Comments on: A ring-a-ding-ding: the awful oppression of wealthy heterosexualists never ends! History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present Sun, 21 Sep 2014 01:45:37 +0000 hourly 1 By: Feminist Avatar Tue, 23 Aug 2011 10:09:50 +0000 I guess since engagement rings are specifically worn by engaged or married women, I fail to see how we can distinguish between discriminating against rings and discriminating against married women. I mean, if this was someone in ethnic clothing, and not suit, and this was used as the grounds of discrimination – we would say that this had race implications, even if the company hired other people of the same ethnic background?

I also think that the group being discriminated against here is ‘women’, and we all agree that they are a group that have a history of being oppressed. There is no similar penalty being doled out to the men who bought the rings – and surely the case for discrimination here should be against men of the same social group, and not against other social groups that have it worse. I am not sure that ‘your life doesn’t suck as much as someone further down the ladder’ is a legitimate grounds to ignore discrimination.

Just as a point of interest: marriage bars were enshrined in law in the UK and Ireland; the civil service was the big offender in that regard. In Ireland, this law did not change until 1973! In the States, many educational authorities had marriage bars until the 1950s – whether you see this as legislation is more complex, as it was usually policy, rather than a decision made by the state legislatures.

By: Historiann Mon, 22 Aug 2011 22:32:22 +0000 LouMac–I think you’re the first person to get my joke! (I was pretty proud of it, I must say.)

Hugs to you, too.

By: Historiann Mon, 22 Aug 2011 22:31:34 +0000 In this case, the outward symbol of heteronormativity is being used to discriminate in hiring (as it does in many other instances). How is this a privilege?

The potential employer’s complaint in the case above was clearly restricted to the diamonds, not to the fact that the interviewee was a married woman. Of course it would be offensive and probably illegal in most places not to hire someone because she is heterosexual and/or married.

But I think it’s *much* liklier that outward or presumed symbols of homosexuality are being used to discriminate in hiring every day, all of the time. (It’s even legal in the U.S. for some employers to refuse to hire gays, whereas I’m unfamiliar with laws that permit employment discrimination against married people. It was customary to discriminate against married women in the past, but I’m not sure it was ever specifically permitted by statute.)

Given that marriage is a choice, and that wearing a ring or rings is a choice, why should these choices (among so many) bring the choosers *only* privileges and never a cost? I just don’t get it.

By: LouMac Mon, 22 Aug 2011 22:19:44 +0000 @Historiann: “If people want to get married, that’s okay with me–so long as they don’t flaunt it.”

I just fell a little bit in love with you.

By: thefrogprincess Mon, 22 Aug 2011 21:28:12 +0000 But if we wind up penalizing women who don’t “know better” (perhaps because they live in or grew up in communities where women are expected to display their heteronormativity, or take pride in material possessions — even or especially if they don’t have many), then that IS a problem.

Yes, this says it better than I did. There’s a much more powerful, countervailing and often invisible pressure for women to wear their rings at all times that it seems wrong for women in positions of power to punish women who have failed the test they didn’t know they were taking.

By: Flavia Mon, 22 Aug 2011 20:49:57 +0000 Just because you (or I as another married person) don’t *mean* to flaunt this privilege doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist or that we’re not engaged in a kind of performance of our heterosexuality.

Oh, definitely. I don’t think we really disagree — and I certainly don’t think that this is one of the great problems of our time or anything! Employment discrimination is much more real and pressing for racial minorities, members of the GLBT community, etc., than for married ladies with nice jewelry.

I’m just sensitive to the ways that political/cultural values often overlap with what, for lack of a better term, I’ll call class snobbery. Some women may “know better” than to wear flashy jewelry — whether because they know that people will read it as tacky or because they’ve thought about the negative patriarchal symbolism involved — but pour an equal amount of money into an exquisitely understated home, or expensive, natural-seeming hair and makeup treatments. That’s totally fine, of course, and I’m not interested in passing judgment on how individual people spend their money. But if we wind up penalizing women who don’t “know better” (perhaps because they live in or grew up in communities where women are expected to display their heteronormativity, or take pride in material possessions — even or especially if they don’t have many), then that IS a problem.

By: Feminist Avatar Mon, 22 Aug 2011 20:39:38 +0000 I agree that engagement/wedding rings are a sign of heterosexual privilege. And, that certainly brings many benefits- no question.

But, it is also the case that for women, marriage not only confers particular privileges, but can remove others. In this case, the outward symbol of heteronormativity is being used to discriminate in hiring (as it does in many other instances). How is this a privilege? Or, should a woman just take solace in her big diamond and not bemoan being fucked over in her career?

While I agree that we should all learn to question privilege in our own lives and in society more broadly, I tend to think that the goal should be ensuring that those who are not privileged are enabled to access the same benefits as those with privilege- ie making life better for everyone. But, supporting not hiring women on the grounds of their rings seems to be creating more barriers, more restrictions,- not less. I guess I wonder where is the equity here? Who gains from this sort of arbitrary decision? (Other than in the very particular instance of a anti-blood diamond charity), what legitimate reason is there not to hire a woman because she wears a diamond ring? And, if there isn’t one, why should it matter at all?

By: Historiann Mon, 22 Aug 2011 17:42:20 +0000 Just because a privilege isn’t widely questioned doesn’t make it NOT a privilege. (Most privileges aren’t widely questioned outside of graduate seminars, in my experience.)

If a privilege *were* more widely questioned, it would be less of a privilege!

By: thefrogprincess Mon, 22 Aug 2011 17:33:30 +0000 Two points in response to TR: first, I think we’re all agreed on the situational ethics of this particular situation. Clearly if you wear a diamond ring that was recently purchased (i.e. not a family heirloom), the cause of blood diamonds isn’t sufficiently important to you for you to then try to get a job at a nonprofit for whom this is a core issue.

Second, however, I’d say two things about the fur analogy. I think the very nature of the items in question are important. For better or for worse, people generally don’t view their engagement/wedding rings as an optional accessory in the same way they do a coat. (Again, the point here is not whether it’s legitimate to question this attachment, but I don’t think we can justify discrimination by expecting people to share a philosophy that the vast majority of the culture doesn’t share, or doesn’t think about.) Moreover, I think the arguments against fur are much more visible in mainstream culture than the arguments about blood diamonds. While there are people who wear fur, there are also as many, if not more, who don’t, either because they’re priced out, or they don’t care for the aesthetics of it, or they’re concerned about the ethics of it. That is, fur is a much more widely contested issue than an engagement ring, which frankly was never something I’d ever heard questioned until I got to graduate school, i.e., started running in circles that are generally far removed from the average American.

By: Tenured Radical Mon, 22 Aug 2011 17:14:03 +0000 Well, let’s also be clear (since some of my best friends, my mother and my sister) wear whopping big engagement rings, taste is irrelevant to me, in terms of an aesthetic hierarchy. And of course, taste crosscuts in meaningful ways with class. But if you have a choice whether to flaunt your wealth in front of the poor or not, which choice would make sense — wearing the rock or leaving it home? I think it’s a question of sensitivity and having an awareness of your surroundings, not taste.

Another way of thinking about what I would call the situational ethics of such decisions is: would it be appropriate to wear your mother’s hand me down fur coat to a PETA fund raiser, and when called on it, say that it was really cold out and your Northface was at the cleaners?