Emily Shepard stepped out of the social expectations for what a woman is supposed to do. And it was awesome.
Ever since I proposed to my boyfriend, people have been calling me a badass.
I’m not sure I’ve ever been called a badass before. I don’t particularly live life on the edge, as it were. But suddenly I’ve become one. A badass! Me!
Or, as many of us call it: a feminist.
For all the stereotypes about man-hating and bra-burning, here is one picture of what a feminist looks like in real life: Me, sitting on a tree stump next to a babbling brook as tears well up in my eyes, holding a (man’s) ring and telling my boyfriend that I want to love him forever.
I stepped out of the social expectations for what a woman is supposed to do. I took control of my life and asked for what I wanted, and I decided not to worry about what other people would think of me. In a small way, I opened up the possibility for other women to do something they may want to do but feel they aren’t allowed to. If that’s not feminism, I don’t know what is.
People have called me many things since learning about the proposal: a badass, progressive, I was even told I have cojones. But no one has called me the dreaded other f-word: feminist. Probably because the word has incorrectly become synonymous with “bitch.” And yet, when people support my decision to propose (which they overwhelmingly have, bless them), they are supporting a feminist doing feminist things.
In a way, it’s lonely proposing to your boyfriend because I have no one who can truly empathize with my experience. I love empathizing with my lady friends. It makes me feel normal (“Oh my god, don’t you just hate mascara?” “I know, right?”). But I couldn’t do that with my proposal (“Oh my god, don’t you just hate when you don’t know what size ring to surprise your boyfriend with?” “I know, right?”).
It’s a lonely place to be, even when all the women around you are incredibly supportive of your choice, as they have been. I’m forever grateful for the support and strength they gave me, and the excitement they filled me with. But now I get to be the empathizer for other women, so their stories can feel less solitary. In fact, I know at least one other woman who’s considering proposing now that I did it. Woo, feminism!
Before I proposed, I ran through every possible outcome, which, I admit, sometimes nearly convinced me not to do it. One thing that made me determined to follow through was realizing that it wasn’t just about me, but about the ripple effect it could have to empower others. Because now, if you know me, you also know a woman who proposed. So when someone mentions proposals, my friends and family and coworkers can say, “I knew a woman who proposed to her boyfriend and it was awesome.”
I’m not saying that every woman should propose. Some men find it really important to be the one who proposes (a topic which deserves its own post), and sometimes the stereotype is true and he needs more time before he’s ready. And that’s absolutely fine if that’s your story, it just wasn’t mine. We were both ready, and now my fiancé is thrilled to be marrying his badass, feminist girlfriend.
Emily Shepard writes content for a tech company in the Bay Area. She has a new blog called Dear Me.