So, I don't really like diamonds, because I don't think they're pretty. And I don't want an engagement ring - of any type of stone - predominantly for the reasons F.F. outlines here (link stolen from seeemilyblog), when she says,
"Not having an engagement ring allows me to opt out of sexist notions of a man as provider and women as passive ornament, and the sexist custom that publicly marks a woman as having been purchased and thus 'off the market' while requiring no such public statement of relational or sexual non-availability by her male partner.Not having an engagement ring prevents Shiner from having to display his masculinity and creditworthiness for scrutiny and comment by whoever happens to sit next to me on the train."
Yes, I'm concerned about the whole blood diamondness of the whole thing as well, and it disturbs me that, as stated by Candace Gibson of the Stuff You Missed in History Class podcast, "the scary thing about blood diamonds or conflict diamonds [is] the end result is so scintillating and so precious that a lot of people don't think about the origins of the stone". That's fairly upsetting; but while that is a very large issue that needs correcting, it doesn't implicitly conflict with the feminist proposition that women as passive parties, the ones who get the gifts and are asked the questions, is a bad thing to consistently perpetuate - as is the idea that women are somewhat akin to birds, distracted and attracted to the "oh, shiny!", and that a fairly conventional gift like a diamond bracelet or an engagement ring is the best thing a guy could possibly get a girl due to that fact. The money-grubbingness of it all rubs me the wrong way.
But then, conflict comes. Jane McGrath, another contributer to Stuff You Missed in History Class, brings up a point I've never actually contemplated before: what the diamond trade, the legitimate diamond trade, does for the inhabitants of Africa. Says McGrath: "Maybe after hearing this you could think, 'Oh well, I don't want to buy diamonds any more; I'm going to tell my fiance - or I'm not going to buy my fiance - a diamond because this might have been the origin'. And that actually causes problems in itself. If we just boycotted diamonds and cut them off cold turkey, this would actually cripple a lot of African economies that really rely on it; and it would cause the loss of jobs and everything like that. And some countries, I should say, like Botswana for instance in the past 25 years or so has been able to flip its economy around and prosper from one of the poorest to one of the richest countries." Well, hell's bells. I was thinking that forgoing the gross (both as excess and distastefulness) materialism of diamond buying and the sexist message of engagement rings in particular and almost every single diamond jewelry commercial in general would be one of those no-brainer things. A win-win-win situation, if you will, for me, my nonexistent fiance, and Africa. But no, nothing is ever that easy.
Candace Gibson continues this line of thought when she says, "And you should know too that there are about 10 million people worldwide who subsist off revenue created by diamonds... ...And also a lot of the money that comes from legitimate diamond trade goes to combat HIV and AIDs." I think it is important for me to note that I don't actually begrudge anyone their diamond engagement rings or their jewelry; I don't wholly believe that every girl who wants a diamond has that desire completely separate from the De Beers ads and the Kay's Jeweler's ads and Marilyn Monroe:
That doesn't necessarily mean that she shouldn't get one - as long as it is a legitimate diamond certified by the United Nations' Kimberley Process Certification Scheme. I just think that along with getting diamonds for Christmas or birthdays or proposals or Mother's Day or Valentine's Day, girls should expect to not be showered with diamonds and to be responsible for buying their own. After all, if it really is about the love of a diamond and not about seeing how much the significant other is willing to spend, then that isn't too imposing a task. What I would like, though, is in addition to the buying of diamonds for every occasion under the sun we accept that not getting a diamond - and more importantly, not wanting a diamond - is not something requiring sympathy or consolation. Because diamonds may be Marilyn's best friend, but they aren't mine. For more reasons than one.
And just because there can never be too much Sarah Haskins, here's her take on the whole jewelry ad thing: