Monday, October 17, 2011

Is there an ethical engagement ring?

I was just reading a Mother Jones Econundrum article by Kate Sheppard entitled, "How Do I Buy an Ethical Engagement Ring?"  These types of articles make me a little meshuggeneh because they always gloss over the most obvious fixes for this type of "problem," if you can really call it that; the main solution is to just not buy anything. 

Sheppard talks about how buying an engagement ring problematizes her role as a feminist as well as a human rights activist and environmentalist.  I'm sure you've seen at least the trailer for Blood Diamond which in its Hollywood way exposes the human cost of mining precious stones in banana republics, or are at least aware of the issues involved in buying precious stones like diamonds, and are also called "conflict diamonds" because they help fund the bloody wars that rage through Africa.  Here's a website for Global Witness, one of the first organizations to bring this issue to the fore, and which Ms. Sheppard references in her article.  But alternative stones and ethical diamond merchants are not at issue here at all.

Do you need an engagement ring at all?  I'm kind of a hypocrite here, because I have a wedding ring but we never got around to the engagement ring, and so maybe I'm just jealous, but there are other options; I should add that Ms. Sheppard points these out towards the end of her article, like finding vintage or antique rings which would be the way I would go and I felt should have been more prominently suggested.  This brings me to the biggest reason why I'm making a half-hearted attempt to criticize this article; the utter excess that it continues to perpetrate in the engagement ritual. 

Ms. Sheppard herself feels conflicted by the whole thing and rightly so; being a modern, new millenium-woman she should feel this twinge of unease at the prospect of telling her readers that it's okay to have these conflicts but still go ahead and continue an outdated form of ownership identification.  And more than just the ritual itself, it's the money spent behind the whole idea that makes it just so excessive and unnecessary.  This is a really, really bad economy and to post articles on something that most Americans cannot even think about right now is really a disservice to Mother Jones hippies like myself, and young people who look to lefty rags like MJ to help them make informed decisions about the political world around them.
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