• Tue, Mar 18 - 10:35 am ET

Ashton Kutcher’s Approach To Marriage Is Chivalrous, Until You Remember It’s Not 1950

Chicago Bears v Pittsbugh Steelers

Some fun details are emerging about the Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher engagement that we reported on a few weeks ago, and apparently Kutcher went with a pretty traditional proposal. So traditional, in fact, that he asked Kunis’ father for permission beforehand. I don’t know about you, but that whole asking the dad for permission gamut really grinds my gears.

According to a “Kutcher insider” who spoke to People, Kutcher ”talked with Mila’s dad around Christmastime. He asked for Mark’s blessing to marry her. It was important to Ashton to be respectful and traditional. This is the real thing for him and he wants to do it all right.” Look, if that works for Kunis and Kutcher, then God bless and good for them. But I really struggle with the idea of asking a father for permission or a blessing before proposing. It seems backwards, antiquated, and sexist, and frankly I can’t believe it’s still a thing that we accept.

I love my parents and respect their opinions, and obviously I don’t want any friction between them and my partner. My parents may not be perfect (neither are yours), but here are a few of the things they got right: They raised me to be my own person and to have my own sense of self completely independent from them. They trust my judgment and know that it’s up to me to pick my partner. They would never think to offer their permission. They are proud of my agency and independence. They respect me enough to know that I am not theirs to give.

There’s something that I find deeply creepy about whole thing and not at all romantic–my boyfriend sitting in a room with my dad, deciding my future? I don’t know about you, but I don’t feel particularly comfortable with two people who are not me deciding the future of my life or relationship. Even if it’s just a formality, it’s an unwelcome one. I love my dad, but my relationship doesn’t get his seal of approval. It exists completely separately from my family life. Shouldn’t it? Just because something’s tradition doesn’t mean it’s the only way or even the right way, and tradition isn’t an excuse for something as gross and oppressive as turning women into their father’s possessions.

You are not your parents’ possession. A woman is not a daughter to be given away by her father. Your relationship is yours and yours alone, as you are yours and yours alone, until you decide to share yourself with someone. The only permission needed is yours. Your family can be happy for you and supportive, but only you get to say yes and commit to a life with someone.

Photo: Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Share This Post:
  • Kaitlin Reilly

    I love your last paragraph. So, so, SO true. Personally I wouldn’t mind if someone who wanted to marry me talked to my parents first, but certainly not to ask permission. I think it’s a nice gesture if the thought behind it is, “I want you to know that I’m looking to make your son/daughter a part of my family, and I hope that you know that in doing so, you’ll also become a part of mine.”

  • Penelope

    It’s a cultural thing. A sign of respect. I think your article is overly incensed about a harmless custom. Ashton and Mila aren’t forcing this idea on anyone else. You’d be surprised how many women still appreciate this gesture. It is, however, a fading practice in America …

  • k.lo

    I def think that it’s a sign of respect…and I do agree with other comments about culture significance. In the latin culture it would be extremely rude if the guy didn’t ask the father. I think in general the father will always say as long as his daughter says yes then they have his blessing. I for one would be really disappointed if I found out that he didn’t speak to my father.

  • brook

    My husband asked my mother for her blessing to marry me. She did not give me away and nor did he think I was a possession to be given. We would have married either way. The point of asking a guardian is a respectful way of stating your intentions and letting it be known that you will love and cherish the person as the parent has. I think it is very respectful. Not sexist. At all.manners does not equal sexist.

    • Valerie

      Completely agree. And my husband spoke with both of my parents, not just my father, and he did it after he had proposed to me. He was not asking permission- just stating our intentions and saying he hoped my family would welcome and accept him into their hearts. We were already living together and he already knew my parents quite well by then but seemed to think a formal “I will be joining your family by marrying your daughter because I love her. I very much hope you are happy for us and I’m proud to become a part of your family” would be the right thing to do. My parents were so touched and very proud of my selection in a mate. :-) He is kind and respectful. Nothing at all wrong with that.

  • Michael Pratt

    Criticizing chivalry? It’s creepy? For shame. Manners, respect, codes of conduct, it’s something that separates us from chimps slinging poop at each other. Yes, some things should be left in the past, but nobility of action and thought is something that should never be “out of style” or regarded as politically incorrect as this article suggests. In this world of gender neutral boorishness, it’s good to see someone as visible as Ashton doing something noble like this. Maybe this writer would also scoff at him opening doors, standing when a lady enters a room, giving up his seat for a woman on a bus? Surely not, that would imply that a woman is “the weaker sex” therefore politically incorrect. Asking a father, or mother for their blessing is respect, plain and simple. How someone could make a political issue of something so innocuous as this…it just makes me sad. Bravo Mr. Kutcher!

    • NotTakenNotAvailable

      I’d find it DISrespectful…to me. Because I am above the age of 18 and can make my own decisions regarding my life partners without my father’s say-so.

      And for the record, unless my foot’s in a cast or I’m otherwise incapacitated, I do think it’s flat-out stupid for a man to go out of his way to open a door for me, stand when I enter a room, or give up a perfectly good seat on the bus–first come, first serve! I’m not some weakling who will break every bone in my body should I have to use a door handle, pull out a chair, or stand on the way home.

    • Tester

      Worst article I have read in a while and one of the worst posts I have ever read. My night just keeps getting better and better. Helping others should never go away. If you Women would just be grateful that we want to help yo and realize it is something positive the world would be a better place.

    • NotTakenNotAvailable

      Worst spelling, punctuation, and capitalization I have read in a while, and I spend a lot of time on the internet, so…congratulations? In any event, I don’t need your help and neither do the other able-bodied women in my acquaintance, so kindly take your butthurt manfeelz back to your mother’s basement.

    • Guest

      Im sorry nobody is interested in you.

    • AndThisIsWhatI’mTalkingAbout.

      If I ever met you I could just let the door hit you and you wouldn’t care. You feminists make things so bad for EVERYone.

    • Jeremy Cline

      let me guess, you are single.

    • itpainsme2say

      Did you even read her screen name its not really a guess she is quite clear. Btw she is asexual so being single is not an insult for her.

  • Happily married

    The author needs to stop hating just because no one has proposed to her yet. It’s a sign of respect and a great way to build a close relationship with the in-laws. Ultimately it’s up to you (the woman) to make the decision.

    • http://fairlyoddmedia.com/ Frances Locke

      Lol, okay. Yes, because the only people who have a problem with this ridiculous and archaic practice are miserable singletons, amirite? I guess I better tell my husband that out wonderful 7 year marriage is a sham because I hate this shiz too! Silly me!

  • Krusticle

    While I agree with this article, keep in mind that Mila’s family emigrated from the Ukraine when she was seven. It’s possible that Ashton was being mindful of her parent’s customs and expectations and wanted to start his marriage on good terms with his in-laws. Also known as paying lip service.

    • JLH1986

      That’s an excellent point! He comes from the Midwest and no matter how many years he has lived in Hollywood, his culture (and being Midwestern is a culture) may dictate he asks for her father’s blessing. And Mila’s family being Ukranian may be something totally different.

  • Ally

    I personally see that as a sign of respect for my family and my upbringing. If a guy wanted to marry me and didn’t consider my parents in the equation (because like it or not, even if you’re only marrying me, you’re also going to be attached to my family) I would think he’s a disrespectful prick. I don’t see it as a sign of ownership or anything like that…I think it’s just a sign of respect for you as an adult, and for your parents. Obviously I still 100% decide, but personally my parents’ opinion is very very important to me. I think it’s incredibly sweet Ashton did this. I’m eastern European and I know Mila is too so I definitely think it’s a very strong cultural custom over there, and it’s a very good sign he took that into consideration. Also, I freaking love that Jackie and Kelso are together.

  • Gibscreen

    You’re using as synonymous two completely different concepts. There’s asking for the parents blessing and then there’s asking for permission. Asking for permission I agree is antiquated since it implies that the parents own the daughter.

    But asking for their blessing isn’t really about the daughter. It’s more about asking the parents if they’re okay with taking the guy as their son in law. It’s a sign of respect.

    • Vanessa Vieira

      Yes, agree. Asking for permission is ridiculous, and nobody is allowed to give my permission to marry someone except me. And I’m indifferent to the concept of asking your partner’s parents for their blessing. I mean, chances are you’d know your partner’s parents by that time and should know whether or not they approve of a possible marriage.

      But I do like the tradition of meeting with your partner’s parents before proposing and including them in the experience. (not to be a part of the proposal, but just so that they are in the know) I know that my parents were thrilled and excited to be included. I am extremely grateful for my parents and I do find it respectful and thoughtful that my boyfriend decided to involve them beforehand. They would not have been mad if he didn’t, but I definitely know they appreciated it. Every couple and every family is different. If a tradition works for your family, that’s great. If it doesn’t, that’s fine too.

  • Britney

    I get where you’re coming from, mostly because our past as women was that of possessions. However, this is not then, today it is widely accepted as a sign of respect for the family one is entering. It’s a cultural thing. To each their own but your blatant anger and ignorance towards the tradition is a little much. Do some research next time and provide more facts. Also, be careful with the run on sentences.

  • feliciacago

    Please stop writing your’s.

  • Jennie

    He doesn’t necessarily have to be “asking permission”. Maybe he is letting the father know that he will be there through thick and thin, just reassuring him. I don’t consider it asking for a possession either. The woman makes the decision to marry the guy whether her parent’s give their blessing or not. It’s still a very romantic gesture on the guys part. I’ve heard of women asking for a man’s mother’s blessing also. Nothing wrong with it, in my opinion. It’s sweet.

  • uh

    “your’s”? “their’s”? I hope you do not get paid to write. Or think. No man I know sits in a room and decides his girlfriend’s future with her dad, you goof. It’s a traditional thing to show her parents that you respect her and want their blessing. I “asked” my future father-in-law over a cell phone, with a ring in my pocket, three months after I met my wife; let’s be honest – I was gonna do what I was gonna do, and his “permission” wasn’t required or necessary, but it was important to show this man that I respected him.

    • Samantha Escobar

      She actually gets paid to write in multiple places. Did you get paid for this comment? No? Okay, you goof.

    • ChivalryIsAPositiveThing

      Well that is a shame. The crappy arguments you hear on the internet…yes yours.

  • CMJ
  • Fay

    Are you kidding? This is what upsets you? The entire concept of marriage is a sexist antiquated institution. See Merav Michaeli’s TedxJaffa talk called “cancel marriage.” The marriage itself doesn’t bother you, but the fact that he had a respectful conversation with her parents sets you wrong? I wish people would stop looking for things to be offended by – just live your life and don’t worry about the political implications of what some celebrities, whom you will never meet, are doing. It has nothing to do with you.

  • Yours and Mine

    You would do well to focus less on the lives of others, and more on the appropriate usage of apostrophes.

    • http://fairlyoddmedia.com/ Frances Locke

      You do realize that you’re reading a lifestyle blog whose main focus is beauty, style and celebrities, right?

  • andyouwonderwhychivalryisdead

    They’re not deciding your future, you idiot, its respectful.

  • sunny

    I think its beautiful he asked for her hand. Your opinion doesn’t matter and you should ask yourself what in your life is SO miserable that the way someone chooses to propose ground Your gears. Smh..,

  • not so old fashioned

    it is not a question of ownership. even in a traditional Italian house, the fiancée to be can still say no. it goes back to setting expectations with the family.

  • Misenhammer

    Boy. Apparently, people really get mad when you criticize this practice, huh? Geez.

    Look, it doesn’t really bug me– if others find this romantic or respectful, then that’s cool. But personally, I think it’s kinda weird and I would’ve been a bit weirded out if my hubby had done this (he wouldn’t, unless he had somehow been very mislead into thinking I somehow wanted him to). I just don’t get why it’s respectful to ask permission, I guess. It’s not like he’s actually gonna not marry me if my dad disapproves, at least not if hes worth anything. so to ask permission seems to vaguely imply that my dad’s permission is necessary for mine to count, and I don’t much like that. Not that my dad would say no, I think his reaction would be along the lines of “Uh… That’s fine? Wait, are you telling me you guys are getting married? Why isn’t she here? We could’ve done dinner.”

    Anyway. If that’s your bag, that’s cool. It just strikes me as silly/pointless at best and possibly a bit insulting at worst.

    • Lex_Discipulus

      Silly and pointless? THAT is more insulting to me. My husband asked for my father’s blessing before he proposed to me. He didnt ask “for permission” and I wasnt traded like cattle. He met with my dad, told him how much he cares for me and that he would like to be married to me. He told my father that he respected our family and was looking forward to being a part of it. Then my dad said some really nice things about my now husband.

      You are right. That is SO silly! It seems silly to tell your future father-in-law that you appreciate and love and respect his daughter. Or that you respect his family.

    • Misenhammer

      My husband told my family all those things without asking permission/for a blessing, and then my family said some nice stuff too, and everything was great, hence my feeling that the permission/blessing/whatever aspect is pointless, At least for us. But if that was a part of the charm for you, well, then happy days are here again! Huzzah!

      But if we want to talk SO silly, I mean, I think anyone being offended by anyone else’s opinion on this is pretty silly. Like, if I don’t care about getting flowers but your family has traditionally given those as a meaningful gift of love, do either of us REALLY HAVE to feel insulted for any reason? Do you really care that I personally am not impressed by how romantic and traditional your experience was for you? I’m sure I’ve had similar experiences that you can also not care about, and I am officially not insulted.

  • poppy

    May I just point you to a quote in your own article ”talked with Mila’s dad around Christmastime. He asked for Mark’s blessing to marry her.” How exactly do you get from blessing to permission? Secondly, it is a sign of respect to speak to the parents of the person that you plan on proposing to. Marriage doesn’t only bind two people but also their respective families. So speaking about your plans with the parents of the significant other, is basically the same as speaking with your own parents about your future plans. Thirdly, if you are in a serious and committed relationship you discuss the subject of marriage long before the engagement happens, which makes the speaking to the parents, the ring buying and the actual act of engagement just a formality. Lastly, as you mention in your article you are your own person, be happy and thankful that as a woman you have that possibility, there are places in the world where woman can’t claim the same freedom. So let others life the way they chose and don’t disregard or insult a tradition simply because you don’t quite grasp the concept.

  • Christy

    I also think your article is ridiculous. You ask the fathers permission out of RESPECT. Of course
    It is the woman and her partners decision but if your family is close which is a good family to marry into you would want everyones blessing. More so if it is your first marriage like Mila’s. I think Ashton did great! There need to be more men like Ashton in this world. Great looking, funny and romantic! WAY TO GO ASHTON! MILA’S A LUCKY GIRL!

  • Amber Wheeless

    i completely agree. i mean, i can’t judge their relationship, but there’s something incredibly gross to me about asking my father’s permission.

  • Elizabeth Aspen

    My best friend asked his wife’s father for “her hand”. The father basically demanded it and he and his daughter didn’t even get along. Very weird.

  • Marcelle Nassif

    Pathetic article! Way to go Ashton, you have my respect!

  • brittney2113

    Um. He still has to ask her to marry him. Its not like him and dad sealed the deal and arranged the marriage. He’s asking permission to ask her. Just showing respect. Making a better bond with the in laws. I’m sure her dad has a lot of respect for Ashton for doing it.

  • http://fairlyoddmedia.com/ Frances Locke

    The folks here leaving hateful comments defending this practice obviously know very little about the history surrounding it. While it isn’t always sexist or offensive NOW, it very much stems from a sexist and offensive mindset, ie: marriage as a business agreement with women as chattel. No amount of whinging about “traditions” or “manners is going to change that. Period. Also, I find the irony of people telling the author to stop worrying about other peoples lives while on a site whose bread and butter is beauty, fashion and the occasional celebrity story hilariously tragic.

    TL:DR I think this post is spot on and the haters can drank their haterade and step to the left. Lulz

    • NotTakenNotAvailable

      You and Julia and I can open up a Haterade stand. Looks like we’ll make a killing!

    • OneDoesNot

      I’m sure you throw out history all the time in your life.

  • NotTakenNotAvailable

    Well, Julia, looks like you and I are in the minority on this one. Personally, I simply cannot get over the very real and very obvious link between asking a grown-ass, independent woman’s parents for a blessing and sitting down mano a mano with the family patriarch not so long ago to discuss the dowry–i.e., the terms of sale. This isn’t an issue for me as I currently have no interest in romantic relationships, but back when I did have a boyfriend, I made it quite clear that a man who consulted my father before the woman he actually have to, y’know, spend the rest of his life with would receive a very vocal, “Hell no!” when he finally did get around to asking me for my opinion on the whole marriage business.

    And don’t get me started on that “but it’s a nice way of letting them know you’re joining the family” crap. Presumably, you (the woman) are also going to be joining his family, yes? Then assuming this tradition is strictly about respect for your family-members-to-be and not straight-up sexism, why is it not also expected that the woman should need to consult the parents of her fiance-to-be before confirming the arrangement? It either needs to go both ways, or it needs to go away.

  • Ellen Ellis

    My SIL asked my parents for their blessing to marry my brother. Since she made more money than he did at the time my SIL promised my parents to “keep him in the manner in which he was accustomed”. My parents found this charming.
    Additionally, Mila Kunis parents are emigrants from the Ukraine. Her father may well be “old-fashioned” and it might well have been a good way to ingratiate himself with his future FIL. Do what works.

  • Jeremy Cline

    This woman is stupid. A man that doesnt get along with his soon-to-be father-in-law, is looking for nothing but trouble. Its a sign of respect. Anyone who doesnt understand this is probably over 30, bitter, and still single.

  • Laguna

    This article is ON POINT and people her should take several seats. It is not a “sign of respect”, because then also the woman would do it. Have you done it? Did you ask the father of your husband? Then stop criticizing this article. It is just an anachronic remain of the mysoginistic concept of woman passing from the father to the husband. It is not respectul because it DISRESPECTS the woman. Sorry but you people are not right. There are traditions rooted in cultures, like the bullfighting, it does not make them right.

  • Kirk

    It’s a “blessing” not approval. Like it or not, when you get married, you join a new family. I think it’s perfectly fine to talk to your future family members about what they think about you and your relationship. It’s a kindness, it’s respectful and it’s a great way to get off on the right foot. Assuming that a marriage is just about the couple involved is small minded and short sighted.

  • MCR

    “iif that works for Kunis and Kutcher, then God bless and good for them. But… frankly I can’t believe it’s still a thing that we accept.”

    Translation — good for you, but really only cuz you’re celebrities.

  • steamedhams

    This article is amazing; truly a welcomed breath of fresh air. As a writer who fears he doesn’t know enough about the ways of the world – be it the traditions of Western marriage, feminism, or the uses for a Liberal Arts degree – and fears his opinions of such may be too ill-informed to share with the public, I am relieved to have discovered an author who shares my intellectual limitations but clearly none of my sense of caution or humility. Case in point: this is, by some margin, the dumbest article I have ever read, and I thank you for it, Ms. Sonenshein. Moreover I’d like to ask you, with your Dad’s permission of course, if you might write more of these. Thanks in advance!

  • Winston

    You must think most people still kiss the Blarney stone because they think it’s good luck.

  • Naomi

    So I got officially engaged back in November and my lovely feminist egalitarian pre-spouse called my parents right after we picked out and bought my engagement ring to ask for their blessing. My parents adore him, so it was a no-brainer and there was lots of happy crying on the phone on their end, but to him, it was more about asking for their blessing to accept him as an official part of the family and vice versa. No one had the slightest illusion that he was asking for permission to transfer ownership of me. My dad once said that if someone DID ask him for my hand in marriage, he’d laugh and tell them that their probably barking up the wrong tree.