Gender and Jewelry

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If you ever wondered why you wear the jewelry you wear, you may enjoy Gender and Jewelry: A Feminist Analysis by Rebecca Ross Russell. For an academic paper, conceived, it appears, while working on a combined Bachelor’s of Fine Arts and Women’s Studies, it is eminently readable and fascinating.

So, why do we wear jewelry? Simple, it’s a desire for control, honor, gender identity, or sex. But, not so simple; sometimes it’s all four, or none at all.

Consider the rings Padaung women of Myanmar wear that can extend their necks 10-15 inches, so they cannot turn their heads. You may think their practice is very strange, but look at high heels, tights jeans, and neckties and think again. All these seem to say, I am willing to limit and sacrifice myself so that you will find me desirable.

Consider the clunky, flashy gold that male rap stars wear in violation of norms that demand that men wear little jewelry and that Blacks defer to Whites. In this case jewelry seems to assert the wearer’s self-determination.

Russell goes on to analyze the unconscious political and social statements conveyed by more or less esoteric jewelry, from heavy anklets worn in Niger to headhunter necklaces, from engagement rings and Madeleine Albright’s pins to punk body piercing.  She concludes by presenting some feminist and queer alternatives forms of jewelry.

Gender and Jewelry is a fascinating read to anyone interested in the subject. Then, when you are done, the book can adorn your coffee table or bookcase and make a strong statement about your open-mindedness and sophistication.
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