When I first started at the Marriage Blog I mentioned my feelings on diamond commercials and promised to expound on them. Given that we see many such ads this time of year, it seems like an appropriate time to make my promised follow-up.
I’m not a big jewelry person so diamonds never appealed to me. That wouldn’t really be a big deal, except that for my entire life I’ve been inundated by ads and assumptions telling me the opposite. “So what?” you might wonder. Well, the media can have a much more powerful effect, subtle though it might be, on our thinking than we realize. Advertisements are a significant part of that.
I have two specific examples that are rather indicative of most. The first is a DeBeers Christmas commercial from 2006. A sweet song with the lyrics “how can I tell you I love you?” plays. The answer is, of course, a diamond. The husband wakes his wife up first thing Christmas morning with a shiny surprise.
Men are supposed to declare their love with ridiculously expensive gifts. One of the most important moments in a couple’s relationship – the proposal – is mandated by society to involve a diamond. Spontaneous ring-less proposals are O.K., but they better be followed up later by a rock.
Why is that? Why must our love and our promise to marriage be bought? You might say that no, it doesn’t need to be. But with a gift so expensive, a diamond ring for an engagement or even just a diamond necklace on Christmas, it’s hard to argue that no, it’s just a sign of appreciation. There are so many less expensive and ultimately more meaningful ways to show affection. I just don’t understand why men must drop what for many are multiple paychecks just to tell a woman how he feels.
Next is one of my least favorite commercials, both for its content and for its catchphrase. I hate “Every Kiss Begins with Kay,” and I hate this particular commercial using it even more. A couple enjoys a romantic mountain getaway. A storm rages outside, and the woman turns in fright into her man’s arms. He reassures her that he’s always there, and uses the gift of a diamond necklace to assert that he always will be.
I hate how stereotypical, even degrading, the gender roles are in this scene and in its catchphrase. I hate the implication that a man must earn, with expensive gifts, signs of physical affection from a woman. That’s what bothers me about diamond commercials: I don’t think, for the most part, they’re that damaging to women. But I think they might be for men.
These commercials, and indeed the role of diamonds within our society, teach our spouses that it’s expected or desirable for them to shower us with expensive and essentially useless baubles. I find it interesting that while many diamond commercials revolve around the engagement, most are actually about a husband’s gift to his wife. They reinforce the outdated concept that the man must be the provider, must make enough money to furnish his wife with pricey presents.
I know most men don’t actually think this, and I know that most gifts of diamonds within marriages don’t necessarily reinforce it. But I had to actually tell my husband not to get me an engagement ring or any other diamond presents thereafter. I just don’t like how it’s such a norm, given how expensive of a norm it is (too say nothing of the moral implications, which is a whole separate article). I don’t think the drive to buy diamonds, and especially the commercials advertising them, perpetuate necessarily healthy ideals of romance.