Monday, September 28, 2015

Why Men Should Propose to Women (and not the other way about)

I have never been a particularly huge fan of the so-called Sadie Hawkins dance, or "Morp" as they call it around here (prom backwards). I am not dogmatic about it, I just think that there is more virtue and value in men asking women to these events than the other way around. In order for young men to reach beyond their little "man-cave" mentality, they need to learn how to address and reach out to the other half of the species. Simply learning how to ask a lady out on a date is one of the first steps in a man's journey beyond the typical grunts and growls of their adolescent reality.

Call me sexist if you like, but men would never have dreamed of writing poetry, singing love songs, or behaving in a chivalrous manner were it not for the feminine. Indeed, this co-mingling of the sexes allows for the full expression of the Yin and Yang of reality, elevating both sexes according to their own respective needs. Boys are perfectly content to be catered to as long as the opposite sex is willing to do them the honor. The problem is if you only "do them the honor" they may never learn to honor you.

All I can say is the hardest/scariest words that I have ever uttered in my whole life were; "Will you marry me!" Not because my wife isn't wonderful and beautiful (she is), but because I knew I had to own them, and I didn't know if I was "man enough" to be a "man of my word". Yet how much more would I have doubted myself, or the situation, had those words not come from me; "You pressured me into this, I wasn't ready!"

Obviously it is easy enough to dispute this claim by simply pointing out that my circumstances are not the same as others, and that in such and such a case it might be just as "romantic" (and necessary) for a woman to propose to a man. Perhaps. But allow me to explain why, historically speaking, it makes sense that every woman (especially the feminist), should revel in the fact that it is a man's duty to propose to a woman.

In the ancient world the norm was not to honor power in its more subtle forms, but rather to emphasize personal or collective might (viz. "might makes right"). An individual's ability to impose their will on the rest of the world came- not from their value as an individual- but rather from their particular fate/birth. The recognition of an individual's dignity, or the idea that they were a part of some "underprivileged class", did not warrant you any special attention or sympathy. To the contrary, it re-enforced your destiny. The "fates" dealt you a particular hand, slave or free, and their wasn't much you could do about it, nor were you under the impression that you could (or should) do anything about it. This kind of fatalism was part of the air they breathed in the ancient world.

For this reason, unless a woman was born into nobility, she too was treated according to her physical power and influence. In other words, she was not "here own" in any sense of the word. Because women were presumed to be the "weaker sex" they were treated as such. That doesn't mean their weren't exceptional cases here or there, but on a general scale, no one presumed, including women, that they were free to do anything but obey. And servitude extended even to the bonds of marriage (both in choice of spouse and during the marriage itself).

If for no other reason than this alone, the symbol of a man proposing to a woman on one knee should be honored. Indeed, the above photo(s) do not suggest a new kind of liberation for women, but rather the re-establishment of the old order (however ironically it may be re-envisioned).

What tends to be honored today is more of a generic equality of the sexes, one which simply assumes equality involves only having a woman do everything that a man used to do, without any regard for what makes a woman unique in her own right. In other words, a woman (in my humble and right opinion) is not only valuable because she is capable of performing every task that a man can (whether that is true or not), but because she can perform many that he can't! I must admit I am for a higher equality in this regard, or rather a higher "inequality."

I am for the Christian revolution that turned the pagan world on its head, not by castrating men (see above photo), but by compelling them to use their swords in the service of their lady (as opposed to using it to subjugate them). A man genuflects when proposing to a woman, not as a means of diminishing her, but as a means of diminishing himself. He does this as a courageous recognition of her power over him. At this moment, the man is not only saying that he intends to place himself in her service, but even that she is free to reject his offer. There would have been no such choice for women in antiquity. And wherever this kind of chivalry is not embraced in the world today, we can see just how ugly the consequences may be.

There is so much in this gesture that is both a rejection of what was wrong with the ancient world, and an an embrace of what was right (if we truly wish to be truly liberal about the whole thing). In itself, there is nothing at all wrong with a patriarchal sense of duty, ruggedness, and responsibility. What this small gesture introduces into the narrative (in one fell swoop) is a shift in the balance of power from a kind of primitive Darwinism, to a story that is a little more like a romance. The king will reign, yes, but his power will come from his love and service to the queen… So much so in fact, that one will have trouble distinguishing who's reign it is in the end.

Incidentally, it is important to note that this shift in power is not a happy coincidence of history, but rather a direct result of the Biblical narrative. Christ triumphed over evil through his vulnerability to his bride as expressed on the cross. He won the battle over death and evil because he exercised a form of weakness that is more powerful than any worldly strength; a love, as it were, which is "stronger than death" (Songs of Songs 8:6). And thus as the curtain was/is lifted/will be lifted in the book of Revelation, it seems highly appropriate that we should find ourselves at a wedding ceremony, awaiting the sacred "yes" of a mysterious Bride, the veiled one who has such profound dignity, that even God must await her answer to his proposal. If that is not a higher equality, I do not know what is.
Thus, wherever you see a double standard with regard to sex and sexual behavior today, do not blame Christian theology for such a terrible misogyny, rather blame a culture that is backsliding towards the worst of paganism. Blame a culture that no longer recognizes the inherent worth and dignity of women,  and instead views them as chattel for consumption. Indeed, it was only with the advent of the doctrine of Christian dignity, coupled with the notion that as Children of God we all have the power to choose our own destiny, that people for the first time began to subscribe to any notion of equality of the sexes. In fact, in the beginning such a disparity apparently did not exist at all. For according to the book of Genesis, it was only in the communion of flesh between a man and a woman, that one was truly able to witness the face of God. (Genesis 1:27)


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