Saturday, 28 May 2011

Gender Roles, Proposals, and Unions between two people

This year so far, we have seen two weddings of two different people that have, who for the sake of this article, I will describe of having 'positions of state', who joined in union in two different locations with two completely different types of ceremonies. I am, of course, referring to the weddings of Prince William and Kate Middleton in April, and the wedding this weekend of the Labour Party leader Ed Miliband and Justine Thornton. I naturally, congratulate both couples, and wish them a lifetime of happiness together.

Lets start by examining the very first stage of their unions, or indeed anyones, long before the big day.

The Proposal
When the announcement was made about the weddings, the news has also come out about who proposed and when. Both times it was the gents. As a result, over recent months, I have had the debate with men and women alike about proposals, and indeed who's 'job' it is to propose. As an engaged man myself, (and it was I who, 'popped the question' as it were), I fundamentally believe that the responsibility or the expected responsibility lies with.......NO-ONE.

I am perhaps in a minority, although an ever increasing one, of people who believe this, as many women, indeed many men, feel it is the responsibility of the man to propose. Everyone who has given me that answer, I have asked this question: Why?

Answers from the ladies have been based around these three notions:
"Its romantic"
"Its traditional"
"I want to be asked" 

Answers from the gents however have been slightly different:
"Its expected of me"
"Its manly"
"Its traditional"

 Lets just examine the flaws:

"Its traditional" or "Its expected of me" - Its also traditionally expected that a woman should do the cleaning. However I, and I think most people in the country, don't think that's right.

"Its romantic" - Well its romantic for whichever partner who has the guts to declare their love to the point of wanting marriage.

"I want to be asked" - Ask most gents if they want to be wanted by the woman they want, and you're not likely to hear the word "no" being ushered from their lips.

"Its manly" - Manliness, just like womanliness is such a vague concept which has so many definitions that its not even worth trying to decipher. Different people, define both terms, differently.

In popular culture the social norms have been begun to be challenged on the role of the proposal belonging to the man. Most recently, the film industry released the motion picture "The Proposal" where Sandra Bullock portrays a high strung dominant boss who proposes to a work colleague. Again, a challenge of the stereotype.

I 'like' the Facebook page 'The problem with women is men' a book by Charles J. Orlando, an American man who changed his ways from continually having one night stands for most of his adult life, to settling down with his wife. He was in a debate with another prominent female relationship writer, over this exact matter. She argued that women expected a man to propose, and therefore should, whereas he, like I, argued that neither gender had the role of being the proposer.

I commented on it, arguing that for the past 50 years gender stereotypes have been gradually eroded at the will of society, so why is should this one still exist? I was supported in my comments by a number of women. I think one man may have 'liked' my comment, but that was it. Then again, its not a book many men would read.

Finally we come down to the question, what is marriage?

The marriage of Ed and Justine this week happened in a registry office and was not, as far as I understand, a religious ceremony. The Duke and Dutchess of Cambridge's marriage however, was. Both in law are defined as marriage, yet marriage, as a word has its foundations in the union of people in the eyes of God, or a god.

Up until recently, same sex couples could only join in union in civil ceremonies, held under the eyes of the state, and called 'civil partnerships'. While, all along, men and women could join in union together in a civil ceremony and it be deemed a 'marriage'. This has, and always will, strike me as odd. While at the same time, both ceremonies have the same legal standing, and those involved in them have the same rights and standing in law, and rightly so.

Now, same sex partners can join in union in a church, and a registry office, and it is deemed to be a 'marriage', as can men and women in couples. This also seems odd to me, for the simple reason, that if a union of two people, regardless of orientation and who join in union together, do so in the eyes of the state, and not in the eyes of God, or a god, surely, as it is a civil ceremony, it is a civil partnership?

Equally if two people, regardless of orientation or gender, join in union in a place of religious worship under the eyes of a god, or God, surely it is a marriage?

The liberal and progressive in me says that marriage is not limited to between a man and a woman, for the simple reasons that god loves everyone, (even if you don't love god, and as agnostic I am not sure what to believe, other than there is, in my view, a super-human power), and God as defined by the Bible is in my view a progressive liberator. This may baffle some of you, but I would point out, he did say: "Go down Moses, way down in Egypt's land and tell old Pharaoh to let my people go." - See he wanted to liberate and free people from persecution. In my eyes this includes social as well as physical persecution.

That's my view anyway. Feel free to comment/debate.

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