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Do you think a man should ask for a woman's 'hand'?
How do we feel about the tradition that sees men asking a woman's father if they can essentially 'have her'?
Is it just a sweet sign of respect? Or is it basically like filling out a change of ownership form?
At the end of the day, this ritual is a throwback to when women were considered second-class citizens: they were, from birth, the legal property of their father. Then, if the meeting of the two men went well, they'd become the legal property of their husband.
The whole asking for a woman's hand thing has evolved with our economy - although, it did evolve differently in different places and is still evolving in places. Generally, when people worked the fields etc., a daughter marrying off was considered first and foremost the loss of a working member of the family, and so the groom was expected to pay up - whether in livestock, cash or gold. Aka, asking the dad was a negotiation, like figuring out the price of a prize cow.
But then, as we moved indoors and had to go out and buy stuff rather than just grow it, daughters, and their need for food and trinkets, were considered a drain on the family and dads couldn't even give them away. Hence the birth of the dowry - grooms-to-be getting paid to take a woman off of her family's hands.
So, yes, the tradition remained a negotiation that treated a woman like a 'thing', it's just that the tables had turned.
And today, with most of the world seeing marriage as something both parties enter into for love (remember that there are many cultures where dowry, forced marriage and negotiations still happen) the tradition is really more of a nicety. It's something some men feel like they 'should' do (and there are often motivations when you consider the father-of-the-bride is usually in charge of the bar tab on the big day).
But, think about this: what if he refuses? And what about her mum? She was probably quite involved in your lady love's rearing.
So, while the nervous boyfriend's intentions are normally less sinister than the tradition's mercantile roots, should we not just do away with it? Or has it just evolved into a harmless rite-of-passage?
What do you think? Did you ask? Or did your partner ask?
- Hat tip: More FM