If it was up to me, I probably wouldn’t pick graduation day as the best time to ask my beloved to marry me. There are plenty of other days, and this one was already taken with happiness. More to the point, the happiness of the day is about the recognition of study, years of work, and the graduate. What it’s not about is me, so let her have the day without my stepping on her achievement.
Then again, that’s me, and I’m not Edgaras Averbuchas.
When Edgaras Averbuchas successfully proposed to Agne Banuskeviciute at her graduation ceremony, both were delighted. The romantic moment at Essex University, where Ms Banuskeviciute received her Master’s degree in English, was filmed and posted on the university’s website to celebrate their engagement.
Perhaps this was exactly what the two desired, or to nail it down, what made the day the best day possible for Agne Banuskeviciute. If she was delighted, then that’s great. I’m going to indulge in two assumptions here, the first being that Edgaras had a better sense of what would bring joy to Agne than I do, and that her delight was sincere. Joy, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. So what could possibly spoil this young couple’s happiness?
Then something weird happened. A couple of feminists called down fire and brimstone on Edgaras for “hijacking” Agne’s graduation and making it about the engagement, because he felt “threatened by her intellect.”
Aisha Ali-Khan, a core organiser of the Women’s March on London, said it “smacked of egotism” and did not bode well for the relationship. “[W]hen someone craves such public attention and adulation all the time, there can only be space for one person and their ego in that relationship,” she declared.
Was Aisha Ali-Khan the bride-to-be’s mother? Her best friend since childhood? Her spokesperson? No, no. She was just some random scold who had the hubris to stick her nose into the joy of a couple of people she didn’t know to turn their day into something bad and wrong. It wasn’t just that she disagreed with Edgaras’ decision to seek Agne’s hand in marriage that day, but that she was so omniscient as to know his true, evil motive: to hijack the graduation because he felt threatened by her intellect.
In most times in history, someone like Ali-Khan would have been at best, ignored, and at worst, castigated for sticking her unwelcome hubris-filled nose into other people’s business. But not at this time in history, where the scolds cannot be told to shove it or you’re a misogyinist.
As others stoked the inevitable Twitter storm, Dr Jana Bacevic, a research associate in sociology at Cambridge University, wrote: “Imagine being a man and feeling so threatened by a woman’s intellectual success that you have to force her to frame her identity/agency in relation to you on the very day she is being celebrated for her intellect. Oh wait, that’s, like, 99.9 per cent men.” (“An F for man who proposed at his fiancee’s graduation,” Telegraph, July 24, 2019).
None of that would matter, of course, except that Essex University, in the craven style we have come to expect from seats of learning, removed the romantic video clip from its website, succumbing to bullying by feminist warriors. Apparently, no allowance was made for ethnic diversity – the possibility that the couple’s Lithuanian backgrounds might account for their approach to romance.
Hooray for the forces of social justice, ruining two people’s happy day for the cause! And Essex University removed the video of the proposal from its website. Where once it stood as a lovely example of its student’s happiness, it now disappeared as an example of sexism, reframing its students intellectual achievement for the sake of her fragile fiance’s ego.
Except nobody seems to care what Agne thought about it. So much for her intellectual achievement, if she wasn’t smart enough to recognize that she was the victim of a misogynist’s attack and was “delighted” when she should have refused this miscreant’s proposal and probably inflicted harm by kicking him in the nuts if she was unarmed under her gown.
And indeed, voices then parsed imaginary reasons why this graduate’s engagement didn’t result in the only reasonable outcome by neo-feminist standards.
Until the day before yesterday the same approach was considered perfectly normal here too. Now, according to Rebecca Reid, writing in Grazia magazine, it is an imposition on the woman. If Ms Bauskeviciute had wanted to turn him down, she would have had to “break his heart in front of an entire auditorium of strangers,” she fretted. “Hijacking a big moment with something sweet or well intentioned doesn’t make it OK. Just because something is sweet or well intended doesn’t mean that it is appropriate.”
Could it be that Agne Banuskeviciute was just happy to be asked to marry the man she loved? Could it be that Agne Banuskeviciute would have been thrilled to accept the proposal had it been done in private any other day as well as in public on the day of her graduation? Was she now a double victim, her graduation day hijacked plus her agency compromised by being asked “in front of an entire auditorium of strangers” such that her free will to reject him was overwhelmed by her societal grooming to accept rather than humiliate this horrible sexist man who felt threatened by her intellect?
It could be any or all of these things. It also could not be. But whatever it was, it was for Agne Banuskeviciute to decide, not the vicious scolds of proper womanhood, pushing their way into other people’s lives to press their agendas of outrage and turn a happy day into misery.
But the kicker here, that these scolds managed to scare Essex University enough to pull the video rather than risk the feminist shrieks of fury, is the incentive to persist in pushing and punishing the heretics of happiness by making everyone equal in misery. I wish the loving couple every happiness, but doubt the scolds will allow it.