Over the last few weeks, the audacity of any woman proposing to a man, has become a debate among many Nigerians.
Despite the excitement that is often said to come with allowing men to “pop the question”, some feel a woman should be able to turn the table around and do the proposing.
This debate was triggered by a viral video showing an unidentified young woman in high heels dropping to her knees to propose to her boyfriend, who turned her down instantly at the Ikeja City Mall, Lagos few weeks ago.
But while these kinds of rejections may have placed a dark cloud on the idea of a woman proposing to a man, some women have had successes.
In June 2017, Edo comedienne, Etinosa Idemudia, took the bull by the horns and went down on bended knee to propose to her boyfriend, Bucci Franklin, in a restaurant, in the full glare of public attention.
“Not every time wait for bae to propose (sic). Sometimes take the bull by the horns. I was so nervous but he said yes!” she wrote on a picture of the scene she posted on Instagram afterwards.
In 2015, a Nigerian woman won the admiration of many, when she went down on bended knee at her place of work and proposed to her boyfriend. Her photographs, which circulated on blogs and news sites at the time, showed her co-workers gushing about the romantic gesture as her boyfriend accepted the proposal with a kiss on the forehead.
But some women, who shared their opinions with Saturday PUNCH, supported the idea of a woman proposing to a man.
According to an entrepreneur and marketer, Omolara Seweje, women who take such steps are brave and should be praised.
She, however, discouraged women from taking their proposal to a public space.
She said, “The problem is that as Africans, many are still very conservative in their thinking. But in the world we live in today, there is nothing wrong with a woman deciding to propose to a man she wishes to spend the rest of her life with.
“A woman proposing to a man is not a big deal but there are many other ways a woman could ask a man to marry her without asking directly. I would urge any woman to do the same but they should be wise about it.”
A broadcaster, Foluso Ojo, shared the same sentiments. She told our correspondent that many women who criticise women who propose to men would probably do the same thing if not because they are still being caged by societal opinion.
She said this explained why Nigerians go abroad to do things they could not do at home due to societal rules.
“In this new age, if you are interested in a man, there is nothing wrong with telling a man how you feel. But our society is such that women would rather keep their feelings inside and die with it because no one wants to be seen as cheap,” Ojo said.
An Ondo-based baker and entrepreneur, Mrs. Omolola Fadumiye, said even though many people would criticise a woman who goes out of her way to propose to a man, the world had advanced to the stage where there was nothing wrong in such actions.
Fadumiye said, “Where in the religious books or in our constitution is it written that it is the man who should always propose? Men these days aren’t all that responsible, I mean they don’t want to get responsibly attached. Why waste the precious time of a woman in question if you are actually just passing time with her?
“I salute the bravery of any woman who decides to propose to a man. If she is turned down, it would be good if she knew before it takes too long.
“There is nothing new under the sun any longer. I have also seen a woman propose to a man before even though it was not publicly. Today, they are happily living together as man and wife.
“I am all for doing whatever makes you happy. If a woman thinks she is comfortable proposing to her man, I would say, go for it. Life is too short to live by archaic rules that would stop your happiness.”
Another woman, Jane Anagboso, said even though women have to be cautious not to incur humiliation, there is nothing wrong with a woman proposing to a man.
But men, who spoke with Saturday PUNCH, gave contrary opinions.
A public servant, Kolade Peters, explained that no matter how much traditions evolve, he would not support a woman proposing to a man.
According to him, the role of proposing marriage would always be reserved for men.
“How do you think a lady will feel when a man says no after she proposes? Would she press further and try to convince him further or be devastated? A marriage proposal by women remains an abberation,” he said.
A Sales and Customer Service Specialist, Mr. Abiola Isaac, shared a similar opinion.
“For me, it is not ideal for a woman to propose to a man. It is a risky venture for any woman as it is likely that the man would take such proposal for granted or turn it down. There is also the possibility that the woman will be stigmatised. I understand western influence on our culture but I think our society is not ready for such yet. Let the man do the proposal,” he said.
But Mr. Olamide Akinjobi took the side of women.
“I support women expressing their deep feelings towards men but this should be done carefully. No matter how ‘western’ Africans want to be, our culture and traditions cannot be obliterated. There are many ways a woman can warm her way into a man’s heart,” he said.
Everything about life evolves, so should proposals – Sociologists
However, while some online reactions to such proposals have continued to label the ladies concerned as desperate, sociologists have different opinions.
A sociologist, Mr. Monday Ahibogwu, said it was normal for culture and tradition to evolve. According to him, this explains why the idea of a woman waiting for a man to propose is gradually changing.
He said, “The trend of having women proposing to men is actually not a new thing. It is becoming a trend because perhaps women are increasingly taking the responsibility where men are usually too scared to commit to marriage.
“In our society, the traditional thing is for the man to propose to the woman in order to be seen as the head of the family.
“But in a case where a woman decides to take the bull by the horns, there is nothing wrong with it. The problem is that many people do this to gain traction on the social media or direct attention to themselves.”
While agreeing that the need to trend on the social media might explain why some women propose to men publicly, Ahibogwu said the society has a way of checking unorthodox behaviour.
He said, “Society has a way of measuring attitudes, consumption, practice and behaviour. The thirst for social media exposure at all costs may seem acceptable now, but later, the society may clamp down on such behaviour. You would recall some universities did the same to check indecent exposure on campuses at a certain time.
“As much as we are a free society, there are times when these things become excessive. But the society has a way of correcting the things it considers as excesses.”
An Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Lagos, Dr. Lekan Oyefara, also agrees that the trend of women proposing to men is a sign of the society moving away from “traditional to the modernised”.
According to Oyefara, considering the evolution of technology and other elements of culture, it should not come as a surprise that the tradition of marriage proposal was evolving as well.
He said, “In a traditional setting, you expect the woman to be quiet, calm and not propose but in the modern time, you expect a woman to also be able to propose to a man.
“Social media is just one aspect of modernisation. Technology has to keep on changing while attitude also changes. Same sex marriage and people doing what they believe to be appropriate are all part of this modern society.
“In Africa, the tradition says the woman should wait for the man to propose but roles in the society are changing every day. These days, some women are stronger than men financially. Some women even pay their own bride price.
“For instance, traditional mass communication system changed to mass media and social media. All these cannot but instigate a change in behaviour and attitudes. Even culture is not static.”
According to him, those debating whether the actions of women proposing to men are right or wrong are simply being judgmental.
‘Give me a spouse or I die’
In Nigeria, the pressure to get married can be overwhelming, especially for women, a woman rights activist, Debby Falope, told our correspondent.
She shared a personal experience of coping with family and friends’ pressure on her to get married before she eventually got married at the age of 34.
According to her, no matter how strong a single woman is, coping with the pressure to get married is challenging, especially in a society where couples show off their marital lives on the social media.
Falope said, “The pressure started from my mother. I know this is the same with a lot of single women out there that are of marriageable age. The damage done by our mothers, especially when they are less educated or less modern in their thinking, is huge.
“My mother would tell me that maybe if I went out more, I would find a man to marry. At any chance she got, she would tell me that I was too critical of the choice of men. She was not too chastising about the way she said those things but it was tiring.
“Left to her, I should have simply gone down the road and picked a man on the street. In Africa, a woman’s fulfilment is still tied to her marital status. You are not seen as fully a woman yet until you are married, no matter what level you have attained in your career or in the society.
“Some mothers go as far as abusing their daughters for not ‘finding’ a husband as if a husband is something you go to the market to buy. Unfortunately, churches are not helping. Some sermons make being single look like a curse.”
In Nigeria, it is not strange to see banners of church programmes dedicated to preaching and praying about marital fulfilment.
The banner of a programme held at the GodHouse International Church, Delta State, made the news few years ago and became a reference point for those who believe churches propagate the pressure on single men and women to get married.
Advertising the programme, which was supposed to be the “Singles and Young Adult’s Meeting”, the theme written boldly on the banner was, “Give me a spouse or I die”.
At about the same time in the same state, another church had a banner advertising its “marital solution” programme with the theme: “War against delay: This beautiful sister must marry”.