Written by Nicole
Let’s start this blog post with a little exercise. From the browser of your choice, open a Private/Incognito window and Google “woman proposing to man”. Ignoring the ones that are either illustrations or stock photos, is there a trend you notice? Share what you see in the comments below.
With that out the way, I’m back with a blog after seeing some foolery on my timeline. The photo was of a black woman and man, at sunset, on the beach. The woman looks to be about 7+ months pregnant. That description, by itself, sounds lovely, doesn’t it?
The woman is on bended knee, one hand tenderly cradling her belly, the other presenting a ring to the man. In short, she is photographed proposing to her would-be future husband, all while heavily pregnant. The blushing groom has his hand to his mouth in the “gasp!” position. I will not repost the picture as I really don’t want to spread that imagery further. If you run in these circles no doubt you’ve already seen it or could easily find it.
I’ve seen one blurry screen shot saying that this was an April Fool’s joke. I’ve tried to find the original post to confirm, but couldn’t. For my own sanity I hope that’s the case. However, even if it is a prank played on all of social media, the vast majority of viewers are not seeing it as a prank. The picture has been reposted on every social media platform without any evidence of it being a joke. As such, anyone seeing it will see that imagery and nothing else. So, even if it is a (terrible) joke, I’m still going to comment on it because the masses are seeing this as a real event.
Even as a joke, it’s not funny. Our image is not secure enough to take hits like this, even in jest.
Just three days ago we had a wealthy biracial football player use a dark-skinned black woman as his mascot for his social justice anthology (sign the petition here), and now this. I am so very tired of this imagery that paints us in a masculine light! Even if it’s jokes, even if it’s just illustrations, it still matters!
It’s not like if/when they marry, he’s going to take her last name and assume all the duties typically assigned to the wife. He’ll not be walking down the aisle in a white wedding suit with a veil and bouquet. Yet I’m sure the demands for “submission!!!” will still be made.
And of course, there will be folks saying that we don’t know their relationship. This is true. However, the true nature of their relationship is irrelevant because we have photo evidence of…*gestures vaguely in disgust*. He could be the dreamiest dreamboat to ever dreamboat, but this photo, shared thousands of times by now, simply does not show it. This photo shows what we do know of their relationship, and that’s what social media ran with.
And to that I say, that pregnant woman should carefully remove the growing baby and have some medical experts shove it up his urethra so he can carry it to term. When that’s done, then come back to me. Demanding equity (rather than equality) does not mean relinquishing my role as the feminine. It’s very telling that when it comes to the equality of the sexes, this is what some think is meant, rather than, I don’t know, the domestic violence epidemic, female genital mutilation, the “Pink Tax”, and equal pay for equal work. It seems that gender equality only matters when it benefits the men, just like splitting the bills and the woman proposing marriage.
Let’s go deeper. Let’s go beyond the seemingly out-of-wedlock pregnancy (which is the rule, not the exception for most black children) – that’s old hat now. This here system we live in now is a patriarchy. As such, there are some things that men are expected to do. Some things are simple and innocuous, like being able to identify and maybe even diagnose that weird noise coming from the car. And others are complex, and require lots of constant work, like the 4 Ps – providing, protecting, producing, and problem-solving. As such, as part of the patriarchal bargain (credit to KsC for introducing that term to me), certain expectations are made of men. If you (as men, collectively) want immortality via my (as women, collectively) womb, then you need to show me you’re worthy of it. Courtship and marriage are a critical part of that process.
Any man who looks at this photo and does not immediately cringe with a deeply furrowed brow and maybe even some nausea, is automatically a red flag and should be avoided. And judging by a few comments I’ve seen, that’s a lot of dudes. Here are a couple:
“All these sorry women on here see a problem with this, IS a problem.”
“The man proposing is just a tradition. Nothing more. Nothing less. [There’s] nothing wrong with keeping it and letting him propose. But there is nothing wrong about this besides it being different.”
I would bet every grain of sand on that beach that they wouldn’t be taking her name or assuming the bulk of the childcare…
Obviously it’s not ideal that this beautiful woman is heavily pregnant by a dude who has no problem with *gestures vaguely in disgust once more*. But again, going deeper, it speaks to a bigger problem.
Remember that Google search I mentioned? My results showed way more black women proposing, and I do not like that. It speaks to the pervasive belief that black women have – a piece of man is better than no man at all. “Choose better” is the mantra constantly told to black women, but never “be better” told to the men. How can a black woman choose better when a concerning number of men and women in the community don’t see anything wrong with this? You’d think that since black women are constantly portrayed as being masculine, nobody would endorse this. But the role reversal is too far gone and everything is out of order, and it’s sad but unsurprising.
If I was in this situation, I would be going home to a house full of plants, fish, and a dog. Then I would find the finest craftsman in the land to fashion me a mop and a broom, because I would rather mop that same ocean and sweep that same beach where this photo was taken. Because it simply could not be me. And it should NOT be you, either.