A diamond is a feminist’s best frenemy

22 May

A colleague at work recently got engaged so I politely enquired about the proposal, you know, the usual – was kneeling involved, where were they, in a special spot, abroad, on a bed of roses or meadow of bluebells? I am told that he asked during a picnic, and would you believe it, without a ring! He’d actually bought it online, but it hadn’t arrived yet. . which, it turns out, she was annoyed about. Cue outrage amongst the women in the office, what, no ring?!

This concept of an engagement ring is a rather peculiar one because the man doesn’t wear one. Which makes me think it’s a little like marking your territory, showing that the woman is taken. What makes an engagement ring particularly peculiar is how important having one, and specifically, the right one, is. Typically, rings are shown off and compared like trophies, trophies of just how much he (and it is generally he) loves you and how much he thinks your love is worth. Putting this sort of monetary value on a relationship surely leaves men feeling immense pressure and women inevitably feeling a little disappointed.

That horrid phrase “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend”, we play up to it by expecting and even demanding a diamond ring, by showing it to everyone we meet, putting a picture of it on Facebook and generally making the engagement about the size of the rock and not the other person or about love. The ring is, in essence, the ultimate commercialisation of love. I hate to say it, but I think it makes us seem just that little bit shallow and maybe even irrational. We know they cost a load, we know they can be lost, we know we shouldn’t be putting a monetary value on our partner’s love and we have probably even seen the film Blood Diamonds. Yet we want them, so badly in fact, that the diamond industry is worth billions of pounds.

But by saying diamonds are a feminist issue – not only because of the reasons already outlined but also because we know they cause and perpetuate conflict which predominantly affects women – well, this is yet another challenge for, and with, feminism.  Marmite ain’t got it half as hard.

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