Is This Bachelorette Proposal Tradition Outdated?

Photo: Courtesy of Disney/ABC.
It constitutes a major plot point on last night’s finale of The Bachelorette, but is a conversation with parents before making a proposal still a big deal? Or is it an antiquated tradition that can easily veer off into a sexist ditch if both hands don’t stay firmly on the wheel?

If you're not caught up on this season of The Bachelorette, here's a little refresher. Getting the approval of JoJo’s parents, particularly her father, is obviously important to her and both of her potential partners, Jordan and Robby. She has conversations with both men about talking to her father before they propose. Jordan (whom she ultimately chooses) repeatedly says throughout the run of series that he has imagined that moment of talking to his future father-in-law all his life. But then, in the Bachelorette finale, he mucks it all up and doesn’t have the conversation when he meets her parents.

After Jordan's misstep, JoJo calls him out on it, and she is legitimately upset and concerned about his level of commitment to their relationship. Jordan’s answers are troublesome, at best. The tide is turning toward Robby, who does have a sit down with both of her parents, but Jordan pulls it off in the end. At the last moment, he calls his future in-laws and asks for permission to propose.

The history of marriage is a complicated one. "Tying the knot" and "asking for her hand" certainly carry patriarchal connotations, but that doesn’t mean that the person proposing thinks in that way. Many couples view the conversation with the parents as a sign of respect, even now.

In some ways, the evolution of gender roles and of marriage itself has simplified the union between two people. In other ways, though, for a couple that wants to keep traditions like this one alive, the modern family unit can make that complicated. Should it be a conversation with one parent or both parents? What about stepparents? What happens with some other type of family structure? Or an entirely different type of romantic partnership?

Those are questions that only the couple themselves can answer. Couples should do what feels right for them. Don’t want to ask for permission because that feels sexist and weird to you, but you would love to have the family’s blessing? Sounds good. It feels right to propose, then tell the family first before anyone else? Go for it. Want to elope to Las Vegas and send a selfie out on Snapchat? Hey, you do you.

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Photo: Courtesy of Disney/ABC.
For JoJo and Jordan both, the conversation with her parents obviously means something more. Also worth noting is that the conversation isn't just with JoJo’s father. Robby and Jordan make sure to talk to both of her parents.

But it's still interesting that Jordan’s gaffe looked like it might be the thing that sent him home alone. “We talked about this,” JoJo says to him. “I was really disappointed and bummed out and upset. If it is you, now you don’t have my family’s blessing.”

The conversation with her parents is symbolic. It represents a level of seriousness and a deliberate step toward long-term commitment. It isn’t just critical for her; it carries a lot of weight for both of them. The bottom line is that it's important to them, and that’s what really matters.
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