The holiday season is upon us, which means parties, presents, and oh yeah, a bunch of random Facebook friends popping the question. According to Wedding Wire, five of the most popular engagement days in 2017 occurred in December alone.
Which is, well, nothing new. The holidays are such a popular time to “say yes” that the period between Thanksgiving and New Years is often called “engagement season” (although that’s shifting).
But what is new? The person popping the question. A December 2018 report from Pinterest says searches for “Women propose to men ideas” are up 336 percent year over year. And though same-sex couples have long been considering the question of who proposes, more are getting married now—Pinterest reported a 1352 percent rise in searches for "unique lesbian proposals" year over year.
Pinterest ties the first trend to an overall increased interest in feminism. “We saw a rise in searches for feminist quotes, girl power tattoos, and even a rise in self-care as it relates to women,” says Swasti Sarna of Pinterest Insights. “Women proposing to men may just be the next step in female empowerment.”
It’s not just Pinterest. The hashtag #hesaidyes now has 82,000 posts on Instagram, and in February, the New York Post ran a story with the (albeit cringeworthy) headline: “Women proposing to their boyfriends is the latest #MeToo culture shift.”
Is a societal change really afoot? While so many old-fashioned ideas about heterosexual courtship have fallen to the wayside—it’s common to have sex or cohabit with partners before marriage, for example—the expectation of who proposes to who seems to have clung on in our collective consciousness.
And in pop culture: Who can forget in Sex and the City when Charlotte proposed to Trey, but was so ashamed she told people he popped the question in front of Tiffany’s? Or even worse: the 2010 comedy Leap Year, in which Amy Adams needs to find her boyfriend on Leap Day in Dublin because, per an Irish tradition, that’s the only time and place a woman can propose?
I decide to post two polls to my 2,700 followers on Instagram. The first: “Ladies—would you ever propose to your boyfriend?” The second: “Gentlemen—Do you think it’s ok for a girl to propose?” I knew that the answers shouldn’t be considered scientific: one girl’s Instagram account does not an official study make. It was more an exercise in curiosity, a gentle gauge of the pulse of my peers.
Some of my female friends were all for the idea: “Already planning it,” one messaged. “I’d happily propose, if I could just think of a romantic way to do it,” said another. But, still, a lot of them followed tradition: they wanted to be the proposed-to, not the proposer. There’s a crack in the party line, but among my friends, it still seems to hold.
But guess who didn’t care? The guys. The majority said they were totally cool with their girlfriend proposing. My one friend summed it up: “I don’t think I’d be taken aback by it. We talk pretty openly about most things, so it would just be more that she beat me to it.”
That stuck with me. In this day and age, proposals rarely come out of the blue. They are discussed beforehand by both parties, carefully considered for months or even years. Women are, yes, proposed to. But that’s because, most of the time, they agree to be proposed to. A proposal isn’t done by one person. It’s mutual. So what does it matter who ends up getting down on one knee?