The world of dating today is still largely a man's game. Careful rules detail who asks who out, who makes the first move and when, and the reasons why a woman should never sleep with a man on the first date (because that means she's "easy" — except no, it absolutely does not). But all over the world, there are dating traditions that are surprisingly feminist, often putting women in charge, steering the relationship, and making the important decisions. Women who take action in romance are still often viewed as aggressive and desperate, but in certain cultures thorough history, there have been times when it was perfectly normal for the roles to be reversed.
Things aren't perfect, but women are definitely making progress in what has typically been a rather imbalanced playing field. We have more freedom sexually and outspokenly fight slut shaming; we aren't feeling quite so pressured to hurry up and get married or have children; and generally, we're expressing more vehemently that we don't need to get married or have children at all if we don't want to. So, in the name of women who totally rule the world, here are a few dating and wedding traditions proving that maybe we have a little more power than we think.
1. Women Proposing On Leap Day
All right, so these days, there's nothing really feminist about the tradition of women proposing on Leap Day; we can all propose whenever the heck we want, and we certainly don't have to wait for one day that only happens about every four years. When this traditional first took hold in cultures around the world, however, it was incredibly feminist. Consider this story (which may be a legend, but our legends still tell us important things about who we are): When fifth-century Irish nun St. Brigid of Kildare asked St. Patrick for permission for women to propose, he at first gave permission for it to happen every seven years; but he then changed it to every leap day. And all started because of complaints from women that their men were too shy to propose in the first place! This was obviously not a common occurrence back then, and it was the one time women could take charge and control the future of their relationships.
As Lynn Niedermeier told HuffPo, "You could argue that the tradition is not as ‘anti-feminist’ as it first appears. It could be seen as something that allows the ladies to shake off their cultural shackles and take charge when the objects of their affection are too inexperienced or timid to propose."
2. The Sisters' Meals Festival In China
Dating has largely left women at the mercy of a man's choices. Women have quietly waited for the man to express interest, make a move, make a choice. Such has not been the case for the Miao people in China's Guizhou province.
China's Sisters' Meals Festival is considered Asia's oldest Valentine's Day. For this special event, girls would dye rice blue, pink, yellow, or white. When the festival started, men would approach women they were interested in marrying. The rice would be wrapped in handkerchiefs marked with different symbols, and women would use this to answer a man's advances. A pair of red chopsticks means that she's also in love, while one chopstick means she's politely turning him down. Garlic or red chili stands for an outright refusal, and a pine needle means that the boys should bring gifts, and the woman will wait. While it's true the women are still waiting for the men to make the first move, the tradition puts the ultimate decision firmly in their hands.
3. In Cambodia, Women Have Options
So many, if not most, dating traditions around the world put men in the driver's seat. They'd scope out the lucky lady, while women crossed their fingers that they'd get picked. In Cambodia, things have been a little different. Fathers give their daughters "love shacks," and the girls are encouraged to spend time with as many men as they'd like, so that they find the right person and have a long-lasting marriage.
4. Japan's Valentine's Day In Reverse
Typically, Valentine's Day is a romantic holiday for women to be showered with chocolate, flowers, and other gifts. In Japan, however, it's the woman who gives the gifts. There are two types of chocolate that a woman gives: giri-choco ("obligation" chocolate for friends, coworkers, etc.) and honmei-choco (chocolate for a boyfriend, lover, or husband). Fret not, though: Women still get their turn to be gifted on March 14, "White Day."
5. The Beauty Contest For Men
In Niger, the Wodaabe men engage in a beauty contest known as Gerewol, but not as judges — as contestants. They carefully decorate their faces in make-up, wear elaborate headdresses, and dance to try to impress the female judges. Here's the twists: Both people can already be paired off, and it still doesn't matter. Because marriages are arranged when men and women are very young, Gerewol is an opportunity to create a new love match. It is acceptable to leave your current partner for a new one, and commitments and vows of marriage can be permanently terminated, or set aside just temporarily for a fling.