Sometimes it's a little odd to analyze other people's stories, and also get feedback from the author at the same time. Evidence A and B being some point I made for Diana Francis
once and her response was basically, "hunh." Even over the phone it was kind of clear she was trying to figure out how I'd come up with that
one, whatever it was. Which is to say, I think sometimes it's what a reader sees (whether reading into, or just picking up on little details that tip the nuance one way or another), and sometimes it's just the writer being focused on this plot-point and that character arc. Or: in the process of writing, the author sees the trees and doesn't realize until the end -- or until a beta points it out -- that the forest is not high altitude evergreen after all but somehow ended up being a semi-tropical rainforest.
It occurred to me today, out of nowhere, that while my current wip has an additional (if somewhat casual) theme of a matriarchal-blend in a patriarchal world, there's another genderflip going on that I'd completely missed. Main character has two potential spouses (polygamous society). In the MC's marriage to one of them, the one who proposes is the woman (editor: more like demands, really). For the MC's second marriage, the male potential consort arranges himself as part of a political transaction, which takes all of it out of his control, and in the end is effectively given as a male-consort to the MC. (I should note that since the second is a political transaction, it's not within the MC's control, either, but that's just a side-point.)
I had been thinking along class-lines, not gender lines. The female consort is from the farming class, and historically it seems that since the lower classes didn't have a lot of money or land, there was little basis for making marriage into a business transaction. When your dowry is going to be new shoes and maybe a picture for the family altar, or the bride price consists of a half a leg of cow (if even that much for either), then there's just not reason for anyone to get all worked up about arranging the marriage as an alliance between two dynasties. Over and over I've read historical commentary about otherwise widely-disparate cultures where the lower classes did do the whole love-match thing, because love (or at least a general like) was the only currency the participants really had. For that matter, lower classes tended to marry later, and without a lot of hoopla, and even in societies with emphasis on arranging (for middle class and above), the lower classes didn't have, or need, or could afford, such busy-ness.
So it made sense to me that if the female-consort is from a lower class background, she'd have grown up expecting marriage to be basically a, "hey, let's me and you live together." As long as the families don't hate each other, and the two parties agree, then that's about the extent of it.
Meanwhile, women in upper-class have less freedom -- being valuable assets used in transactional politics, like marriage alliances -- so the upper-class consort had to be male if he were to participate in the story at all. (Along these lines, I also realized belatedly that there's only one woman of rank from the patriarchal society who even gets named, let alone has any role to speak of; all the rest of the female characters are lower-class, thus not shut up in the house to sit around looking pretty all day.) And that means marriage becomes transactional, so it's not a huge stretch, culturally, for him to assume that marriage between his own elite family and someone else's family will be based on business/political alliance.
Anyway, that just struck me, that I'd unexpectedly reversed the usual gender-based order of things. It's the woman who takes the traditionally-(western)masculine approach of being active and doing the proposing; it's the man who sets himself up as a commodity to be bartered for and purchased, unseen by the groom.