Kat Doutt, a senior educational ministry major and a youth ministry minor, has recently gotten engaged. Although she has made strides academically and even received an internship for immediately after college, she feels that her engagement and upcoming wedding causes many to disregard these achievements.
“I had never heard the term before coming to SPU,” Doutt said. “I first heard ‘ring by spring’ my fall quarter, freshman year from the sophomores on my floor. I didn’t think much about it then; it was just a silly joke. I’ve lived in the dorms all four years and have heard different floors of 45-50 women using the term each year.”
“Ring by spring” is a phrase used to refer to getting an engagement ring by spring quarter of your senior year in college. It is almost exclusively reserved for women who get engaged, and is rarely used in reference to men.
Although its connotation varies, the phrase is sometimes used in combination with the term “MRS degree.” Together these terms suggest that the women they refer to attended college with the sole purpose of getting engaged and becoming a housewife.
Doutt speaks to the offense and absurdity of the suggestion.
“If that was my goal in college, then I wouldn’t have chosen SPU, where the ratio is four-to-one female.” Doutt said. “I would not have strived for so much while I was here. And I still put in the same effort now that I am engaged. I’m not any less busy.”
Online, “ring by spring” is associated almost exclusively with Christian colleges. Urban Dictionary has an entry for the term, and Buzzfeed even made a post titled “15 Signs You Go to a ‘Ring By Spring’ School.” Several other sites, like The Odyssey Online and College USA Today, have also published articles on the matter.
The students who use these terms may see them as a simple joke, but they have underlying implications that trivialize female education, especially in the Christian community.
The assumption that women yearn solely to find a man who can support them and to become housewives uncomfortably reminds of a time when women were not allowed to be educated.
There was a time when a young woman was expected to use her efforts for finding a match and being a good spouse.
Women continue to outnumber men in college, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research. Women increasingly choose to be educated and take advantage of an opportunity that wasn’t always there. Still, it seems easy to find ways to dismiss women’s educational achievements, and “ring by spring” is just one of many ways to do so.
The worst part is that women, too, are actively perpetuating this stigma. Friends will tease each other over the potential of them getting engaged before graduation. Women will stereotype the kind of person to be aiming toward an MRS degree.
Without noticing, women are placing themselves and their peers in boxes. From dismissing someone’s educational goals to devaluing someone’s desire to be a homemaker, we as women tend to hurt each other to feel more accepted by society.
Whether a woman is choosing education and a career over a home life or choosing a home life over anything else, they receive criticism from the public. Either they are fitting into antiquated female roles or they’re too ambitious.
There are few of us out there that are not guilty of having used such phrases. They are jokes and “insignificant” we tell ourselves, but in reality they are damaging.
We need to learn to be more supportive of each other. Whether we want to have a family and take care of them, pursue a long career, or a combination of the two, we need to accept each and show that there is nothing wrong with any choice.
We need to proactively be part of the solution to fight these stereotypes. It needs to be shown that women’s education is real, valued and vital. If we as young college women are not the ones fighting to do so, then we can’t expect the rest of our world to do so.