being created to judge and rank women, which somehow reflects her worth as a person and his fame and status as an athlete. At best, it is a missed opportunity to model healthy relationships, at worst, it contributes to the objectification of women and the culture of violence against women. And, if you think it’s harmless fun, start noticing how many college and pro sports athletes are arrested for domestic violence.
UPDATE: Related Blog Post
Athletes' Wives: Less of This, More of That
I saw two different articles today on internet dating. One had a liberal take and the other a conservative bent, yet both portrayed an ugly view of internet dating (I would argue one is more concerning than the other).
First, Jezebel posted an article with an analysis of the site "Nice Guys of OkCupid", (OkCupid is on online dating site). In the article, Jezebel discusses the disconnection of men complain about how women don't want to date them, despite their self-described label as a "nice guy". They seem to miss the contradictory information provided on their profile which are often homophobic, racist, sexist and otherwise entitled attitudes, directly in contrast to their identity as a "nice guy".
On the other hand, the Atlantic posted a piece on how online dating sites have made dating so easy that it's a threat to monogamy and the institution of marriage. Their basic thesis is that by decreasing the barrier of access to multiple potential partners, individuals will be less likely to settle in a relationship and will otherwise continue to try to upgrade their partnerships. It's a little difficult to believe their premise, let alone empirically show the association between online dating and the end of marriage.
With these two articles in contrast, I have to wonder if the advantages of more potential partners might skew more towards an advantage for straight men than any increase of potential "upgraded" possibilities for heterosexual women. Then again, if they are posting they think women have an obligation to keep their legs shaved, gays and lesbian couples shouldn't be allowed to have children, men should be heads of their households, and interracial marriage should be illegal, maybe their dating pool isn't getting all that much larger after all.
In any case, regardless of your political leanings, internet dating doesn't look too good for anybody based on today's commentary. Although, I have to admit I'm way more concerned that these men feel it's okay to post their entitled and ignorant attitudes these days than I am about the so-called demise of marriage.
Update: Jezebel's take on the Atlantic article.
Who wears the pants in the relationship? A metaphor that I, for one, could totally do without. But, no one asked me and this week Eonline and Taylor Swift used this tired metaphor to talk about Swift's dominance as a business woman but her desire to be equal in a relationship: "Taylor Swift may wear the pants in the music industry, but when it comes to relationships, the superstar doesn't like to take control."
While stating equality values is good, I'm not sure why it's a "confession" that she would like an equal in her relationship. It seems to me that most girls and women might say something to that affect these days, even if the reality is less than equal once they are actually partnered.
What seemed more confusing was Taylor's insistence that while she may be all powerful in her business, she certainly doesn't want to transfer that to her relationship. Why not? It's a great thing to not control your partner, but an equal partnership doesn't involve "handing over the reins."
"It's wonderful to hand over the reins to your boyfriend when you control so much of these big, high-pressure decisions, you know? That is a huge defining factor in who you choose to be with."
It is interesting to note that she feels like she has the power to hand something over in the first place. I guess that's a change. But, is it real, or is that an illusion?
And, what is it with the pants? Eonline quoted Taylor as stating, "If I feel too much like I'm wearing the pants, I start to feel uncomfortable and then we break up....relationships are the ultimate collaboration." What does that mean these days, to wear the pants? Rather than outdated metaphors, I'd be much more interested in hearing what Taylor thinks is an equal partnership. That would be a powerful message to send to her young fans. Instead, they're getting the advice that it's okay to be powerful and successful in business, but just make sure you're not too powerful in your relationship.