I have been asked on more than one occasion how I managed to fall in love. I think when people ask this question, they’re not so much making a statement on my personality qualities but rather my general cynicism towards patriarchal institutions such as marriage. I think it is a fair question so I thought I would share the moment my feminist self fell in love.
I was a full blown feminist well before I met my husband. I had plans of going to Oxford, studying women’s history and becoming a brilliant academic. Falling in love was not in my life plan. I won’t bore you with the nitty-gritty details of our courtship; it involves a lot of flakiness on my part, a hero’s share of patience by DH and the poetry of Edna St. Vincent Millay. Suffice it to say, I knew by the second date that DH was perfect and I spent the next five months trying unsuccessfully to get rid of him.
An effective tactic that I often used to scare away BYU boys was going on frequent feminist rants. It was always amazing to me that as soon as I started talking about equality and how Jesus was a feminist the conversation/date/relationship was over.
I tried doing this to DH but he agreed with me and found my thoughts refreshing. When my soft feminism didn’t work, I pulled out my pro-choice, socialist, anti-patriarchy stump speeches hoping that would do the trick but DH only found me more fascinating and invigorating.
In May of 2005, we went to go see three one act plays about Mormon women performed at BYU. During the intermission I was flipping through the program and noticed an advertisement for one of the local jewelry stores in the Provo area. It was your typical engagement ring ad, a flaxen haired beauty with a dreamy look in her eyes bathed in warm light. What got me was the caption, “Show her how much you really love her.” Of course, the only way to show the girl of your dreams that you really love her is to buy a 3 ct. princess cut diamond ring.
This presented the perfect opportunity for me to make some comments about the materialistic nature of the marriage market which, of course, morphed into a tirade about the misogynistic symbolism of heterosexual marriage. It went something like this:
“The engagement ring is the western world’s answer to a bride price. It symbolically says that a man has paid a price for a woman and that she now belongs to him. The ring is a symbol of ownership and objectification that women wear to proclaim that they belong to somebody. With that ring, a man has bought a woman’s body, her sexuality, reproduction and domestic labor. It is blood money that requires women to give up their individuality and become domestic and sexual servants.”
Without missing a beat, DH looked at me and said, “Oh M*, that is ridiculous!”
Usually DH would nod in agreement or ignore my more militant feminist snipes but this time he proceeded to give me his perfectly reasonable and romantic view of the engagement ring, something he saw as a gift of love, freely given.
I was delighted by his response; not because I necessarily agreed with him but because he hadn’t let me walk all over him. I had had other boyfriends who always acquiesced to my opinions or, even worse, thought that my opinions weren’t worth having a conversation about. I didn’t want to be in a relationship where I was placed on a pedestal for my intellect or divine womanhood. Likewise, I didn’t want to be with a man who thought my ideas were silly and not worth responding to. I knew that with DH, we might not always agree but he respected me enough as a person to engage with me as an equal.
When I look back at our courtship, I always pinpoint this moment as the one that made me fall in love. I was looking for a man that I could be equals with; three years later, I know I made the right choice.
As for engagement rings, I still think that they are a type of bride price but my opinion has moderated somewhat. Did I get an engagement ring when the time came? Yep…but it was also my wedding band which is a symbol I can totally get behind.