gender roles

Why Women Propose on Leap Year Day
The year 2020 is a leap year, and there are many traditions and folklore surrounding both leap years and the date of February 29th.

The year 2020 is a leap year, and there are many traditions and folklore surrounding both leap years and the date of February 29th.

A leap year only comes around every four years ostensibly to synchronize the calendar year with the season, and 2020 is one of them. Non-leap years are called common years. The Gregorian calendar is not the only one that adds days to keep it on track. The Hebrew calendar adds a 13th month within its cycles to keep the seasons and calendar synchronous. On February 29, there are many traditions and folklore that make it fun.

Gender Role Reversals

Traditionally, men have proposed to women when it comes to marriage. There are a number of reasons for this, one of which is that a woman might appear desperate or too aggressive if they were the ones who proposed. The first legend of a woman having the option to propose is from the fifth century, when the patron saint of Ireland, St. Patrick, granted permission to single women who had shy suitors to propose marriage. It’s thought that St. Brigid of Kildare requested that this tradition happen every leap year.

There’s another tradition that says Queen Margaret put a law on the books requiring a man to pay a fine if he turned the lady down, typically in the form of a pair of gloves, a flower and one pound. However, it’s unlikely that Queen Margaret actually did put the law into motion, because she was only five at the time the said law went into effect.

In Finland, the custom is that the man buys the woman fabrics for a skirt. In the 17th century, it is thought that women would wear a scarlet petticoat if they were going to take advantage of leap year and propose. This gave the potential groom fair warning.

Popular Culture

These traditions are most likely the precursor to Sadie Hawkins Day, which is the United States’ folk tradition celebrated on the first Saturday after November 9th. It’s a gender role reversal day when women and girls take the initiative to invite men on a date or even to propose marriage. Feminists of today believe the holiday is outdated, but some actually say that the tradition can empower women.

In 2010, Amy Adams starred in “Leap Year,” a movie that relates to the tradition of leap year. The character, Anna, follows her boyfriend to Dublin to propose on February 29. Through twists and turns, Anna is of course foiled, travels throughout Ireland and must face the truth about her relationship. It’s a fun and interesting movie.

Leap Year Traditions

In Greece, it’s considered unlucky to get married during the leap year. That must be rough on the wedding industry, because at least 20 percent of couples will avoid getting married during a leap year. In Greek culture, it’s also considered bad luck to start anything new during the leap year, whether it be baptizing a child, starting a business, or taking off on a journey. According to superstition, a marriage or engagement that begins in a leap year will undoubtedly end in a tragedy, such as divorce or death.

In Ukraine, the saint for February 29 is Cassian, who is said to have brought sickness to animals and people with a single gaze. According to legend, Cassian once refused to help a peasant get his cart out of the mud, which prompted God to limit Cassian to one saint’s day every four years. Ukrainians protect their animals and their families by staying inside on February 29. They also won’t marry on the day. 

In Today’s Culture

Many people wonder if women really need a special day or year to propose to their partner. There have been some interesting proposals that have reached fame on the television and radio. Women just get tired of waiting for their partner to take the first step. Depending on what your cultural background is, this will ultimately determine whether you feel comfortable taking the step toward marriage during a leap year.


No Kidding: Childfree Couples on the Rise in Canada
Childfree Canadian households are on the rise, and some enlightening facts tell a rather complex story of economic insecurity and gender disparities.

Childfree Canadian households are on the rise, and some enlightening facts tell a rather complex story of economic insecurity and gender disparities.

According to Statistics Canada, couples without children comprise almost 26% of Canadian households. That statistic may not seem surprising unless you also consider that the number of childfree Canadian couples is growing. With the typical order of love, marriage, and children so ingrained into our societies, how and why are these Canadians bucking the trend? Some enlightening facts tell a rather complex story.

Fewer Children and Dropping Birthrates

CBC News revealed Statistics Canada’s findings from its most recent National Household Survey in an August 2017 article. In some provinces, childfree couples make up over 50% of the population. A Global News piece from May 2017 also mentions that the Canadian birthrate has dropped to an average of 1.6 children per woman. Earlier figures from Statistics Canada (StatCan) show that the total population of those aged 24 and younger has slowly declined from 48.1% in 1971 to 29.9% in 2010.

Money Matters and Raising Kids

What could account for decreases in both the total number of children and the current birthrate? Some childfree households are made up of aging empty nesters. Even so, many younger couples are simply choosing not to have kids at all. Economic concerns are one major reason, as journalist Andrew Russell explains in his May 2017 Global News article. StatCan disclosed that 34.7% of Canadian adults under 35 still live with their parents. Susan McDaniel, a global population researcher at the University of Lethbridge, stresses three key factors influencing younger couples to delay or forgo having kids:

  • Rising expenses
  • Lower wages
  • Lack of job security

Not only that, the costs of raising kids have also skyrocketed. Global News reported in January 2017 some alarming estimates from MoneySense, which placed a $243,656 price tag on caring for one child from birth to age 18. What’s even more disturbing are the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives’ findings that childcare expenses have risen two to three times more than inflation.

Concerns About Gender Inequality

Men in heterosexual relationships are taking on more housework and childrearing responsibilities. However, there’s still a lingering gender imbalance when it comes to kids, careers, and earnings. New York Times writer Claire Cain Miller mentions that in a 2018 survey of people under 45, many respondents commented that they worried about having sufficient time and money to raise children. She also suggests a deeper story behind those answers. Women now view childbearing as a choice rather than an obligation.

Cain Miller comments in another NYT piece that the gender pay gap widens the most when women are in their late 20s and early 30s, coinciding with the births of their children. Some may put their careers on hold, while others find themselves working the familiar “second shift,” taking on a greater share of housework and childcare responsibilities. With these realities, women can fall behind their male counterparts in both career advancement and earning power. Suggested solutions include greater workplace flexibility and public policy providing affordable childcare and ample leave to parents of all genders.

Meanwhile, childfree women still face curiosity, social stigma, and sometimes disdain. The Cut’s Mandy Stadtmiller discusses her experiences and the methods she uses to deal with invasive questions. Gender norms may also play a role in these situations, especially ideologies emphasizing that the ideal goal for women is to marry and become mothers.

Childfree Couples? It’s More Likely Than You Think

Without economic stability, it’s hard for many young adults to conceive of a future that includes children. Moreover, gender-based disparities in pay and household responsibilities can also impact the decision to have kids. While some suggest balancing individual rights with the public good, others see deeper economic and social justice issues that must be addressed first.