Ring bracelets have been around for centuries, and have recently made a comeback on Pinterest boards and DIY jewelry sites. The actual term for these is “slave bracelet.” I have a few problems with this.
I looked all over, and it’s difficult to trace the historical roots of this term. Some of the articles I found do not attribute the name “slave bracelet” to actual slavery, but rather to the fact that the bracelet and ring are chained together, making them “slaves” to each other.
However, this literal interpretation does not change the connotations behind the word choice. The first time I saw it used on a website, I could not believe it was the contemporary term. I immediately started googling “slave bracelet” to confirm this was the proper reference, but still feel uncomfortable using it. I don’t think the word “slave” should be tossed around so casually, and using it to describe jewelry takes away its punch.
Some people may think this is view is too “sensitive” or “PC,” but I don’t agree. People defending the use of this term say black people are not offended by it so it shouldn’t matter. First, the feelings of an entire group of people should not be generalized by individual experiences. Second, this issue is not one purely of race, but also of gender and class. Calling a fashion accessory by the same name as a practice that oppressed (and still oppresses) a large number of people is wrong. Slavery is a powerful word and should not be whitewashed for the sake of fashion.
There’s a simple solution. Can’t we just say “ring bracelets?”