Should men wear engagement rings?

As a lifelong feminist, I’m a great believer in equality. I’m entering into my marriage on equal terms – I have a career, we share the housework and the responsibilities that come with owning pets and eventually, I’m sure, having children. OK he mostly does the housework. And cleans up after the pets. But I’m always there for moral support. He watches Don’t Tell the Bride with me, I watch Star Trek with him.

There will be no promises to obey in our vows. We will exchange wedding rings and enter the marriage making the same promises to one another.

But there’s one thing that’s always troubled me since the moment I said yes. It’s the pretty ring sitting on my finger, declaring me off the shelf (or reserved for later) to all and sundry while his fingers remain happily commitment free.

Now, this isn’t a trust issue. Ring or no ring I know he’s not going to stray.

This is an equality issue. It’s an issue of symbolism. Our culture dictates that I, the woman, am taken property, while John, a man, doesn’t need an external symbol that he’s promised to someone. He’s the owner.

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Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t John’s issue (he knows who wears the trousers), this is society’s problem.

First of all there’s the assumption that he needs to be the one to propose. Speaking in general terms society views the woman proposing as emasculating, desperate and pathetic. As if the man in the relationship is the right one to judge the pace and right time to get married and women should patiently wait for a proposal so they can swoon, fall into his arms and live happily ever after.

Perhaps I would have liked to have proposed myself, but, with male engagement rings still a figment of my imagination, what would I have given him. An empty box? And when family and friends excitedly bundled around asking to see the ring I would have had to present them with an empty finger and watch their faces fall as I explain that *I* asked him…

Then there’s the obvious solution of making engagement rings for men and women (or men and men, or women and women) that come in sets. That way either partner can propose – and both sets of rings can be worn.

I’m ashamed to say, however, I’m still victim to the same prejudice. While in theory, the idea of John wearing an engagement ring is a wonderful one (and I’m sure he’d do it if I really asked him to), it almost feels like sending a kid to school wearing a “kick me” sign. I’m scared the other boys will be mean to him.

What we need is to break the stigma – if you’re a jeweller and you’re reading this, think twice. By selling “engagement sets” you’re sending the message that relationships are equal, that if one is claimed then so is the other. You’re also helping to facilitate women proposing to men, which I think is a beautiful thing.

What do you think? Is the tradition of the engagement ring a sexist one? Should men wear engagement rings or are you happy with the status quo? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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