- Giannina Gibelli quickly became a quirky fan favourite on Netflix’s hit reality TV show, “Love is Blind” after interrupting her castmate Damien Powers proposal to her to pop the question to him instead.
- More women like Gibelli and Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, are breaking from tradition of having men propose to women, though many still feel the pressure to wait for their boyfriends to pop the question.
- In Ireland, however, there’s a tradition of women proposing to men on February 29 during Leap Years.
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Giannina Gibelli had “Love is Blind” audiences on the edge of their couches when she interrupted Damien Powers proposal to her.
“One thing I don’t believe in is roles or labels,” the 25-year-old told Powers. “I do whatever I want. And what I want you to do is stand up.”
It seemed obvious Gibelli was going to break up with Powers. But, instead, she got down on her knee and popped the question to him.
“I see you as my equal and I’m just as strong as you,” Gibelli said. “So, I want to ask you, Damien Powers, will you marry me?”
Since, Gibelli told Esquire she wasn’t expecting to do it but in the moment she wanted to break away from the traditional gender stereotype of simply waiting for a man to propose. “I had no idea I was gonna do it, but it was what I felt in the moment,” the 25-year-old told Esquire.
Her move was part of a growing shift in gender roles surrounding marriage proposals.
More women are popping the question themselves, or planning the proposal with their partner, like Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook, who recently encouraged women not to wait for their boyfriends to propose, after she revealed her and her now-fiancé Tom Bernthal planned their engagement together.
But this year you may see more women proposing for another reason: it’s a leap year, and popular Irish tradition, now spread around the world, has it that women should propose on February 29.
Studies show that more women are proposing to their boyfriends rather than waiting – but the stigma still exists
According to CBS News, an Associated Press-WE TV poll found that only 5% of women in heterosexual couples had proposed to men. While more women are pushing back against this gender norm by proposing to their male partners, the stigma is still felt by countless others.
“Women don’t want to be seen as less feminine, or too sexual, or coming on too strong,” Beth Montemurro, a professor of sociology at Penn State University, told The New York Times. “And there’s a concern for men about [being publicly emasculated].”
This fear is a reflection of deeper gender equity issues, according to Sandberg, who also founded women’s workplace equity organisation Lean In.
“Almost seven years ago, I wrote in Lean In that in a truly equal world, women would run half our countries and companies and men would run half our homes,” Sandberg wrote. “Equality at work depends on equality at home, and that starts with equality in dating.”
She added: “If you want that surprise proposal, I hope you get it. Tradition can be beautiful. But as I see it, if we want to achieve equality, we have to rethink the social norms around getting engaged.”
In Ireland, leap year proposals are a way of combating this antiquated social norm
While the idea of men needing to be the one to propose to a woman is something that exists across the globe, a tradition in Ireland stands to challenge what some consider a sexist practice.
According to Irish Central, women have been proposing to men on February 29 on Leap Years since the 5th century. The tradition emerged out of St. Brigid of Kildare’s frustration that women had to wait too long for their male partners to propose. Any man who refused a proposal actually had to pay a fine to the woman who proposed.
Then, in 1288, Irish monks brought the tradition to Scotland where it was put into law by Queen Margaret – who added an amendment to the law in which all women who propose had to wear red petticoats while doing so.
Though the law no longer exists, the tradition has lived on and continues to subvert gender norms surrounding marriage proposals.
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