Outdated Sexist Tradition, Or Just A Gesture Of Courtesy And Respect? - U2 Feedback

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Old 10-09-2007, 12:52 PM   #1
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Outdated Sexist Tradition, Or Just A Gesture Of Courtesy And Respect?

What do you think of asking a woman's father/parents (I think the old tradition was strictly the father, not sure) for "permission" to marry her? Apparently it is making a comeback these days.

Asking for her hand - after asking permission

By Irene Sege, Boston Globe Staff | October 9, 2007

Before Bob Hunt dropped to bended knee on the famed Cliff Walk in Newport, R.I., and asked his high school sweetheart to marry him, he’d taken her father to dinner at a Chili’s restaurant and sought his permission.

‘‘Because I have such a great relationship with her family,’’ Hunt says, ‘‘it makes it that much more important that I ask for permission.’’

Reviving a tradition that seemingly went the way of the flapper and Prohibition, young men like Hunt these days are talking to their intendeds’ parents before popping the question. While there are no numbers to track the trend, call a bridal store or wedding venue or otherwise inquire among the betrothed and the newlywed and their parents and it is easy to find examples. Jenna Bush’s fiancé, Henry Hager, reportedly had a private tête-à-tête with her father, the president, before he proposed one summer morning at sunrise atop Cadillac Mountain in Maine. What these young men embrace as a gesture of courtesy and respect has roots in an era when women had few rights and little opportunity.

‘‘It was a fairly common practice based on the notion of making alliances between families and passing the daughter who was legally the property of the father onto the husband,’’ says Temple University historian Beth Bailey. ‘‘What we’re seeing right now is an odd combination of young people with progressive sentiments and a real desire for conventional gender roles and arrangements’’

Hunt, a 25-year-old salesman from Attleboro, has long known that Stefanie Brennock, whose parents are divorced, expected that anyone who wanted to marry her would talk to them first. ‘‘It’s just the parents handing over the daughter to a new guy and taking care of me,’’ says Brennock, 24, an assistant manager at a bridal store.

The evening before he took Brennock to Newport, Hunt dined with her father. ‘‘It was an out-of-body experience. My soul was looking down at the table,’’ Hunt says. ‘‘I’d prepared what I wanted to say. But looking back I don’t remember saying it. It just started coming out.’’ Later that night, Hunt shared the news with Brennock’s mother.

‘‘I said, ‘Bobby, you didn’t have to ask, but I’m proud and glad you did,’ ’’ says Dan Brennock, 55, a retired Naval officer from Uxbridge. ‘‘I didn’t do it when I got married.’’

Matthew Fierman, 29, was less formal. Before he proposed to his wife, he telephoned her parents. First he told his future mother-in-law. Then he asked his future father-in-law for his blessing. ‘‘It’s just a sign of respect,’’ says Fierman, a teacher from Brighton. ‘‘Dad got the chance to give the official thumbs-up.’’

The Rev. Atu White of Bethel AME Church in Jamaica Plain says he followed Southern custom when he sought permission from his wife’s father before asking Dr. Yolanda Lenzy-White to marry him. ‘‘No decent respectable guy would marry someone whose father disapproved,’’ says White, 27. ‘‘If she didn’t grow up with a dad, then speak to her mother or the closest guardian.’’

Jarrad Glennon, 27, wanted more than approval when he asked his girlfriend’s parents for their blessing over dinner. Almost four decades earlier, his future father-in-law, Robert Cohen, an attorney from Newton, solicited similar permission from his future father-in-law.

‘‘The main reason was being a little traditional and respectful,’’ says Glennon, who works for an investment firm. ‘‘I also wanted her mother’s opinions when it came to the ring and whatnot.’’

Cohen, 61, appreciated the gesture. ‘‘It’s nice to feel included,’’ he says.

So did Glennon’s fiancée, Joanna Cohen, 28. ‘‘I don’t think it’s necessary,’’ she says. ‘‘I know people think you shouldn’t do it. But it’s nice.’’

Historians trace the custom’s evolution in this country to colonists who brought traditions with them from England. In the mid-19th century, as love increasingly formed the basis of marriage, the practice gradually became a formality. Stephanie Coontz, author of ‘‘Marriage, a History: How Love Conquered Marriage,’’ finds few references to it after the 1930s.

Coontz said she believes uneasiness contributes to what she calls ‘‘cherry picking’’ of traditions. ‘‘It has none of the old meaning,’’ she says. As late as 1967, she notes, two-thirds of college women surveyed, compared with 5 percent of

college men, would consider marrying someone they didn’t love if other factors, such as financial stability and agreeable personality, were in place.

‘‘Since 1967 it’s a rapid revolution where love really trumps everything else. There’s this sense that this is a little dangerous,’’ Coontz says. ‘‘Maybe I want to add a few traditional elements to my modern marriage just to protect us from it being a complete free-for-all.’’

Barbara Gottfried, of Boston University’s women’s studies department, declares herself ‘‘shocked’’ by the trend. ‘‘The fact that the parents are asked prior to the proposal seems to me to be more than politeness,’’ she says. ‘‘Underneath it all is an anxiety about the threat that independent women pose.’’

Not all grooms-to-be adopt the custom. Christopher Cole of Winthrop, leader of a wedding band called Kahootz, didn’t approach his fiancé’s parents before he proposed in a Vermont restaurant.

‘‘The biggest reason was that she’s an adult. It’s not respectful of your fiancé as an adult woman,’’ he says.

‘‘I’m very glad he didn’t,’’ says his fiancée, Nikki Wescott, 33, a hotel wedding coordinator.

Distance kept Robert Ayles, 39, a fundraiser, from approaching his fiancée’s parents, who live in Pittsburgh.

‘‘If they were closer geographically, I would have liked to have had that conversation with her dad,’’ he says. ‘‘It reinforces with parents the strength of your feeling and commitment to their daughter.’’
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Old 10-09-2007, 12:56 PM   #2
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‘‘The biggest reason was that she’s an adult. It’s not respectful of your fiancé as an adult woman,’’ he says.

One reason. It's her decision, not her parents'.

What if they said no?

So, I wouldn't do it.
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Old 10-09-2007, 12:59 PM   #3
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I don't think it's seen as an "asking for permission" gesture as much as it is a motion of respect. I'm all for it, I think it shows character. The parents appreciate it. Why not? If they say no....well, cest la vie. You go forward with it anyway.
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Old 10-09-2007, 01:03 PM   #4
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But why don't women have to ask a guy's parents what they think as some sort of gesture of respect? Even if they don't do the proposing? It used to mean permission though, and the women are independent adults. I can see both sides of it, but I suppose it ultimately depends upon the individual and his attitude and the intention and meaning behind it. It's like the whole "giving away" thing too, that has changed in meaning as well-at least I hope so for most people.
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Old 10-09-2007, 01:03 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally posted by UberBeaver
I don't think it's seen as an "asking for permission" gesture as much as it is a motion of respect. I'm all for it, I think it shows character. The parents appreciate it. Why not? If they say no....well, cest la vie. You go forward with it anyway.
I agree with this. It's more of a symbolic than literal gesture to me these days.
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Old 10-09-2007, 01:12 PM   #6
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i think it's absurd. it's her decision.

respect? if this is seen as a respectful gesture, then it almost has to be construed as sexist, or at least someone wanting it both ways and all ways -- worship me, adore me, make me special, put me up on a pedastal, treat me light a 19th century lady, but only when i want and how i want, but don't you dare think i'm somehow less capable than you at doing anything and all things.
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Old 10-09-2007, 01:12 PM   #7
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I think it depends on the relationship she has with her father.

I also think it's more of a symbolic guesture towards the family...
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Old 10-09-2007, 01:15 PM   #8
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well why does the man have to spend half a year's pay on an engagement ring? how come the woman can't ask the man to marry her, presenting the man with a $5,000 HD TV?



i know i'm being silly but some things are just tradition. i'm with uber... it's a sign of respect as opposed to actuall permission, and you're probably going to go through with the wedding regardless of the answer.
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Old 10-09-2007, 01:22 PM   #9
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This is one tradition that I will happily live without. I make my own damn decisions for my own life, thank you very much, and my parents haven't had a say in them for a long long time. The idea that one man (potential husband) has to ask the permission of another man (father) for the right to do what, possess?, another human being makes me a little ill to my stomach, quite frankly. No thanks.
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Old 10-09-2007, 01:23 PM   #10
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When my brother in law proposed to my sister, he first did the down on one knee thing. Then after telling my parents they were getting married, he asked my father for permission. And of course, my dad said yes.

Its a cute tradition, but kind of pointless. In our society, the father does not own the daughter. And like the others said above, the couple would get married anyway even if the father disapproves.
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Old 10-09-2007, 01:27 PM   #11
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I think you're putting too much weight on the father's "decision". He's not making a decision for his daughter, he is, if anything, just giving his blessing, it's like a pre-emptive, "Welcome to the family, son" moment.

And is this an American tradition, or do they do this in other countries as well? I have no idea.

I never did it cause my father in law had died before I got engaged. I did have a chat with my mother in law though, just a kind of "heads up....and you don't secretly hate me, right?" type of conversation. Permission was never a factor.
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Old 10-09-2007, 01:28 PM   #12
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As independent as I am, I would actually like this gesture. I'm also in agreement with Beav, it being a show of respect and all.
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Old 10-09-2007, 01:34 PM   #13
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I thought it was three months?

And a tv would get much more use than a ring, IMO.

Anyway, as independent as I am, I would actually like this gesture. I'm also in agreement with Beav, it being a show of respect and all.
meh... three months/five months... either way, one would assume you could do a lot more good with that money, like i don't know... apply it towards a downpayment on a house (what a silly concept)... then on a huge rock.

but, alas, that's a different subject all together.

again, i'm with uber... which annoys me to be with him, btw... no one's really asking permission anymore... it's more of a formality. it's just something you do out of respect... and if they say no eh.. fuck it. it's not hteir decision anyways.

edit- it's always fun when you quote someone who later retracts their statement, thus making it look like you made up what they said
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Old 10-09-2007, 01:34 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally posted by UberBeaver
I think you're putting too much weight on the father's "decision". He's not making a decision for his daughter, he is, if anything, just giving his blessing, it's like a pre-emptive, "Welcome to the family, son" moment.

I think it's more of a respectful way to let the family know what you're going to ask their daughter...

and it is comforting to know if the family is behind your decision.
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Old 10-09-2007, 01:37 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally posted by Headache in a Suitcase


meh... three months/five months... either way, one would assume you could do a lot more good with that money, like i don't know... apply it towards a downpayment on a house (what a silly concept)... then on a huge rock.

but, alas, that's a different subject all together.

again, i'm with uber... which annoys me to be with him, btw... no one's really asking permission anymore... it's more of a formality. it's just something you do out of respect... and if they say no eh.. fuck it. it's not hteir decision anyways.
I completely agree on that point. Whenever I see a woman with a huge rock on her finger I automatically think "wow, that could have been a house, or a car, or etc." There's a time to piss money away on stupid things and a time not to. When two people get married it's the latter.

And you so caught me before the edit. lol

I really wouldn't care if my parents said no, but for someone to do that would mean a lot to me.
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