Yah, so I’m just gonna start this:
Way before I ever had a blog, I had Sparklife. For those of you who don’t know what Sparklife is— it is an online community based off of the literature analysis help site Sparknotes; if any of you have heard of the No Fear Shakespeare series— they do those too. During my early to mid teens, Sparklife was an absolute haven for me, providing me with likeminded geeks and nerds from all over the world who shared the same passion for books, obscure music and films, and a general abundance of geeky interests that the mainstream world knew almost nothing about. When I was 16, Sparklife had a series called Sparkler Posts, where us Sparklers, (the peasants who read and followed Sparklife), could send in our own written articles, and if the Sparkitors at Sparklife HQ liked it enough, they would publish it. (After editing it—sometimes very heavily). I remember sending in two articles when I was 16, both of which became published Sparkler posts. You can read one of my early works HERE. The other one however, shall remain anonymous, as I am too embarrassed to post it on this blog. (The Sparkitors edited that one pretty heavily– to the point where the article lost the message I wanted to convey).
The problem with Sparklife over time is that though they said they preached a diversity of opinions— the truth was (in my opinion) that Sparklife kept preaching the same single narrow opinion over and over— which would technically be fine— I can live with a bias, if they had not started shutting out other opinions that differed from them. It seemed as if any time a Sparkler had something different to say, other Sparklers who shared the opinions of Sparklife would shame that Sparkler— calling him or her a bigot, ignorant, a prude, and other nasty narrow-minded names. It came to a point when a lot of Sparklers felt like they could not voice their opinions on a so-called open minded website— because they were afraid to be shamed for what they believed in. DISCLAIMER: I understand when someone is being an actual bigot, I know what it looks like when someone is actually being prejudiced against other people—and believe me— there were a fair share of trolls on Sparklife as well that deserved to be called a bigot. Therefore, because of these trolls, I was never really sure if Sparklife itself was overly biased, or if voicing one’s opinion on being pro-life actually made someone a bigot. So I kept quiet, very much unsure about who was in the right here.
But then came the defining element. A Sparkler one day wrote into one of the resident Sparklife advice-givers, telling him/her (I don’t want to disclose the gender of the advice-giver so I’m just going to say him/her) that she was being judged in College for wearing a promise ring. She wrote in crying that some of the people in her dorm, if ever they found out that the pretty, unobtrusive ring on her finger was a promise ring, would somehow feel judged by her wearing it, and would even tell her that by wearing her promise ring, she was somehow shaming all of the people that didn’t believe in abstinence. Now wait just one minute. But don’t worry, it gets worse. After this poor Sparkler poured out her heart to said advice-giver, the advice-giver, instead of telling the sparkler to keep her chin up, to not care what idiots think, to be proud of the choices she makes in life —does not say any of this. No. Instead, said advice-giver tells the sparkler that maybe she shouldn’t tell people that it’s a promise ring, because such a ring bears with it a connotation of religious judgement and tramp shaming–and it really does make people uncomfortable. Please let us have a moment of silence so we can just take that in.
Okay. I understand Advice Giver’s point. If the letter writer was indeed being indiscreet about why she was wearing her ring, then being a little more discreet about wearing her ring is indeed the tactful thing to do, and some very sage advice. Furthermore, I also understand the inherent logic behind Advice-giver’s advice: if you don’t want to feel judged, then don’t tell people that it’s a promise ring! Sounds simple enough. It isn’t. What bothered me about advice-giver’s advice was that he/she went on to give a whole little side tangent about how “rings that advertise your [intimacy] status—whether that status is ‘not until marriage’ or ‘five times a day’—are a total tacky overshare.” (Direct quote, BTW). It is one thing to tell someone not to advertise her personal business so loudly. It is a whole other story to tell someone that her personal business is wrong, or tacky. Especially through the role of an advice-giver.
Did this Sparkler start telling other people to wear promise rings? No. She did not. Did this Sparkler in anyway mention that she disapproved of people who did not keep abstinence? No she very well didn’t! Then why in the world does anyone have the right to tell her to hide what she believes in, simply because it makes some people uncomfortable?! Since when is telling someone that their promise ring is tacky an acceptable thing to say on an established public website? Is it then okay for me to tell that gay couple down the street that their public affection is tacky? How about that Muslim family stepping out of the Q train– is it then okay for me to tell them that wearing a Hijab is tacky–that it makes people feel judged? How about that Chassidic couple walking down 18th Ave in Borough Park– is it okay for me tell him that wearing a shtreimel and long side locks is a tacky overshare of his religious beliefs? Not one of us ever has a right to do that–because regardless of our own personal opinions, we really don’t know who is in the right. One can live 120 years believing in Darwinism, only to later die and discover, that it was Darth Vader all along. Whoops.
Wearing a promise ring is a very personal and very private choice— like wearing a Yarmulke, or wearing a Hijab—or even not keeping abstinence. As long as we all live our lives, minding our own singular business, then no one– and I mean no one– has the right to tell us how to live our lives, or comment on our personal choices. While I am not Christian, and I don’t wear a promise ring, I have been very vocal on this blog about my choice to dress modestly. I have never shamed anyone if they dress differently from me, because, let’s be honest–everyone dresses differently from me– but I felt comfortable to share that piece of my life with you, because I knew you would celebrate my life choices with me, not judge me for oversharing. I think what upset me the most about that Sparkler Post, was how Sparklife could be so open about being a ‘liberal’ website– how they take everyone’s beliefs into account–but if that belief differed from theirs, they were more than ready to subtly slam it. I remember being 17, and reading this post quietly in shock, and thinking to myself: “since when did we lose the freedom of expression?” That post eventually became one too many to handle, and I left Sparklife shortly thereafter.
I started my own blog a year later.
*PS– After much thought and deliberation, I have decided to include a link to the original article, so that you can read it, and form your own educated opinion. Perhaps you disagree with me– perhaps I didn’t read things correctly. What do you guys think? Let me know, down in the comments below!