JC wrote me an email asking:
…inspired by the name change post, I’d really like to see how your readers feel about engagement rings. I’ve always found them to be quite repulsive.
Feministing has covered the engagement ring angle at least twice (here and here) and the comments in these posts are far more volatile that I would have expected. Amanda also wrote about the engagement rings phenomenon at her old blog Mousewords.
I, like JC, find them repulsive as a symbol of ownership, far more so than a name change upon marriage. Why? Simply because I feel the engagement and wedding ring ensemble is far more symbolic of ownership than what one is called. This may sound illogical, but the threads run deeper and are far more tangible in my mind.
When I see an engagement ring, especially of the diamond sort, I can’t help but think of diamond mines, land-stripping, and the countless people on the African continent who have died so we may carry on an old, largely unquestioned tradition that reeks of dowry. Exploitation of a continent isn’t something I find so romantic, nor do I want it to taint my marriage. I’d rather the future husband give my parents a goat upon engagement just so I could watch while they figure out what the hell to do with it.
I don’t wear much traditional jewelry in the first place. The most expensive jewelry on my body is made from amber or stainless steel. The man who buys me an engagement ring is a man who doesn’t know me. I’m not particularly interested and don’t want to wear one. Like the rest of the jewelry I wear, I don’t want a ring to be symbolic of anything. My jewelry is simply another extension of my feminist drag.
Further, a ring is the last thing I want when I choose a life partner. I don’t want the bragging rights, the status symbols, the competitiveness between partnered couples and their material wealth, to weigh down one of the most important decisions I will make in my lifetime. Does this mean I look down on women who partake in these romantic social norms? Of course not. But to me, the significance of the engagement rings is another version of keeping up with the Joneses, and one I am entirely uncomfortable with. And I opt out.
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