The march to gender equality continues apace – something all men should be fully supporting.
And the latest manifestation of this trend is the rise in the appearance of – because everything must be portmanteaued – ‘mangagement’ rings; that is, engagement rings for men.
A study back in 2014 found that 5% of men wore engagement rings, and the number is believed to have risen since then, as evidenced by some interviews with a bunch of millennials in a new Independent article.
30-year-old Helen explains: “As a feminist I actually quite like the idea of mangagement rings, as otherwise it's like we are property of men with the ring ‘branding’ us, while they are free to skip around appearing unengaged.”
Meanwhile, 23-year-old Scarlet says: “I’d definitely want my husband to wear a wedding ring, how else are flirty women supposed to know that he’s off the market? It would feel like a lack of commitment otherwise, particularly as women wearing engagement and wedding rings is so ingrained within our culture – why should it be different for men?”
27-year-old Josh Cooke says that, “We’re all about equality… Well if my wife (fiancée at the time) got to wear one, why shouldn’t I?! If I have to buy her a ring then she can buy me one!”
All fair comments – if women ‘have’ to do something, then why shouldn’t men do it too? Having the same name via double-barrelling, both wearing wedding rings, both wearing engagement rings, it all sounds very right and reasonable.
And yet, are we really just falling for yet another marketing trick? The world of weddings is, essentially, one giant rip-off – the second you announce that you’re buying something – anything – for a wedding, suddenly the price is tripled. Flowers, cake, clothes, you name it – mention the ‘w’ word and you’re about to get fleeced my son, and there’s nothing you can do about it.
Perhaps surprisingly, the concept of a wedding ring for the man is a relatively new concept, only being commonly adopted from the 1950s onwards. History and wedding expert Vicki Howard told The Atlantic: “There was an idea of ‘togetherness’ that was emerging after World War II. People were experiencing a postwar prosperity, and the lavish white wedding fit into that ideal. Jewelers promoted weddings as a symbol of the American Dream.”
And this isn’t the first time that jewelers have tried to get a male engagement ring to become a thing – back in 1926 there was a concerted effort by the industry to push the concept, but it failed to catch on; The Atlantic speculating that the campaign was, “unable to overcome the ingrained femininity of the symbol”.
Personally speaking, I’m on board with the idea of the wedding ring – there’s something symbolic, and historic there. It obviously represents a notion of eternity, and an unending circle, and it dates back all the way to Ancient Egypt. There’s clearly something fundamentally human about it.
I’ve always been less sure about the idea of an engagement ring – for women as well as men. After all, what is an engagement? It’s something you’re going to do. You intend to do. It doesn’t mean you’re actually going to do it. People miss meetings all the time. Sometimes, like on the Sex and the City movie, they miss weddings too.
I suppose you do have to have something to put in that box when you pop down on one knee, but then hula hoops exist don’t they? Much cheaper, and much tastier.
If you want to buy a big flashy engagement ring, then hey, knock yourself out, enjoy yourself. But do it because you just want to buy a big stupid ring that you’ll enjoy, not because you feel you ought to – and that goes for both sexes.