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Who, day and night, must scramble for a living,
Feed a wife and children, say his daily prayers?
And who has the right, as master of the house,
To have the final word at home?
The Papa, the Papa! Tradition.

Who must know the way to make a proper home,
A quiet home, a kosher home?
Who must raise the family and run the home,
So Papa’s free to read the holy books?
The Mama, the Mama! Tradition!
~“Tradition” from Fiddler on the Roof

Tradition is a funny thing. Some traditions are unique to a family or a culture, and some are universal. Over years and generations, customs change, sometimes morphing into something else altogether. Lately, I’ve been pondering traditions that have become seemingly obsolete in today’s culture: family dinner, Sunday brunch, date night. At the top of the list are gender roles.

Here’s the deal: while talking to an acquaintance the other night, I was startled to hear him note that in the several years he spent as a single in Atlanta, he never once had to ask a woman out. Even his wife was the first one to ask him out. After I chided him, he admitted he would have asked women on dates, but simply never got the chance. They always beat him to the punch. Based on traditional gender roles, there is something seriously wrong with this picture.

But what exactly are the traditional gender roles?

The American Heritage® Stedman’s Medical Dictionary defines gender roles as “the pattern of masculine or feminine behavior of an individual that is defined by a particular culture and that is largely determined by a child’s upbringing.” Like in Fiddler on the Roof, many cultures have fostered a stark disparity between their masculine and feminine members. Men were the pursuers and women were the pursued. Men were the breadwinners and women were the providers of all things domestic. Men were head of the house and women kept house.

However, a change seems to have been sparked as feminism and the war encouraged women to enter the workforce. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 59 percent of working-age women in the United States were in the labor force, up from just 43 percent four decades ago. This time also saw a marked change in the patterns of masculine and feminine behavior. Lines became blurred as men and women started working side-by-side. Traditional gender stereotypes were forced to the back burner as women fought to be seen as equals in the boardroom. Eventually, that workplace mentality seeped outside the 9-5.

These days, the boardroom isn’t the only place where women are aggressive. Empowerment, frustration, desperation; call it what you will, women are on the move. How is it that, in a world where little girls dream of growing up to be princesses and little boys want to be superheroes, a young man can go on dates for years without stepping up to ask a single girl out? It’s simple: no longer satisfied with waiting for Prince Charming and his handsome steed, many women have turned themselves into hunters.

It doesn’t bother me when people inquire about my marital status. I simply tell them no, I am not married. It’s the “Why not?” follow-up that gets to me. “Why not?” assumes that I have not been doing enough to land a man. “Why not?” presumes there is either (a) something wrong with me or (b) a wake of broken hearts behind me. And, while it’s not a gender-specific phenomenon, “Why not?” has definitely turned a number of good women into desperate hunters, out on the prowl to find that ring.

When women go on the hunt, only one of two things can happen. The woman is relieved when the man is flattered that she paid him attention, or she is dejected when he heads for the hills. Why? For the same reason women (and men) all over the country tuned in to see the royal wedding. Because for all the talk, the royal wedding reminded us that some little girls’ dreams do come true. Kate Middleton—excuse me, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge—is a living example of this.

In the wildly popular book, Captivating, Stasi Eldridge reveals, “I simply loved feeling wanted and fought for. This desire is set deep in the heart of every little girl—and every woman. Yet most of us are ashamed of it. We downplay it. We pretend that it is less than it is. We are women of the twenty-first century after all—strong, independent, and capable, thank you very much. Uh-huh…and who is buying all those romance novels?”

So if women really want to be fought for and men truly want to be the hero, why are women on the pursuit? One of my guy friends put it succinctly: “Men got lazy.”

Two years ago, Andy Merrick posted a blog called the Own It Challenge. The premise was that not enough guys are actually stepping up to ask girls out. He challenged his male readers to go out on a limb and ask that girl out on a date. It didn’t have to be extravagant: just one date. Two hours. Twenty bucks. I’m not sure how the challenge went on the male end, but his comments section proved women across the states tuned in to applaud his efforts. And then waited to be asked out.

Despite popular belief, women still want to be sought after and men want to, well, be the man. Like my acquaintance in Atlanta, men have to be given the chance to step up, to own it. As difficult as it is to wait it out, women may need to give men that chance and men need to be bold enough to take it.

So, no, I wouldn’t go so far as to say traditional gender roles are obsolete. I think they’re just playing possum. Let’s wake them up.