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Shall Women Propose?
by [?]

This prospective social revolution suggests many inquiries. What would be the effect upon the female character and disposition of a possible, though not probable, refusal, or of several refusals? Would she become embittered and desperate, and act as foolishly as men often do? Would her own sex be considerate, and give her a fair field if they saw she was paying attention to a young man, or an old one? And what effect would this change in relations have upon men? Would it not render that sporadic shyness of which we have spoken epidemic? Would it frighten men, rendering their position less stable in their own eyes, or would it feminize them–that is, make them retiring, blushing, self-conscious beings? And would this change be of any injury to them in their necessary fight for existence in this pushing world? What would be the effect upon courtship if both the men and the women approached each other as wooers? In ordinary transactions one is a buyer and one is a seller–to put it coarsely. If seller met seller and buyer met buyer, trade would languish. But this figure cannot be continued, for there is no romance in a bargain of any sort; and what we should most fear in a scientific age is the loss of romance.

This is, however, mere speculation. The serious aspect of the proposed change is the effect it will have upon the character of men, who are not enough considered in any of these discussions. The revolution will be a radical one in one respect. We may admit that in the future woman can take care of herself, but how will it be with man, who has had little disciplinary experience of adversity, simply because he has been permitted to have his own way? Heretofore his life has had a stimulus. When he proposes to a woman, he in fact says: “I am able to support you; I am able to protect you from the rough usage of the world; I am strong and ambitious, and eager to take upon myself the lovely bondage of this responsibility. I offer you this love because I feel the courage and responsibility of my position.” That is the manly part of it. What effect will it have upon his character to be waiting round, unselected and undecided, until some woman comes to him, and fixes her fascinating eyes upon him, and says, in effect: “I can support you; I can defend you. Have no fear of the future; I will be at once your shield and your backbone. I take the responsibility of my choice.” There are a great many men now, who have sneaked into their positions by a show of courage, who are supported one way and another by women. It might be humiliating to know just how many men live by the labors of their wives. And what would be the effect upon the character of man if the choice, and the responsibility of it, and the support implied by it in marriage, were generally transferred to woman?