ST. BONAVENTURE, NY - Once every four years a woman gets to pop that special question to the man in her life -- or at least that’s what Leap Day custom says. The practice of women proposing to men varies throughout the world, as do people’s opinions of the tradition.
“I think it’s a pretty cool custom, but I also think that shows a bigger problem that women don’t typically propose because it isn’t traditional,” said Elyse Breeze, a junior journalism and mass communication and strategic communication double major at St. Bonaventure University.
St. Bonaventure students had mixed reactions to the possibility of proposing or being proposed to by a woman. Breeze said that while she supported women who wanted to break the norm, she’s not sure she would do it herself.
William Wolf, a junior accounting major at Bonaventure, said he wouldn’t want a woman to propose to him.
“I prefer it more traditional,” Wolf said. “I couldn't imagine having a girl ask to marry me. Even if I was thinking about proposing to her myself, I would probably decline if she proposed to me because that's something I would want to do myself."
If Wolf were to decline such an invitation, he might be required to reconcile with the woman depending on where he lives. According to the BBC, if a man living in Denmark declines a Leap Day proposal, he must give the woman 12 pairs of gloves. But in Finland, the man who rejects a proposal should give the woman fabric for making a skirt.
The BBC notes, "Another popular story is that Queen Margaret of Scotland brought in a law setting fines for men who turned down marriage proposals put by women on a leap year. Sceptics have pointed out that Margaret was five years old at the time and living far away in Norway. The tradition is not thought to have become commonplace until the 19th Century."
Corey Krajewski, a graduate accounting student, said the idea of fining someone for saying no to a marriage proposal is silly.
“I think it’s kind of ridiculous because you have to give someone a gift just because you don’t want to marry them,” Krajewski said. I mean it might be a nice courtesy, but if I proposed to someone and they said no, I would just not want to see them for a while. That would be the gift I’d want.”
One student was particularly annoyed with the tradition.
Emily Jo Manchester, senior women’s studies major, thought the custom was demeaning to women and heteronormative.
“Why can’t women propose any other day of the year? Why does it have to be a quirky, weird, rare pseudo-holiday for women to propose to dudes?” Manchester said. “Is that the only day lesbians can get engaged? Is it like all of the lesbians in the world have to wait for a leap day to ask their girlfriends to marry them?”
Although the custom may not be for everyone, some still say it’s a wonderful tradition.
"I think it is a good idea. I would probably say yes if a girl I was dating for a long time proposed to me instead of me to her,” said Daniel Pierce, a junior finance major. “For her to propose to me it would have to mean she really cares about me."
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