You might remember the poignant Facebook post Rachel Pedersen wrote in defense of her “tiny” wedding ring. In the short essay, which went mega-viral with nearly 200,000 likes and 50,000 shares, Pederson challenged the notion of oversized rock as status symbol. She explained the “big love” behind her small ring, a memento of a whirlwind romance and gift from the love of her life.
What she didn’t do: call larger rings gauche or their wearers materialistic. And yet, that’s exactly the conversation that erupted in the comments.
“I knew there would be some negative ones, so I avoided even reading them for a long time,” Pederson told TODAY. “When I did, I was saddened to see women bashing other women who had large diamonds. It happened over and over again in different words.”
Pedersen found the reaction so concerning that she wrote a second essay to clarify her intentions. “To women with big diamonds: I don’t think you’re shallow. I don’t assume you’re insecure. I don’t expect that your marriage is unhappy or doomed. I think your ring is beautiful. I believe that your love is bigger than your ring. And I’m happy for you,” she wrote. “The success and happiness of your marriage and your life are about so much more than the ring on your finger.”
But this isn’t just about rings. What Pedersen observed is a cultural pattern — and, to a certain extent, a female pattern — that often springs up in response to “positivity” movements, especially behind the anonymity of the Internet.
Take, for example, the “body positive” movement, which is meant to celebrate women of all shapes and sizes. The idea of embracing a more diverse standard of beauty is wonderful, except when the critical, body-shaming comments simply change direction, leaving women of all sizes feeling attacked.
Some of it is just standard Internet trolling. But given the extent of the pattern — with woman most often the focal point — Pedersen feels it’s worth questioning what so often leads us to attack. After all, it's quite possible to show support (or dissent) without all the vitriol.
She believes that questioning our own lifestyle choices can stir up a defensive impulse that makes those negative messages sting. “I recognize that when I’m in a place of feeling not as secure, it’s easy to take things personally,” she said. “When we’re comfortable in who we are, we can separate ourselves and find the truth in the message.”
Fortunately, the response to Pedersen’s second essay has been mostly positive. “I’ve gotten so many comments and messages saying, ‘Thanks for explaining. Your first post just showed that one side,” she said.
And that’s great news … for Pedersen. But still, it’s a bummer she has to explain at all.