The Man Ring

Cultural anthropologists commonly understand the human body to be “pre-cultural” in that an individual has a physical body before s/he has culture. Despite this, the way in which people discuss or, as will be the focus of this paper, adorn the body is very much a product of culture. Consider the wedding ring. It represents that an individual is in a committed relationship with another individual. This understanding appears to be fairly consistent across the cultures that participate in the wedding ring tradition. While the meaning behind the ring might be consistent, how the ring is worn is not as universal. In India married women often choose to wear their wedding band on their toes rather than on their “ring” fingers like women in the United States. It is also not common to see a man wearing a wedding band in the majority of the world. With this in mind let us consider that men in the United States join their wives in wearing wedding rings.

A cultural evolutionist, assuming they are from the United Sates, would likely argue the United States to be culturally superior to other cultures in which men do not participate in wearing a wedding band. From his armchair he might suggest that the wearing of a ring by both the man and the woman shows a level of equality between the two sexes not present in the other cultures. This is particularly important to him because sex/gender equality is a measurement of civilization in the United States. He might even go as far as to suggest, by using his culture as the standard for all, that women in the other cultures are seen as property to their husbands and that the ring is a symbol of ownership.

A Boasian cultural anthropologist on the other hand would consider the historical particularism of the development of American culture compared to that of the other wedding ring wearing cultures in which only the woman wears a ring. Franz Boas would likely explain the United States to be a progressively equal society: women participate in male activities and men participate in female activities. A man is free to wear jewelry, at the very least a wedding ring, in American culture without having his heterosexuality questioned. He would also examine when and how men in the United States began to wear wedding bans. He would find that during WWII many men took the rings of their wives with them when deployed as a reminder of home. After WWII jewelry companies began advertising matching ring sets – one for the man and one for the woman (Howard 2003). The concept took off and the double ring ceremony in which both the woman and man wear a wedding band became common culture. This did not happen in other countries and is thus unique to American culture.

Men in the United States adorn their bodies with wedding rings when married unlike other cultures. These two anthropological perspectives attempt to explain why this might be.

–Alden B.
________________________

Howard, Vicki (2003). “A ‘Real Man’s Ring’: Gender and the Invention of Tradition”. Journal of Social History 36 (4): 837–856.

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50 Responses to The Man Ring

  1. Hayleigh Houston says:

    I found the WWII fact very interesting where the man took the wife’s ring as a reminder of home. I can say as a child of the Marine Corps that this practice has greatly changed. Since tattoos are more acceptable, and even encouraged in some cases, many men have a tattoo on their ring finger that reminds them of their wife so when they deploy they leave their wedding band with her and still have something to remember her by. I think the increase of lost wedding bands and gloved fingers has caused this change.

    • Alana McDowell says:

      The idea of men tattooing their ring fingers as a substitute for a physical wedding ring is particularly striking. The implications seem much more serious to me, as a wedding ring is removable but a tattoo is certainly permanent. This suggests that the level of commitment and dedication felt by those who choose to tattoo their ring fingers may be more resolved and enduring than those who don’t.

      • Hayleigh Houston says:

        It’s actually quite the opposite. I am more experienced with the enlisted Marines. In the enlisted it’s very rare for marriages to last or even be stable. The tattoo is a rep representation of a decision made in the panicked state of mind after, say, the couple find out he’s deploying or the girl gets pregnant. Another reason for the tattoo is Marines aren’t allowed to wear jewelry in the field or on deployments or even at work if they’re working outside.

    • carlyshriver says:

      I find the idea of tattooing a wedding ring incredibly interesting because it takes the commitment symbolized by the wedding ring to a new level of permanence. Structuralism attempts to connect the cultural practices of a society to the universal structure of human thought. Wearing a wedding ring symbolizes one’s connection to another person, ideally, for life. Tattooing a wedding ring brings that to a stronger level by enforcing the permanence of it, as tattoos are meant to adorn the body permanently, for a lifetime. The universal human need for absolute relationships that they can count on and rely on for a lifetime is illustrated by these practices. Members of our society are focused on the need to find a partner that they can grow old with and keep to themselves permanently. This focus is symbolized by wedding rings and ring tattoos especially. A serious, monogamous relationship, in our society, is meant to last.

      • Lauren Wahl says:

        When I was in high school, my guidance counselor was married to one of the teachers, and both of them had tattoos on the traditional “ring” finger in replace of rings. I had never seen anything like this before, and I had pondered it for while, but I never really looked into the matter. After reading this essay and the comments associated with tattooing wedding rings, especially carlyshriver’s comment, it dawned on me that my counselor and his wife made a truly personal and symbolic commitment to one another, which was made even more permanent by the tattooing of their “wedding rings”.

    • coltsedbrook says:

      I believe that the WWII fact was extremely fascinating to read. I have heard stories passed down from my grandmother that her father did the exact same thing by giving my great grandmother his wedding ring before he was deployed to Europe. I feel that the significance of this act is generational. The 21st century presents new trends and perspectives surrounding the ‘man ring’. To add to what Hayleigh said; I also have close friends that are in the Marine Corps, and they have a tattoo on their ring finger that represents their significant other, which in their mind resembles the meaning of their marriage. I believe the tattoo is a new trend in the Marine Corps which ultimately represents the promise that he/she will always remain committed to his bride/husband while serving in the corps.

      There is a written piece about NFL quarterback Andy Dalton of the Cincinnati Bengals who has and wears a rubber wedding band around his ring finger. He argued that he never wants to take off the ring, because if he does, it will terminate the promise that he had made to his wife. Again, maybe Andy Dalton has started a new trend regarding the rubber wedding band in sports.

      Aiden, I really appreciated your approach to the assignment. Your writing style is unique and I gained a new perspective because of the approach that you took to this assignment. Great Job!

  2. Alyssa Ferguson says:

    I think that the fact that men have started this tradition and it was in a time of crisis that this idea took off also is very powerful. Unlike in other cultures, a wedding band is not a symbol of ownership but rather a symbol of commitment. Because the men take the wedding band of their wives, they are not abandoning them but constantly reminding themselves of the commitment they have made. The equal partnership of the wedding ritual in the United States expresses that there is more to a marriage then security, but there is social and emotional meaning.

  3. Brianne Hart says:

    Going off of Alyssa Ferguson’s post, I think it’s easy for people to confuse a wedding ring as symbol of the marriage instead of as a symbol for commitment, love and fidelity to your spouse. So I really like how you clarify what exactly a ring symbolizes. I do think it’s interesting that the Boasian idea of a progressively equal society is interesting because the male wedding ring is still very masculine and has a think band while a woman’s ring is dainty and very elegant- maybe I’m reading too far into it but it would be interesting to see what wedding bands look like in different cultures for females and males and compare them, since some cultures wear them on different areas of the body.

  4. Ashley Gates says:

    I think that the wide differences in the dis/use of rings is extremely interesting. I definitely see how both theories highlighted look at the use of rings by men in the United States in descriptive and different ways. However, I think we can also look at this topic through an Interpretative/Symbolic Theory lens as well. Interpretive Anthropologists think that we must put everything into a local context and all objects, rituals, etc do not have inherent meaning but symbolic meaning instead. When it comes to rings they mean nothing until put into a culture who makes something of them. A ring that is placed on your “Ring finger” in the United States symbolizes marriage and/or commitment to another person. However if we turn to Ireland…the direction that your ring is facing on your finger deeply influences your relational status. For example, I personally have a Claddagh Promise Ring that has a heart shaped stone. I have always worn it where when I look at it the heart is right-side up. I recently found out, through a close friend of mine and further research, that the way I wear it signifies that I am married. If I turn the ring where when I look at it the heart is upside down then it means I am single. I am not positive why this came about but I would imagine it is because this kind of ring became very popular and so to distinguish those who are married and those who simply like the ring they put different symbolic meaning to the different facings. An Interpretative Anthropologists such as Clifford Geertz would find interest and put research into differences similar to this one.

  5. Claire Cohen says:

    Very interesting essay about something that I had never really thought of. However, I do not agree that the United States is a “progressively equal society.” In other cultures (European) oftentimes men are seen as more feminine to the American observer, this is because we have a strong degree of homophobia present in the institution of sexuality. A man would surely be gawked at if he wore a skirt or a purse in the United States, whereas these notions of single-sex accessories are not present in many other cultures. I think it is a product of this internalized homophobia to even consider the fact that men are able to wear rings and still be seen as heterosexual.

  6. Kyle Santi says:

    From your perspectives, it would seem American society is progressively equal even though this is not the case. Personally, I believe the men wearing wedding rings came from advertising insisting that they wear them because of the WWII example. After all, advertising made many Americans believe that “diamonds are a girl’s best friend” even though that was never the case with our grandparents. Then again, it would be difficult to include advertising with these Anthropological perspectives and a 500-word paper.

  7. Allison Kessler says:

    In this article I found a lot of the Interpretive and Symbolic lens without the labeling of using that theory. It is a powerful lens in this instance and can be used for the meaning of the ring itself seen as commitment and love as well as well as freedom in a sense. The American society is generally open to freedom in finding a mate while many other societies default to arranged marriage to some extent. The fact that the male also wears a ring in the U.S. after marriage displays some sense of equality and demonstrates that both parties involved had and have the freedom to create that relationship and they are or should be equally committed to maintain it. A ring worn by the man symbolizes more than love but also equality and freedom to choose a life partner as they are labelled as married and a generally monogamous society.

    • Stephen Goddard says:

      Allsion, after reading this article I too found myself contemplating the Interpretive symbolism of the wedding ring. I think it is very significant that the ring, while it may have the same initial meaning, is associated with many other factors. One factor I feel that is most commonly portrayed in American culture is socio-economic class. It is fairly evident when rings are expensive and this usually directly correlates to status. Furthermore the mere rarity of metals and minerals involved with wedding rings has an affect on other societies culture.

      Alden, you did a good job to bring comparative analysis to the traditional American wedding ring. I was thinking because this fell in the realm of a traditional monogamous relationship, how the wedding ring works in man-man marriages. From what I understand both where “the man ring”, but I wonder if there are any other rituals starting to become more popular. Anyone know of any specifically?

    • carlyshriver says:

      Allison, I really like the idea of freedom that you bring up. Through an interpretive perspective the ring not only symbolizes commitment, but it also makes a statement that one has chosen to be monogamous and committed to only one other person. My father and step-mother are scientists and believe strongly in primitive human nature. On the inside of their wedding rings is engraved “my chosen male” or “my chosen female”, respectively. Their rings further symbolize that they are choosing a mate by marrying their spouse. They are making an instinctive human choice to be with this person. The rings that adorn their bodies are representative of both their commitment and freedom to chose that commitment.

  8. Anastasia M. says:

    I found both views of this cultural ritual to be extremely endearing. As far as the cultural evolutionist perspective, I think, in addition, the rings may be a way to show other possible mates (bachelors/bachelorettes) that they are engaged in a monogamous relationship and are no longer, roughly put, “on the market.” I understand this is more of a brash view. I also find the acceptance of a ring for a woman to not so much have symbolized being “owned” but to symbolize the freedom of choice in life partner. She is/was given the opportunity to accept or deny the offer of marriage. It could also be thought of as the woman accepting gifts from her suitor, or a gift in exchange for her hand in marriage, a dowry of sorts.

    I very much appreciate the Boasian approach to this cultural ritual. The importance of gender equality is brought to light and utilized. The sentimentality of the WWII jewelry is very warming, and sheds the smallest bit of kind light on such a terribly tragic, destructive time, and that is always appreciated.

    i would also like to mention that I like the idea of wearing your wedding ring on your toes, as they do in India. Sort of a symbol that you walk with them. Adorable.

  9. Alana McDowell says:

    I think it’s worth noting that America is a decidedly monogamous culture. As a matter of fact, polygamy is considered taboo here, and is relentlessly shunned by mainstream media. This illuminates the sensibility of the practice of both partners wearing wedding rings in American society: when you are married, it is important that others to know, because you are no longer available. For both the man and the woman, a ring on the fourth finger is easily interpreted as a signal of this.

    In many other cultures, polygamy is far from taboo- it is widespread and even expected. This being said, it would make little sense for a man in a polygamous culture to wear a wedding rings on a regular basis. Should he have 3, 4, or 5 wives, for example, it is unlikely that he would see a potential benefit in wearing a special ring for each wife. To him, the ring is not an unspoken social signal that he is “taken.” In addition, this raises the question of who is responsible for buying the rings. Assuming the man is allocated this responsibility, a man with several wives would probably not want to have to purchase a set of 2 rings for each marriage.

    Perhaps it might be interesting to compare the ring traditions of polygamous versus monogamous societies. We might find that it is more common for monogamous couples to share in the practice of wearing rings, while this is less common in polygamous couples.

    • Allison Kessler says:

      This is a very interesting point that I hadn’t originally thought of. I agree with the sensibility of not wearing a ring in a polygamous society as it would be virtually pointless. Since the symbolic interpretation displays that a ring has a meaning of devotion and love it would have a lesser meaning in a polygamous society. It is hard to tell is many polygamous or arranged marriages are bases purely out of love but they do all in fact have a different relationship with and between every member in the household. In taking this lens it is sensible that American males wear rings in this monogamous society as it is a symbol of purity within the relationship.

  10. Blaine Wajdowicz says:

    You make some great points in taking the time to explain the ethnocentrism behind certain anthropological lenses. I think however, if viewed from a symbolic interpretivism lens, similar conclusions could be drawn. We have a cultural expectation that a man wears a ring just as his wife does. These are signs of devotion to each other and their relationship. However, going off Kyle’s post, what does it say that the groom’s ring and the wife’s ring are so different in appearance (the wife having a diamond or cut stone while a man traditionally has just the band). This speaks to different cultured expectations of gender roles in selecting and wearing rings, and could reflect larger discourses of how our society maybe isn’t as egalitarian as you offer.

    • Hayleigh Houston says:

      I think the diamond ring either came into being as a representation of the bride’s worth or as a new age tradition representing the overall wealth America had felt as a whole. I certainly remember my great-grandmother’s (married in the late 1800s) ring as being a plain gold band whereas my grandmother (married in the 40s) has a ring with diamonds. It could very well be a tradition born out of the post WWI wealth America experienced.

    • Teresa Cousins says:

      Expanding on gender role expectation, I think it’s important to note engagement rings and the differences in traditionally implied requirements.
      What is significant about a woman donning both an engagement ring and a wedding ring where as men generally lug only one around?
      Contrary to the second paragraph, could it be that American culture is not further on the ‘societal evolutionary scale’ at all and this double to one ring ratio is a different interpretation of the same conclusion? That “women in the other cultures are seen as property to their husbands and that the ring is a symbol of ownership.”

      Between proposal and actual ceremony there’s a good deal of time that goes by -at least a few months, maybe up to a couple years -in which a man’s finger is freelance and unrestrained while an uncomfortable diamond is digging into the side of a woman’s middle or pinky. During that time a woman is symbolically “promised”, “bookmarked,” “taken.” A man still has the luxury of an uncaged phalange even though both have made the agreement to enter into a partnership.

      (disclaimer): This is about to come across like an un-relevant personal tangent. I swear it’ll pertain to the topic at hand, there’s just some wading through my resentment of all things uncomfortable first. Okay, the rant begins:

      I hate jewelry. I hate it, hate it, hate it. Especially rings. Hate them. They’re disruptive to my peace, they make me feel like I have webbed fingers. I can sort of empathize with collared pets when I’m made to wear them for something as silly as family tradition. I’m constantly adjusting and tugging like a kid wearing a tie for the first time. The disdain isn’t for the lovely junk the ring symbolizes, it’s for the physical disturbance.

      Okay the rant has ended and here is where it’s semi-relevant, I’ve heard the same complaints from newly-wedded men. Commonly from men who aren’t all that accustomed to jewelry wearing. Curiously I haven’t heard nearly as much whining from women who have to wear the ever-present inconvenience.

      What would an Interpretivist have to say concerning the sacrifice of comfort as a symbol for commitment?

  11. lilykoral says:

    I found this essay to be quite interesting. I was especially intrigued by the information about men not having a wedding ring until after WWII. However, after reading this essay I began to wonder about some of the symbolism behind the rings themselves. To a symbolic interpretivist the actual placement of the rings might hold a significant amount of symbolic meaning in the cultures. For example, the interpretivist might look at why a woman in India puts her wedding band on her foot, while an American puts the band on her left ring finger. They might conclude that the ring on the foot of the Indian woman symbolizes grounding, finality and permanency in marriage. While the left hand in Western culture could symbolize virtue and modesty, since the left hand is generally used far less than the right hand and has less “wear and tear.”
    Or you might look at the placement of the rings from a Boasian perspective. For instance, one theory about the ring being on the left hand in Western cultures is due to an early Christian tradition. This tradition was while the priest recited the binging, “In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost,” he would press the thumb, the index finger and the middle finger. He would then utter “Amen” while placing the ring on the ring finger, thus sealing the marriage. (http://www.todayifoundout.com/)

  12. Kait Bashford says:

    I wonder how a Boasian cultural anthropologist would feel about the relationship between wedding rings and the diamond industry? De Beers created the ad campaign that “a diamond is forever”, signifying the union of man and woman, mining and advertising. A lot of people in American culture value the size/quality/price of their diamond rings as symbols of their love. In China, a diamond represents security (both financially and in terms of commitment to their spouse). Using diamonds as symbols of love is a cultural tradition (especially in America), but perhaps this tradition is simply a very successful advertising campaign…

  13. carlyshriver says:

    This essay does such a beautiful job of making succinct points and providing creative and helpful examples to illustrate their arguments. Through an Interpretive theory perspective the ring symbolizes a great number of things. Some were touched on in the paper, like commitment, love, monogamy, and a sort of gender equality. The Interpretive theorist would also be interested in what the absence of a wedding ring would symbolize. If a member of society recognizes the absence of a wedding ring, it means that person is unmarried. In our culture, polygamy is of course taboo and we widely and publicly support loving only one person, at least at one time. However, there are contradictions to our mainstream thought. From a Practice theory perspective it is necessary to notice that although American society and its members claim to be monogamous, and wear wedding rings to symbolize that, their practice may be very different. During the 1960s and 1970s it was almost the norm for a man to cheat on his wife multiple times; and the American divorce rate continues to skyrocket. Men and women take off their wedding rings for many reasons: to divorce, to cheat, or to love someone else. Our society interprets the ring as one thing universally, however many members may actually practice the opposite.

    • Teresa Cousins says:

      Thanks for bringing this up! I think you posted before we learned about it in lecture but this is a brilliant real-world example of practice theory.
      The physical presence of a ring has been pedestal-ized and exalted as the be-all end-all material emblem of “everlasting love.” That’s the weighty significance society has placed on rounded metal. Blah.
      The presence of a ring (usually on the left) is supposed to be a marker of marriage but in practice, sometimes it appears on the right, sometimes people just decorate that finger for the fanciful heck of it (no significance), other times divorcees and widow/ers opt to keep wearing their band.
      Absence of the band is supposed to denote singleness but people gain weight, lose the actual ring, or are just really not fond of the feeling of physical restriction.

      Alright time for another personal example, which is significant as it is a demonstrator the the great ‘ole practice theory.
      My grandparents are in love. They have been wild wild crazy about each other since the dawn of time, it’s the never-ending story, the endorphins never depleted. Love.

      About five years into their marriage they were at church and the collection plate came around, they had the urge to give but didn’t have anything. Both of them dropped their rings into the velvet tithe bag and haven’t worn a steady symbol since, even though they’ve always been seriously steady about each other. Puh-ractice theory!
      Traditionally their naked digits are supposed to mean they’re either single or non-chalant about the commitment made to each other. Neither are true, they’re just as married as any ring-fingered duo.

  14. Lucy Johnson says:

    For as long as marriages have been going on there has been some sort of symbol whether it be physical or a somewhat symbolic ceremony. The presence of rings is just another object that portrays a marriage has happened. The call towards WWII and how the rings became an American tradition was very interesting but I don’t really agree that they show permanence. In a society and era where the divorce rate happens to be higher than the rate of those who stay together, being faithful and loyal to ones spouse has nothing to do with what one is adorned with.

    The author did a great job tying in the Anthropological approaches mentioned to the subject at hand. The article was creatively written yet still informative.

  15. Alana Spielman says:

    In agreement with lilykoral’s statement, I too find it interesting to analyze this topic from an symbolic interpretivist point of view. However, my take on the placement is a little different. When considering the placement of the ring on the feet in India, one can argue that they place it there for safe keeping. Some may work with their hands and out of respect to the importance of the ring, they would want to keep it somewhere to prevent loss or destruction. However, the placement of the ring in American culture is completely different. It was believed that the left hand ring finger held a special connection to the heart. More specifically, a vein that went from one to the other. This is seen as a symbolic way to show the connection between two people.

  16. Cassidy Reeves says:

    I thought your topic was a very interesting phenomenon. Most people completely overlook the (husband’s) ring when it comes to culturally analyzing marriage. I liked how you explained “man rings” through a Boasian perspective and brought up the equality of men and women participating in the practice. Your use of historical relativism was also very interesting! I had no idea that WWII contributed to the “man ring.” It would also be neat to examine the reasons why different cultures wear wedding rings in different places, or to look alternative marks of marriage like beads or headdresses.

  17. Sophia Kolybabiuk says:

    I liked how the writer included cultural evolutionist theory and how parts of the world have stricter gender roles that represent how males and females are not treated or looked at equally. We are one of the few minority of countries that believe in true equality that male and women can practice the same roles without it being viewed at as “strange” or “out of the ordinary”. I would recommend to the writer to include more things that represent symbolism like South and East Asian women wearing Bindi’s as a marital status, and not just focus on wedding rings. It is a good example to present a form of symbolic meaning in how wearing one represents “commitment” but rings aren’t used everywhere, mostly just known in our country to show how men and women are equal. There should be more cultural examples of how a form of symbolism is represented culturally and in various ways.

  18. Stephanie Grossart says:

    I do see a man wearing a wedding ring as respect for the marriage. It is a form of equality and love for their other half. Wearing a wedding ring on my toe would honestly make me sad because well I live in boulder. Half the year I could not display my ring because it would be too cold to not wear boots. To me a wedding ring symbolizes love and loyalty between a couple. It says to the world “I am taken”. If my future husband did not want to wear a wedding ring that would be a huge issue for me. I would in someway feel as if he did not want anyone to know we are married. There are other alternatives to a wedding ring such as a tattoo where the ring should be. I would be ok with that. All cultures are different and I would not deem anyones practices lesser than my own.

  19. Martin Golibart says:

    I’ll never forget the day my father took off his ring one day when we on our way to a fishing trip. It was just me and my father, and we were hiking through some marsh in order to get to our fishing spot. Being the clumsy ten year old that I was at the time, I lost my shoe in the muck. My father struggled to get the shoe out of the mud. Realizing how stuck the shoe was, he looked me straight in the eye as he took his wedding ring off of his left hand and said, “Don’t ever tell your mom that I took this off. It means a lot to her.” He then handed it to me. So there I stood, my father’s wedding ring in hand as he ripped my shoe out of the mud. We cannot deny the importance that is put on the symbolism of the wedding ring. My father was afraid that when he took it off, it would symbolize a loss of love between him and my mother. In American culture the ring bears so much significance, that even if the ring were to be taken off to take care of a simple task, it could symbolize something much bigger. Since then, to my knowledge, my father has not taken off the ring. A symbolic anthropologist would say that this symbolizes his everlasting and undying love for my mother.

  20. Stephanie Sanchez says:

    This was an extremely informative essay. I knew that the US started wearing wedding ring but I had no idea about the WWII bit. I find that very interesting that men would take the wife’s ring to war. It’s interesting how a wedding ring symbolizes so much in our culture. I like the part about placing the bride’s wedding ring on her feet. In Indian culture do the feet hold cultural significance? I like the way you brought in the cultural evolutionist perspective. I think at some point in history wedding ring(s) did signify ownership and warded off other suitors. It would be interesting to find out when women started wearing wedding rings in our culture and what time period women wore them in other cultures. I think this something we as a culture tend to not think about, so it would be cool to find out.

  21. Ellis Hughes says:

    I never realized that matching wedding bands were a fairly recent product of advertisement. It never even crossed my mind – i had assumed it was simply old tradition. But considering this brings about the question of how strong of an influence ads can shape our society. By pandering to such a significant sentimentality as WWII and the separation of loved ones, ads can spark up a new cultural tradition that becomes so iconic in society that later on, individuals such as myself wouldn’t even realize it’s true origins. It’s interesting: wedding rings, as weighty as they are in their symbolism, were no more a product of advertisement than Levi’s or Nikes.

  22. Amanda Brennan says:

    It’s interesting to see a unique US custom demonstrating the progression that many Americans pride themselves on. I was a bit confused, however, on how you stated that a cultural evolutionist not from the United States would regard this custom in a positive manner. Cultural evolutionist (referring to the original English armchair anthropologists) usually find that their own culture was superior and other cultures had barbaric methods. That being said, they might also have the belief that marriage is not entirely equal and the man does not need a physical component to make the marriage more concrete. Of course, this is thinking of the armchair anthropologist as more a narrow-minded thinker. A modern day armchair anthropologist would probably be more open-minded and respectful of other cultures and could possibly admire the progressive approach of this American culture, even if it was not normal compared to his/her own’s cultural customs.

  23. Christopher Sol says:

    This essay uses its theories to explain the topic very well. The use of the outside source helps guide the reader into thinking deeply about the topic. I have never really thought about where the tradition of wearing a wedding ring came from so this was surprisingly interesting. Men wearing wedding rings was never a problem for me and now i can understand why.

  24. Adriana Petersen says:

    I thought your essay covered a really interesting topic, I never thought of the wedding ring as a “symbol of ownership”. I always thought of a wedding ring to symbolize the committed relationship that one is in and to also maybe even communicate to others that he or she is no longer available to form new intimate relationships. I also had no idea where the origin of the dual wedding ring ceremony came from and how it reflects upon many cultural characteristics of the United States, such as equality. Applying symbolic theory to your topic could also be interesting and very relevant, since you already mentioned some aspects of it through your other analogies. I wonder why the man’s ring is typically just a simple band while the woman’s is more elaborate, usually with a diamond. This aspect could also be interpreted through symbolic theory creating several interesting analogies especially when it comes to gender roles in the United States and what is seen as masculine and feminine.

  25. Erica Blais says:

    Wow! I had never really taken the time to think about how it is actually not common cross culturally for men to wear a wedding ring on their ring finger. I guess I always just thought of it as a common practice since I have grown up around older males who do wear wedding rings and have never really thought about how this may differ in another culture. I find your interpretation of this practice through cultural evolutionary lens quite interesting. Initially I would not have thought of a man wearing a wedding ring as indicating a culture as being more superior or civilized. Some could argue that it makes men seem more feminine and possibly inferior. Depending on who you ask, someone could see gender equality as a bad thing while others could view it as a positive culturally. I think it would be interesting to further examine this topic using other anthropological perspectives such as the symbolic theory and the culture & personality theory. The symbolic theory could be used to discuss what the practice of males wearing wedding rings may indicate about a particular society versus a society where males do not. Do male wedding rings indicate feminism for cultures outside of the US? It would be interesting to learn if other cultures have different ways for males to indicate that they are married. The culture & personality theory could possibly be used to examine how society and cultural expectations impact how a male decides to represent/display his marriage (or not to). Overall, I really enjoyed reading this piece! You have intrigued me; I would love to learn more about how symbols of marriage differ across cultures.

  26. Mateo Hajek says:

    I love your use of the term ‘man ring’.

    In considering your cultural evolution argument, I first look at the notion of romantic love in contemporary US culture, then to the ideal of marriage as a political system for the division of land and land ownership common among our puritan ancestors. Then considering that the kind of egalitarian coupling not present in other cultures you spoke of is only recently pervasive in contemporary US culture, I cannot fully agree with your cultural evolution example. I see the ‘man ring’ as a symbolic representation of the commitment and dedication often correlated with the socially imposed concept of choice in romantic love as a socio-cultural shift over time and thus the shift over time itself can be explained in linear cultural evolutionary terms, but not necessarily separately derived results in equality.

  27. John Cooper says:

    Interesting easy but consider that to a functionalist a weeding ring helps to fulfill the universal need to segment our society. A weeding ring is an easy way to tell which men or women are married and should therefor be treated differently within society.

    • Teresa Cousins says:

      Hey, thanks for bringing Functionalism into this.
      Alright, so I guess I’ll just expand upon this point. It’s really fascinating that you brought up “the need to segment our society.” I have never before seen the drive to compartmentalize as a necessary function but now I can see how it is in an obtuse way. It’s a systematic organization that keeps chaos at bay, especially bringing “biological need” into this.

      Well I lost track of exactly who said it but, someone said something along the lines that “the United States is a decidedly monogamous society.” Agreement. So how does the natural drive to reproduce fit into the culturally constructed system of monogamy? Through mate claiming. How do we do we display this, we personally secure that finger.
      We declare ‘dibs’ by way of symbol and then promptly get on to matin’ for life, usually children pop up as a byproduct of this matin’ for life. So, biological need sated and cultural norm satisfied as an added bonus. There’s also emotional needs and connection and other necessary human stuff sprinkled on in there.

  28. Jon Mastman says:

    This essay tried and succeeded to construct a side by side comparison of Boasian anthropologists and cultural anthropologists. It paints a clear picture of the cultural anthropologist sitting in his armchair, not bothering to journey and live with the people that he was documenting the culture of. They would study these cultures and, using a biased rubric, would place them on a scale on civilization. The Boasian anthropologist on the other hand dives deep into the culture of the civilization and analyzes not just what they are today, but what they were and what their ideal character is. In the case of the wedding ring, the Boasian anthropologist knew not to blindly assume that one way is right or “more civilized” and did not transfer his own labels over another culture.

  29. Danielle Maxey says:

    I appreciated your use of the theories in this essay. I especially enjoyed the use of the Boasian theory and how you used the facts about WWII to support it. I had never considered how this tradition started and it was a great topic. Your use of the theories really worked for this and showed how something so small has become such a big part of American culture today.

  30. Hannah Hilden-Reid says:

    I really enjoyed the inclusion of the idea that cultural practices come about in many different ways depending on the many factors affected that specific culture at that time. The fact that “man-rings” are not common among other cultures is all due to the fact that certain cultural events didn’t take place that would result in that particular social norm/practice.

  31. Alexandra Sapien says:

    I really enjoyed the way you applied the cultural evolutionary theory across culture rather than across a period of time. Considering the equality of men and woman in the United States it is constantly progressing rather than remaining the level of inequality in other cultures. I also enjoyed how broadly you used the term “man rings” where it can mean that any from of ring worn by a man on his hands rather than his feet such as it is in india. Nice paper and cultural comparisons !

  32. ElisabethDiMarco says:

    You show a point about a man considering his wife as an object of possession because of the wedding ring that she was given by him during the wedding ceremony. Can’t she also consider him as her property? I really enjoyed reading this essay, the topic you have chosen isn’t something that many people put thought into but is noticed throughout the world.

  33. kristoferboguniewicz says:

    Frederic Jameson – a postmodern philosopher – argues that capitalism has worked its way into every facet of human culture and experience, including such rituals and traditions as marriage. Your point about rings being produced for men and women after WWII as an economic endeavor only helps support Jameson’s claim. Perhaps if we look more broadly, you might agree that the man ring is unique to America because the man ring is a phenomenon that is a product of America’s post-WWII status as a global economic powerhouse? Not to get too complicated or anything, just some interesting thoughts you provoke.

  34. Matt Kiriazis says:

    Interesting topic! Good job on applying the cultural evolutionist theory and pointing out that they would likely be theorizing from the comfort of an armchair. In that paragraph you refer to the ring wearing as a “symbol” and I think that the interpretive/symbolic anthropologist would certainly agree with that. What could the ring wearing traditions say and symbolize in different parts of the world? I bet it would give us clues to better understand the roles of married people from culture to culture.

  35. Autumn Ware says:

    I love the points brought up about how symbolic rings are! Great job. When you say that women are the only ones to wear rings in India, which might symbolize that they are seen as property compared to in the United states; do you think the fact women where the rings on their toes in India might have similar symbolic meaning?

  36. shelly kim says:

    It is interesting because often, jewelry is more worn by women, symbolizing femininity but wedding ring seems to be an exception. It is also interesting because American concept of set ring for couple is obviously for those who are either engaged or married but in my country (also some asian countries) couples who are dating, who are not serious in their relationship can have matched rings because they are seeing someone.

  37. Elliott Cairns says:

    I agree with your statement that matching wedding rings does show progressive equality in a culture especially within American culture. However I do believe that even though the matching ring sets symbolize equality today, they did not necessarily mean that within the 1950’s to 1980’s in which males were still seen as the head of the household. Advertising from this time shows that men were still seen as the dominant figure even if though they were married. Overtime I do believe that matching rings does show equality in our culture but initially these gender norms were still geared toward male dominance.

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