I loved the Olympics as a kid, and they are still a big deal in my house. My husband is Greek so there’s a lot of “we invented this” pride happening (insert loving eye roll here). But these Olympics have left me deflated. It’s not that there weren’t many AH-MAZE-ING performances and stories. I mean, the US gymnastics team, Simone Manuel, Katie Ledecky, the women’s 4X400 relay team, and so many more.
So why am I feeling a bit jaded? (That’s a rhetorical question, the answer is sexism). US women were huge winners at the Rio games, and it seemed like no one knew how to properly react. The media were atrocious in their commentary on women athletes—reducing the US women’s gymnastics team to giggly teens at the mall or focusing on athletes’ husbands or marriage proposals instead of their accomplishments.
Seriously, what’s the deal with public proposals? I mean, this one, where a Chinese diver had her Olympic metal moment upstaged by someone who supposedly loves and respects her? And then the media gushed about how getting a ring and this dude was a waaaaaay bigger prize than the silver was? What a disaster. Even she states in an interview that her feelings about it are “complicated.” Gymnast Ali Raisman got a public proposal for a date while live on a talk show and people thought it was romantic (nope). And there was also a Brazilian rugby player who received a public marriage proposal that even gave me, your local feminist killjoy, some warm fuzzies. But then I promptly had to reevaluate my feelings because public proposals are not good.
We’ve been told over and over (mostly by cheesy movies and TV) that proclaiming your love from the mountaintop is romantic. But the thing about public proposals is that they don’t give the person a real chance to say no. And those who do say no are questioned and criticized. This is coercive behavior and an all too familiar technique used by those who abuse their partners.
I’m not saying that everyone who makes public proposals is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. But I am asking that we shift how we think about this. If you are thinking about making a grand public gesture of love, think twice. Do you know how this person feels about public displays of affection? Have you previously talked about the thing you are asking? I love seeing the love, really. I want more love. Love for all! But that means having relationships that are built on respect and space to speak your truth.