When A Feminist Marries, Part 3: Rings

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In January, one of the bloggers I follow (Oh, You’re A FEMINIST?) posted some of her thoughts about her own up-coming wedding, specifically about her ring. I said in my last post that neither my husband nor I wear wedding rings. However, I have a confession to make: we’re not making a feminist statement. In all the years we’ve been engaged and married (we’ve known each other for 12 years and been married for seven), we haven’t been able to decide what we really want, which is beside the point anyway, because we haven’t been able to afford rings anyway.

But there must be a part of us that doesn’t really care or we would have at least have bought an inexpensive set, just to have something on our ring fingers. It may be because I’ve been through this so many times that the ring has lost its significance for me. But this is my husband’s first (and only) marriage (unless I die, and then he has my blessing). He wears a Celtic ring on his ring finger, but I don’t have anything to match it, and it’s not a real wedding band anyway.

But when I got married the other times, getting rings was a pretty big deal. I was eager to have an outward sign that I was “taken.” Now I don’t feel that same need to be identified as married. I feel married and that fact influences how I act. Would I act any differently if I did wear a ring?

Even so, I like the symbolism of a ring (the eternal circle of love) and I can see why any new bride (and groom) would want one. (I wonder how guys feel about wearing wedding bands, because not all men do, even if their wives do. And do most guys feel threatened if their wives don’t want to wear rings (or take their names, for that matter)? Do we wear rings to keep our spouses from feeling insecure about our love for them?

How much of this wedding stuff do we do for others anyway? A good rule  of thumb for a feminist wedding is deciding whether you’re doing something for the two of you, or for society-at-large. White wedding dresses, bridesmaids and best men, wedding cakes and rehearsal dinners–we think we have to include all of these things and more. But why? The good news is that we can do anything we want when we get married. We can even do away with the wedding itself and just elope or go to the courthouse. But most people will still get wedding rings. You have to have some proof that you’re married. (Ditto for the engagement ring–you want to show it off to the world as a sign that someone wants you.)

What if it’s the ring itself that you object to? There are alternatives: tattoos, the exchange of some prized possessions, pendants, earrings, pins, watches and bracelets are a few of the suggestions I found on the Internet. And another way to go with rings: wood (examples here), jade or ivory.

By the way, I found two really great sites for alternative wedding ideas: Indie Bride and Offbeat Bride.

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Ellen Keim

Ellen is a freelance writer, essayist and copy editor, living with three cats and a husband in Columbus, OH.

5 thoughts on “When A Feminist Marries, Part 3: Rings”

  1. This is very much like the name change issue. Many feminists don’t want to take the husband’s name, not wanting to have her identity tied to being married, and not wanting to lose her identity. It’s really the same issue. Rings are clearly a symbol of ownership, telling strangers, in fact, that you belong to someone. This is wrong on so many levels unless one is a traditionalist.

    Being married doesn’t and shouldn’t become your identify. A woman who is serious about her feminism would appreciate this.

  2. I like the concept of not being obligated to wear or buy wedding rings. I will never wear a wedding ring nor buy wedding rings for her. Of course, she is free to wear a ring or rings if she wants.

    1. I wonder how many women would be okay with that? I would think that most women would want something to commemorate how you feel. It doesn’t have to be expensive. It’s the thought that counts.

      Just a thought.

      1. How many non-feminists would be OK with it? I don’t know. However, if she’s a feminist, she would be supportive for sure. She wouldn’t want some ownership symbol to define our relationship. Also, I doubt if she would be OK with me forcing her to wear something she doesn’t like or want. I can’t imagine someone who cared forcing me to wear something I don’t want.

        1. I think the main reason people wear wedding rings is because society expects it. It’s can be a nice symbol for the love you share (the circle signifying eternity, for instance), but the implication of ownership is not exactly feminist or flattering, for that matter. I myself do not have and never expected an engagement or wedding ring, but I don’t think I’m typical.

          At any rate, if you do marry, this is something you and your fiancee would work out between you. If she couldn’t come to terms with your position, she would probably not be the right person for you (or you for her). It’ll be interesting to see how this pans out in your future.

          Thanks for your comments.

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