On August 14, 2016, Olympic diver He Zi won the silver medal in the women’s 3M springboard. Right after the medal ceremony, fellow diver and boyfriend of six years, Qin Kai, proposed to her. She said yes.
One would think that all of the above facts would be cause for universal celebration, but in these early days of the 21st century it has become quite apparent that WE CAN’T HAVE NICE THINGS.
In some quarters, the fact that Qin chose the moment representing the ultimate recognition of He’s struggle and culmination of her athletic efforts over the last four years to ask for her hand in marriage was disrespectful, egocentric, and controlling. It was yet another example of a man trampling the efforts of woman so as to fix the public gaze firmly on him and announce her ultimate subjugation. “Check out the look on her face,” they say. “She clearly wasn’t into it!” “She only said yes out of embarrassment!”
Get the fuck out of here. Now.
OK. That response was a bit subtle, so here are a few more thoughts on this particular topic.
A. It’s disturbing that folks are so willing to jump to conclusions about He Zi’s feelings or the nature of their relationship dynamics based on a second or two of facial expressions (or a manipulatively chosen still). If you listen to her talk about it here, she explains that what you’re witnessing is the face of a genuinely surprised woman, nervous about making the right decision. Holy shit, she’s human!
In a subsequent interview, when asked whether she’d like to talk about her medal win or engagement first, she immediately replied, “I feel that my happiness now will make up for the loss of the gold medal.” In the same conversation, questioned about their future in diving, she stated, “We have been through a lot in the past few years…we must have a good rest first.” Qin, as sickeningly overbearing as ever, only replied, “My answer must be the same as hers.” Later, he goes on to say, “I will follow whatever her choice is,” while she, clearly intimidated by her fiancé’s dominating presence, remarked demurely, “He must abide by my decisions.”
Somebody please rescue her from this abusive relationship ASAP.
B. There’s a sizable group of women who enjoy public proposals. Take a look at the reaction of He’s fellow medal winners when this egregious act of sexism went down:
People like ostentatious displays of commitment. Although one leading proposal service company (yes, these fuckers exist) has seen a flattening of demand for public proposals, they still represent half of their business…meaning it’s a HUGE chunk of their revenue and that it used to be MOST of it. And by the way, a public proposal is any invitation to marriage that occurs in a public venue. It need not be on the Jumbotron at Yankee Stadium; the middle of a Red Lobster in Des Moines, Iowa counts, too.
I’d also point to the preponderance of Facebook posts with multii-angled pics of diamond rings on freshly manicured hands as another proxy for evidence of many women’s comfort with public displays of the intention to marry. Seriously, they give shots of drooling babies a hellified run for their money.
C. While there are certainly people who make public proposals because they’re egomaniacs, there are plenty of folks engaging in such shenanigans in order to please would-be wives and boldly declare their love. Perhaps that’s what Marjorie Enya was doing on August 8th when she headed onto a field post-match with balloons and—GASP!—a microphone to ask Isadora Cerullo, her rugby playing girlfriend, for her hand in marriage. But hey, why guess when she told us herself?
Interviewed afterward, Enya said, “As soon as I knew she was in the squad I thought, ‘I have to make this special’…She is the love of my life…I wanted to show people that love wins.” Yeah, it was a woman who set off the marriage proposals at the 2016 Olympic games.
I’ll leave you with a closing thought. After articulating this POV on Facebook, one of my female friends earnestly asked, “Who hurt you?” Another queried me privately regarding the “noise about the proposal” and whether someone had rejected mine. Neither was trying to be insensitive, but just stop for a second and imagine the fallout if a man responded to a woman during a discussion about relationships in such a patronizing and dismissive manner.
Having said that, I’ve never proposed to anyone. No personally experienced rejection motivated me to write this. Instead, this essay is an effort to expose the doublethink that allows questions such as those posed above even to exist. The Wedding Industrial Complex is built on stoking women’s desires for the fairytale ending, and that ending begins with the way in which a man asks the Princess to become his Queen. For those on the quest for that movie-worthy proposal, I say may the odds be forever in your muphuckin’ favor. Personally, I accept my feminist comrades’ invitation to join the Minimalist Proposal Movement.
Are there local chapters and shit?