Breaking It Off With A Girl's Best Friend

Writer Conor Friedersdorf is attempting to start a boycott of diamond engagement rings:

And, he adds, it's up to women to start it.

But men are the ones who buy the rings? Look, men are ultimately going to buy whatever it is that women want. It's a change in social norms that guys are never going to bring about on our own.

"The change in norms" needs to come about in order to help end the blood-diamond trade. In any case, he adds, the diamond engagement ring tradition is only as old as DeBeers' PR machine. And, what's more, you're not shallow, are you? ARE YOU?

Why should women want to end diamond engagement rings? Well first of all, it's your money too, presuming the wedding eventually occurs, and more than that, you're the ones who are silently judged by status conscious people every time they look at the size of your rock — in other words, either you've got reason to feel bad about what other people think of you, or else you're complicit in a system that makes people with less wealthy fiances feel bad about themselves.

While the argument does appear under the Atlantic's Provocation of the Day," and while Friedersdorf raises a perfectly valid objection to the diamond-as-necessity (an argument Meghan O'Rourke made convincingly on Slate a few years ago), there's no need to browbeat us, nor to ascribe the worst sort of feminine cliche to any woman who wears a diamond. Besides which, if we're going to get technical, the diamond does pre-date DeBeers: Archduke Maximilian of Austria gifted his betrothed with one in 1477. Yes, that's a bit like saying Valentine's Day is technically celebrating a Roman Saint, but even so; 80 years of effective marketing, in this day and age, arguably merits as much respect as something more venerable.

Joking aside, there are of course compelling reasons to eschew diamonds - or, at the very least, do homework and make responsible choices (the "Provocation" does, at least, provide some sources for those who insist on propagating the tradition.) But contrary to what the author says, this isn't just a woman's job: plenty of women are presented with them as a fait accompli without, as the author seems to assume, having dropped heavy hints, demanded jewels as proof or love, or given exacting descriptions of what it is we want. Indeed, I'd venture to guess that those of us least likely to care are also those least likely to have discussed ring particulars. Social change, in this case, goes both ways.

Provocation of the Day: Women Should Rebel Against Diamonds [Atlantic]