Asking Her Dad's Permission To Propose Isn’t Sexist — It's Beautiful

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Ben Higgins And Lauren B The Bachelor
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Why do we HATE on guys who try to be loving, respectful gentlemen?

The Bachelor has become a modern gladiator-style phenomenon so widely followed that the only thing that still surprises me about the show is how anyone in the universe can still be surprised by anything that the dashing gentleman and his lady-court-of-the season may say or do.

And yet, when latest Bachelor heartthrob Ben Higgins called the father of his soon-to-be fiancee, Lauren Bushnell, to ask Dad's permission to marry her, some out there felt scandalized by his — wait for it — partaking in such a "stupid" sexist tradition.

I could not disagree more with this Negative Nelly of a take on such a beautiful interaction. 

As a divorce mediator and coach who is also a single woman who absolutely still believes in love and marriage, I pay close attention to the issues I see most commonly causing damage within relationships. Respect, love and appreciate for each other's families is one such core theme that I find to be highly predictive of the success or failure of a marriage. Couples in which both spouses see their husband or wife's family as just as important as their own — or even better, who truly see their spouse's family AS their own family — tend to have more respectful, harmonious relationships all around. 

Looking more closely at Ben as a person, and not simply as a pre-packaged proposal machine, prior to his making his finally decision and the fated call to Lauren's father, Ben made a choice to discuss his weighty decision with both of his own parents. And good for him! If he respects his own family enough to consider their thoughts and feelings about his potential union, I am certainly glad to see that he gives Lauren's family the same kind of consideration.

Here is a man who is starting out this relationship from a place of respect not only for the woman he loves, but respect for both his family and her family as well. Here is a man who is trying to do this right. He is taking the proposal seriously, the woman he loves seriously, and her family serious. Is there a single good reason you can think of to trash any of that?

Yes, I am well aware that these shows are highly produced. It is quite possible that Ben sat down to talk with his parents about the decision because the producers told him to, and just as possible that the producers told him to call Lauren's dad and ask him for her hand.

This is all speculation of course. For all I know (and for all anyone watching the show and not directly working on it knows), maybe when the women are cast they are asked if they would like for their father to get such a call if they end up being chosen as The One. This is someone's actual life we are talking about. Someone's actual proposal. Shouldn't it be handled in the way they would want it to be?

We, the audience, feel entitled to have it both ways. We want to see true love come out of these shows. We want to see these couples actually get engaged, get married and stay married. That is about as traditional as TV-land fairy tales can get. If we want traditional, we don't get to pick and choose which features of the tradition clause we each want to discard. Sorry, folks, but Ben cannot please all of you, and he doesn't have to. He needs to please himself, the woman he wants to marry, and both of their families.

If we want to go there, of course, we  can certainly pick apart the entire concept of a proposal as a sexist construct.

Wait, he got down on one knee! Why does he have to buy her a diamond? Why doesn't she pop the question? Why is it that on The Bachelorette, the men are still the ones picking out the rings and proposing if she is the star of the show? Shouldn't she propose? If she does, should she buy him a diamond ring too? I mean, I could go on for days for the sake of fun and fodder, but I cannot imagine why I would possibly want to spend my time doing so.

Come on now. No one is buying the argument that "Asking a woman’s father for permission to marry her insinuates that she’s not willing or able to make her own decisions about getting married so her father must dictate whether or not it’s a good idea." I cannot imagine that any man in the United States in this day and age who asks a father's permission to marry his daughter actually believe that whether or not the elder man says yes is more important than whether or not his love accepts the proposal.

Asking a woman's father for permission is a formality. A loving, beautiful gesture of respect, symbolizing that this man recognizes that when he marries the woman, he marries her entire clan. 

Tradition isn't inherently bad because it is traditional. Traditional male/female dynamics aren't inherently sexist because the men have one role and the women have another. It would be sexist and oppressive if things could only be done that one way, but it is just as sexist and oppressive to insist that they can't be done in a way other than the way that you yourself would prefer. 

What is most important is that each couple be on the same page about how they want to either follow or transcend traditions together on their life path. If it is important to you that your father not be asked for permission, talk that through with the man in your life before you get to the point where you think he might do so. Maybe you could even both ask each other's families. That's the great thing about being a grown up in a free country in the 21st century. It's your choice. This was Ben's choice. Good for him.

As much as we fetishize individuality days, anyone who gets married does take on that person's entire family. That is just the way that it is. Please don't take that too lightly. If you love and respect each other, don't just let yourselves know, let each other's families in on that joy. And let them know you love the entire family too.

You will all be stronger for it. 



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