Feminist Empowerment My Arse


On Friday, I read an article in the Toronto Star about Beyoncé's new single called "Single Ladies". The article pronounced it "a shout-out to sisterhood," "a strong song of female empowerment" and claims that it has "a powerful feminist message". Naturally, this made me want to check it out, especially since just the night before, Michele had called me up foaming at the mouth with irritation about the song's chorus.
 
So I went on YouTube, watched the video, then watched it again trying to decipher the words, then found the lyrics and that's when I got a little foamy myself. First of all, I can see how this could lead to a new dance craze because that song is insanely catchy. Insanely. After listening to it twice, it was in my head and it hasn't left since and it makes you want to move. I get that. It's a very fun song until you listen to the words.
 
Please join me in picking it apart, won't you?
 
Story in a nutshell: boy didn't treat girl right, girl left, girl with another man, boy #1 gets pissy, girl informs boy #1 that he doesn't have a right to an opinion, as "if you liked it then you should've put a ring on it".

And oh, sure, who hasn't been there. If you've just walked away from a relationship where you were taken for granted and didn't get what you need and all of a sudden dude’s interested again, there's something very empowering about telling the bastard to bugger off because he’d had his chance.
 
But that's not what I'm going to rant about. Today's rant is about what constitutes a "powerful feminist message" and a "shout-out to sisterhood".
 
First, I expect a bit more of a shout-out to sisterhood than a call to "all the single ladies, all the single ladies". Because as far as I can see, there is nothing else in there that makes me feel all sisterhood-y. And if it was a call to sisterhood, don't you think that Beyoncé and her two friends in the video might have dressed slightly differently, as leaving absolutely nothing to the imagination and traipsing about on stilts appears to appeal more towards manhood. (is it just me who bemoans the present state of affairs where the youth of today appear to think that sexy = slut clothes?) And had it been a call to sisterhood, maybe she wouldn't have done that "oh oh oh" part in the middle while looking remarkably like a sex doll and seriously, some of those moves look like they should be performed in a place that has a pole and is largely frequented by male clientele.
 
Okay, pause for breathing...
 
The chorus is as follows:
 
If you like it then you should've put a ring on it
If you like it then you shoulda put a ring on it
Don't be mad once you see that he want it
If you like it then you shoulda put a ring on it
 
What is this "it" to which she refers? The finger upon which he should've put a ring? She's not referring to herself as an it, is she? Okay, for the sake of artistic license, I'll give her this one without too much quibbling, assuming that the "it" refers to being with her. But towards the end of the song comes this part:
 
here’s a man who makes me then takes me
and delivers me to a destiny, to infinity and beyond
pull me into your arms, say I'm the one you own
if you don't, you'll be alone
and like a ghost I'll be gone
 
and this is where I had apoplexy. Not a mild one, either. "Pull me into your arms, say I'm the one you own"?! Excuse me? Really, there are no words other than EXCUSE ME???
 
So these days, a song about how an engagement ring changes a woman to something that can be owned, to chattel, to a …a thing - well, maybe the "it" was her, after all - constitutes a powerful feminist message? I thought feminism was about things like fighting for gender equality and rejecting the idea that a woman's identity is solely related to her relationship status, but I guess I could be wrong?
 
I don't know whether to weep or rain down my wrath on the people who perpetrated those lyrics (if you look on the lyrics page at MTV linked to above, you'll find that it was written by Beyonce and THREE MEN, no surprise) and the idiot reporter who in one fell swoop has reinterpreted feminism to some sort of weird 50s theory of the sole purpose of a woman's existence.
 
And it makes me want to go on the barricades and write polemic creeds and… and...
 
Who's with me?
 

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