Shaming faith-forward women and stomping on conservative political values has long been the unapologetic hallmark of Cosmopolitan magazine. True to form, in its latest assault on women, Cosmo’s advisers-on-high have instructed men to discontinue the time-honored tradition of asking the father of their future bride for his blessing on their marriage.
Why? It’s misogynistic, they claim, shaking their fists in a bid to save feminism from this egregious and ongoing assault on gender equality.
The culture warriors at Cosmo believe this tradition is nothing more than sexism masquerading as romance. They say women should move past the point where they’re “bought and sold” as chattel — mere pawns in a man’s world — and move away from any man who tries to put them in that position.
And just in case you missed the not-so-subtle directive, the magazine makes it crystal clear with maxims like these:
- “By partaking in it, we’re reinforcing a deeply sexist practice …”
- “In a marriage, you should respect your partner … which means not asking her father if it’s OK to marry her …”
- “Asking a father specifically — asking for permission, or his blessing — plays into long-standing and deeply-held misogynist ideas of what marriage is for …”
Let’s unpack Cosmo’s arguments a bit. First, we’re not still living in the 18th century. A number of marriage-related customs, such as wedding rings and white dresses, originated at a time that marriage was indeed a transfer of “ownership.” Yet participating in such traditions today does not mean that couples advocate a return to that time. Most modern couples are quite capable of distinguishing between a much-loved and understood custom — and a political statement.
You can’t perpetuate practices that no longer exist (at least not in mainstream society). Dredging them up for the sake of making an argument for or against an otherwise culturally neutral tradition is intellectually dishonest. We don’t trade goats for brides any more — nor do we expect wives to be indentured servants to their fathers, husbands, bosses, or anyone else.
Society is not at risk of regressing to former times if fiancés engage in the tradition of symbolically asking for a woman’s hand in marriage. It’s just not going to happen.
Cosmo’s writers and editors know this. Yet they persist in putting forward the idea that such traditions threaten the cause of feminism, at least metaphorically.
In an eyeroll-worthy pseudo-nod to more traditionally inclined women, they offer this tasteless tidbit of placating drivel: “No one loses their feminist card for … deciding they would rather avoid a fight than take a feminist stance.”
It’s a bit of a stretch to call this subtext, but an argument could be made for that. Translated, the takeaway they hope to achieve with the above dressing-down is, “We don’t want anyone to call us out for attacking fellow women who make choices other than those we prescribe. If you do, though, you’re a shameful sellout who won’t fight for feminism and you can’t be a part of our club. We wear pink on Wednesdays, by the way.”
Here’s the thing, though. Some of us will call you out for that. Some of us will call you out for shaming women who appreciate tradition — women who do not appreciate attacks on their values. Much to its own shame, Cosmo’s repeated devaluing of women who espouse conservative, traditional beliefs around marriage doesn’t elevate this outlet’s esteem. It diminishes it. Soundly.
“Our lives don’t, and can’t, always line up perfectly with our politics. This is especially true when we’re making a decision to enter into an institution that is, judging by its entire history, a sexist one,” quips the Cosmo writer.
Here’s the truth. Traditional marriage is an institution worthy of celebration.
Did you hear that scrabbling in the walls of the interwebs? That’s the sound of that magazine attempting to backpedal while simultaneously pushing an agenda. That’s the fingernails-on-a-chalkboard screech of someone speaking out of both sides of her (or their) mouth(s).
Straddling the fence will leave you with a chapped behind.
Here’s the truth. Traditional marriage is an institution worthy of celebration. Those who appreciate and value the traditions around it, such as asking the bride’s parents for permission or a blessing prior to the official proposal needn’t hide their affinity for those traditions, much less apologize for them. They should be lauded for engaging in their traditions and customs in the same way we laud the marital traditions of other cultures.
As a recent LifeZette piece on this topic pointed out, the “handoff” of asking for a woman’s hand in marriage is symbolic. Today, a future fiancé who seeks the blessing of the parents of his bride-to-be is engaging in something profound, meaningful and more honorable than Cosmo appears capable of communicating to readers.
Asking for the blessing of the father (or parents) of the bride-to-be connotes respect and commitment. It is an honor — an appreciative tip of the hat — to the people who, for many future brides, have promoted her best interests since the day she was born. These are people whom his future bride respects, loves and cherishes, people she would want her future husband to respect and honor as well.
Requesting a father (and/or mother’s) blessing for a future marriage is akin to saying, “I appreciate all you have done to love, mold and support my future wife. Much of who she is — and who we will be as a couple — is thanks to you.”
Reading more into it than that smacks of a lack of integrity, and it highlights a disturbing, hypocritical willingness to sacrifice fellow women on the alter of feminism in lieu of championing us all.
Michele Blood is a freelance writer with a passion for children’s literature. Based in Flemington, New Jersey, she leverages her background in psychology in her work for publishers, businesses and NPOs.