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Why do we wait until February 29 to get on bended knee?

It's an interesting one, February 29, don't you think? According to the newspapers and morning television programmes, thousands of women across the country will today be 'leaping' upon their opportunity to trap – oops, I mean, propose to – the man they love.

The interesting part of it is the repeated use of that word 'opportunity'. Jovial stories in the papers tell us that this most infrequent of dates is the one on which women are traditionally 'allowed' to propose to a man.

Why do we wait until February 29 to get on bended knee?  The way to a man's heart? Beefeater is offering 'leap year' steaks to (possibly terrified) men today. Photo: Beefeater

Obviously, in these modern times, it is not completely unheard of for women to propose to their boyfriends on any day of the year (it wasn't completely unheard of in October 1839 as it goes, which is when Queen Victoria proposed to her beloved Prince Albert) – but I must say I find it quite intriguing how so many of us still buy into this idea that February 29, which comes around just once every four years, is our best chance to do so.

Despite the fact that, apparently, more women than ever are popping the question, those proposals still account for just 9% of the total – meaning in more than nine out of 10 cases, it's still the guy who calls the shots on whether marriage is ever on the table.

What's more, according to some research done by Swoon.co.uk last year, of the women who do propose, 75% admit to wishing that their partner had asked them instead. A different study by Eurostar reveals that almost half of women "would consider" proposing to their partner – but two thirds would still expect their partner to buy them an engagement ring!

All this seems a little at odds with what feminists have spent the last five decades campaigning for does it not? Why, in a society that sees women fighting tooth and nail for equality (and we are still a long way off it in the workplace), do we girls continue to adhere to the 'rules' that say it should be a man who does the asking?

The obvious answer is that women must hold more traditional beliefs about romance and gender roles than they would care to admit. I've written before on MyDaily (Why women just can't have it all) about how many women actually choose to be the one stays at home with the children – but I do think that comes down to biology to a certain extent: a woman's desire to nurture her children might well be stronger than she ever imagined it would be.

But this is something else altogether – this is about what we consider to be the rightness or wrongness of 'a woman doing what a man should really do'. In between the actual marriage proposals on television this morning, there have been countless discussions about how male presenters and guests might feel if their partner had proposed to them; whether or not a woman getting down on one knee would be a step too far in terms of emasculation; whether if a woman proposes she should also be prepared to pay for her own engagement ring.

While I am sort of enjoying the idea of commitment-phobic men all over the UK quaking in their boots (well, many of these proposals must be coming from women who are tired of waiting to be asked themselves, and the fact they haven't been asked would suggest their other halves aren't very keen on the idea), I am also quite enjoying the repeated message coming through that many, many men would be delighted if their girlfriends asked them to be their husbands.

So, given gender stereotyping essentially underpins all sexual inequality, it might be worth us considering that in this case, perhaps just for once: it is women and only women who are reinforcing this idea of the traditional roles.

Come on ladies, break the mould and pop the question. Just wait until tomorrow. That'll REALLY surprise him.