Diamonds Aren't Always a Girl's Best Friend

Disclaimer: I know very well that I come from a rather small percentage of the population that doesn’t believe in the institution of marriage due in part to its sexist overtones, as well as the fact that it requires the involvement of the government; it’s my opinion that if you really love someone you shouldn’t need a contract to agree to stay together, you should just be able to stay together. Not to mention the fact that it is still not a right provided for all people no matter their sexual orientation, which is ridiculous. But I digress.

 

In the Middle Ages when a merger of two entities was planned, a contract was drawn up and until the official merger occurred, that contract was the legal bind which held the agreement together. Back then it was called a “betrothal”, today we call it an “engagement.” Due to the extensive media campaigns of the De Beers diamond cartel, we typically manifest such contracts with the giving of a diamond ring. There are also often ridiculous rules about how much it should cost relative to the giver’s income and how many karats it should be. Now, I could go on and on about the evils of diamonds: they are mined by enslaved children, they are sold at artificially inflated prices, they destroy the environments and economies of communities in which they are mined, etc. but that is not the focus of this article.

 

This article is about why I find engagements and promise rings to be a ridiculous practice at best and a dangerous one at worst. These practices are problematic for numerous reasons, like the sexist property-claiming undertones of a woman wearing a ring to signal her status. This is especially evident in the fact that it is only the woman who is socially obligated to wear a ring to indicate that she is taken. However, men are under no such obligation and (at least stereotypically) behave as if they are still unattached. (I know that I am focusing on heteronormative relationships and that is not because I mean to discriminate but rather because that is the only experience I have had and I cannot do justice by speaking to something I have not experienced.) Marriage today is meant to be an agreement between two people on equal footing; it should no longer be about one person acquiring another as though they are a commodity with no individual identity.

 

Other problematic aspects include the encouragement to make such an incredible commitment at a young and still formative age. In my junior year of high school, one of my friends got a promise ring from her boyfriend of three months because they apparently thought they were endgame. They broke up two months later when he cheated on her, so take what you will from that. I know that the person I was in high school is nothing like the person I am today, and I know that I will continue to change throughout my life. College and young adult life, in general, is such an important period of transition where we really work on understanding ourselves and cementing our identities. Marriage or engagement or a promise to be so is not something to be entered into lightly, especially before one’s prefrontal cortex has fully developed.

 

Just last week I was at a college baseball game and a girl sitting in front of me was showing off this massive diamond ring to her friends. I overheard her talking about how even though she was a sophomore and her fiancé was a senior she would drop out when he graduated so they could get married. I mean….girl what?!?! I know I am making a judgment without knowing the whole situation but my first response is: Why would anyone give up their life and their education for someone else, especially a man? But a greater question is why do we prioritize marriage over self-development, growth, and improvement?

 

It is quite literally just another way in which our patriarchal and capitalistic society has us all wrapped around its little finger. Firstly, why do we still think associate marriage with requiring a woman to completely leave normal society behind and chain herself to the home? Secondly, instead of spending our hard earned money on food, housing, or education, or perhaps even giving a little to charities to support other human beings or the fight against climate change, we prefer to buy a tiny piece of metal and pressurized coal just so the whole entire world knows we are man’s possessions.

 

It is completely possible to be in a loving and committed relationship without marriage, without an expensive party, and without a piece of paper from the government to verify your relationship. There are more ways than one to solidify your commitment to one another because love doesn’t not fit inside a Tiffany’s box--it is vast and complex. Love is love is love is love, yes, but each of those loves is so vastly different and complex that those four letters only serve as a snapshot of incomprehensible bonding of souls. As a society we honestly need to ask ourselves, why do we allow a ring to represent that crazy little thing called love?

 

Final thoughts:

I am not property, nor is anyone else, so why we as a society feel the need to encourage this custom of jewelry intended to signify one’s condition of ownership is beyond me. If we as a society continue to hold onto these ridiculous traditions, at least chose other gemstones than diamonds, and for Pete’s sake it is a piece of jewelry, not handcuffs, not a contract. Do not allow it or your relationship to define and decide your identity for the rest of your life. That is all I ask.