Don't worry, I'm not engaged! But I did just finish reading both of Jessica Valenti's books (Full Frontal Feminism & He's a Stud, She's a Slut) and am feeling a little attacked. Again, I am not engaged or even considering an engagement in the near future, but I think I would be theoretically interested in one day getting a ring and having a traditional Jewish wedding.
I'm glad that Valenti spent some time talking about engagement rings and other marriage related issues in her books, but I was really put off by her attitude. I don't think I have ever thought critically about engagement rings, and I now realize that there is a strong connection between consumerism and patriarchy in the way we go about announcing and celebrating our partnerships. And while I do love things that sparkle, I don't think I would want a ring just because it flashes 'i'm taken and my MAN has lots of money.' That's not to say that I wouldn't want a ring, just that I would be cognizant of the fact that I'd be declaring that I'm in a heterosexual partnership and that my fiancee does have enough money for jewelry.
I also would hate to have the biggest shiniest ring possible for no reason; if I think about the type of ring I'd want I know that I would like something really unique. I want a ring that my partner had to spend time looking for and that actually says something about how well he knows me, and not something you pick out at Zales in an afternoon (I know I'm difficult!). I believe that jewelry is both a token of affection, and a memory keeper of sorts. Kind of like a yearbook without the tacky notes! When I think about my favorite pieces of jewelry, I can remember exactly who gave them to me and why. Wearing a ring is also a visible reminder of your partner, and not just because it says I'm straight/taken. It reminds of me of a reason that some traditional Jewish men wear a kippah on the heads or tzizit (fringes)-it's a constant visual reminder to both themselves and others that they have have a responsibility and a relationship with god. I don't want to bring god into the engagement or marriage issue per say, but I think there is definitely something to be said about showing others (and yourself) with a visible sign that you have somebody important in your life.
Anyway, the reason I'm ranting about all of this is that I felt like Jessica Valenti's attitude about marriage and rings was very my way or the highway. She spends several pages talking about how good feminists don't accept engagement rings or take their husbands names because it's all part of the PATRIARCHY (all caps definitely necessary.) That may be, but I thought the point of feminism was to empower women to make personal decisions using their own logic. Diamond rings and name changing are definitely part of the patriarchy, but so is watching shows that demean women and I definitely do that on occasion (ANTM..I can't seem to stop). Being aware of your motivations is a really important part of any decision, and I think it's A-OK to do something as long as you're doing it for your own reasons (mine: sparkly, visible reminder, unique expression of partnership, and did I say sparkly?) and still try to challenge the status quo. If I get engaged, I want a ring but maybe I'll make my partner wear something visible too!
12 hours ago