Sunday, August 12, 2007

Right Hand Rings Pit Marriage Against Career

In the search for my own engagement ring and an ethical diamond, I came across a peculiar trend: the right hand ring. Ads and websites urge women to "celebrate your success" with a diamond ring worn on the right hand. (Now single women can join in the fun of owning a diamond and show their individuality and empowerment -- through blind commercialism! That supports slavery!)

Like Art Editor Julia, I loathe ad campaigns that encourage pamper-spending for women. And obviously, the promotions occasionally insult women's intelligence. This Generous Gems page actually tries to convince you that right hand rings are fitted differently from left-hand ones.

My personal annoyance aside, I think the most interesting part of this trend is the way that it equates marriage with a successful career. Right hand rings are supposed to showcase a woman's monetary success, while presumably left hand rings showcase her skill as a mantrap.

I find this distinctly unsettling. Marriage and engagement rings are part of the private sphere and of a tradition that extends back through time, while careers are part of the public sphere, and for women at least, a relatively new concept. By extension, the right hand ring suggests that career women are married to their careers, and as such unavailable/unable to engage in marriage. Reminds me of the horrifically-insulting-to-women-everywhere Forbes Article "Don't Marry Career Women."

Furthermore, I'm not sure we should celebrate when anyone becomes a workaholic, married to their jobs. Careers are not replacements for a rich private life, whether that life includes marriage or not. And yes, we should celebrate success, but why not do so with a plum 401(k) that sustains long after a person has lost the will to work?


Mrs. Micah said...

Excellent post! My husband spent a lot of time looking for an ethical diamond as well (he ended up getting a reused ring...components changed into a new ring, but old materials). But he never mentioned to me running across the right hand ring trend. Eesh.

This reminds me of my first year of college when I read such articles as "The Beauty Myth" by Naomi Wolf and another one whose title escapes me on why Ms. magazine eschewed advertising for many years.

Commercialism, conspicuous consumption, stereotyping, everything.

Best wishes on finding yourself a ring that fits what you and your fiance want.

laurie said...

I see where you're coming from.

However, in addition to career, I think this campaign also speaks to the sense of being "left out" that single women experience in the culture. Because, you see, people view us as "left out" even when we don't feel that way ourselves. "Oh poor you, you're not married. Here's a ring for your right hand."

I admit, due to the power of marketing, I've seen these ads and thought, "YES! I need a right hand ring!" And then I wake up from the fever dream and realize that I have rings. They are perfectly fine. I also have a left hand that I wear rings on. It has nothing to do with a man (or a woman, for that matter.)

I am much more interested in the question of ethical diamonds though, should I ever buy myself anything "fine jewelry-like" or should someone else. I'd probably go with something totally different at that point anyway. At least now I'm aware.

Lizzie said...

I also hear the "left out" thing. However, I think that rather than emphasize materialism, we ought to be acknowledging that there are many ways to have a personal life outside of marriage.

The engagement ring, I feel(perhaps unfairly) is a part of tradition. Instead of encouraging single women to substitute the symbolism of marriage, we ought to be finding new traditions to honor folks' personal lives.