Brazilian Engagement Rings

The following is a folk tradition that I heard from my family friend, a mid-40s Brazilian woman. The woman will be referred to as C.

Text: In Brazil, both men and women wear engagement rings. While engaged, they wear the ring on the right ring finger, and switch it to the left ring finger at the wedding.

Context: C is my family friend who told me this folklore when she was telling me about differences between living in Brazil and America. She brought this particular example up because she thought it was strange only females wear engagement rings in America, when both men and women are engaged. She thought it would make sense that they would both be happy about being engaged and want to show it to other people. C said that she thought this tradition isn’t the case in America because in olden times, many women were thought to be owned by men, and therefore supposed to wear a ring to signify who “owned” them. However, men didn’t need to do this as they didn’t belong to anybody and therefore didn’t need to wear an object to show this.

Analysis: This was a surprising cultural difference between the US and Brazil that I didn’t know about. I had never thought about why men don’t wear engagement rings before, but this made me think about it for the first time. I realized there is absolutely no reason men don’t wear engagement rings other than tradition. It points out just how stuck into their own ways people are, and how hard it is to go against tradition. After doing a bit of research I discovered that wedding rings were initially meant to symbolize the women’s purity and virginity, and the man could break an engagement off at any time, so he never had a ring until he was certain that he was going to marry the woman. This cultural difference made me realize that men not wearing engagement rings is actually patriarchal and oppressive. This is because making women wear something that shows them as being taken, while men have no such reservations, is sexist in our modern society.