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Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Single Ladies, Put Your Own Damn Rings on it!
I wanted to title this post the "Dumb B* Anthem" but I thought that would be inappropriate and offensive. However, I have to be real about my feelings. First, a preface.

I am Professor of Communication at Loyola Marymount University. My line of research merges language, rhetoric, identity, and the intersection of race, class, and sexuality. In short, I look at how people use language to excite change, or to perpetuate dominant ideologies that have caused women and minorities to struggle everyday. Now, the first time I heard the song, I just listened, then I saw the video, I was and still am Livid!!!


A list of reasons why this is no good:

#1 It perpetuates the ideology that if you want to keep me around, all you have to do is put a ring on it. I am for sale. The price, a ring. The product, me.

No no no and more no. We are not products, ladies. Rings don't keep me idle somewhere, waiting for you to come home, be my savior. No. Do you want to know what keeps me around, good conversation, mental stimulation, intimacy, creativity in bed and at play. A good time where we are both equals and mutually interdependent. MUTUALLY INTERDEPENDENT!

#2 It perpetuates the myth that as long as I can shake my hips "hella" good on the dance floor, someone will "like" me, cuz after all, that is all "he" needs to do to want to put a ring on it, "Like" me. Hence the line, "If you liked it then you shoulda put a ring on it"

What the hell happened to "Love."

#3 It further degrades women to the position of product, sexual object, and accessory by alluding to the fact that women only go to the clubs and dance to excite men. We are literally there for their enjoyment and pleasure.

No, I go to clubs because I like to wind down from a long week of work, because I love to dance, because I love to listen to music really loud. Because I love to meet new people and socialize. I did go to clubs to meet men too, but not my husband nor did that take up the entire reason why I was there.

#4 In a failing economy, it puts even more pressure on the desire to have a rock, ice, bling, diamonds, etc.

Since when did a diamond mean you actually love me and want to spend the rest of your life with me? We have been so worried as a country about the sanctity of marriage, so much that we won't allow gay marriage. What killed the sanctity of marriage is divorce and the ideology that rings actually carry value. THEY DON'T. Just because he bought you a ring doesn't mean he loves you. Just because he asks you to marry him doesn't mean you should. Just because he loves you doesn't mean you are meant to be together. Deciding to marry someone entails so much more than love and jewelry. Or for Beyonce, LIKE and Jewelry. It is about the sharing of two lives in their complete state. My husband and I have been married for 1.5 years, known each other for over 10. We are best friends, partners, lovers, intellectual stimulants, motivators, all of that and more. We went dutch on our rings and neither of us even wear them anymore. I am allergic to mine and I ended up making him a new one that looks way better than the pricey ones we bought. (Side bar, anybody want to buy a 1.5 carat diamond ring... I have no use for it)

The point is, rings don't mean anything. They are symbols. But you have to decide what they symbolize, don't let consumer America do that for you.

#5 The video is awful.

First of all, there are moments where you can see the VULVA! Children are watching this. What woman dances around in a leotard and heels and thinks that is normal. Gyrating in a leotard and heels is not normal. It is degrading. Put some damn clothes on. If you are in the privacy of your own home, then you can gyrate but ass naked all you want. But I don't want my sons growing up watching that on TV and thinking that that is what women are supposed to look and behave like. Let's teach our sons to respect the female body, to adore it, to fantasize about it. If we don't leave much room for the imagination, what's the point of fantasy? Where is the respect? Get it together!

Here is an idea. Let's love ourselves enough to put our own rings on it. It doesn't need to be a tangible ring, do things to take care of yourself and respect yourself so much so that you feel loved, energized, and cared for all of the time. Let us not wait for anyone to boost our self-esteem and make us feel proud, happy, alive. Let's take care of ourselves everyday so we feel good everyday. We don't have to look like Beyonce or have the same mentality. We just have to be ourselves and pay tribute to the beauty that already exist within. Let the rings we do buy symbolize something much greater than the institution of marriage, the institution of heteronormativity, the ideology of sexism. Be you and do it well, with our without a partner.
Blogger new2locs said...
PREACH REVEREND!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I agree with all of that!!!!

Blogger Kaishelle said...
Very true indeed!

Blogger DREAMGIRLS said...
Umm she has as much clothes on as a ballerina has on. They wear leotards and that's basically what Beyonce has on.

Secondly, Beyonce has her fair share of female empowerment records. Me, Myself and I to name one of them is the closest to what you're ranting about in your blog.

Lastly, The song is simply saying "you see me out on the town doing my thing and now that you see me free and enjoying the company of others you want me but too bad because if you liked it you should of made that commitment when you had the chance. If anything her promoting monogamy and commitment is a good thing not a bad thing.

Blogger Amber Jaye said...
You raise a strong point regarding other albums of hers that are empowering. At times I wonder whether artists have an obligation to even empower people at all. Is that their obligation or someone elses? Just because they have the floor to do so, should they?

However, your final point I disagree with. She isn't "simply" just saying that. The language of the song and the look of the video is doing a lot more work. I can point you to plenty of articles that focus on black female sexuality, explicitly hypersexuality.

In addition since your such a Dreamgirls fan, I suggest you check out a film by a similar name "Dreamworlds" but Sut Jhally. You will see that when we oversexualize our images, we are doing much harm.

And ballerinas wear leotards, tights, tutus, and a host of other things. Not just a leotard and heels. In addition, that is a red herring argument, Just because ballerinas do it doesn't mean it is ok. I will say this much though, I have nothing wrong with showing our skin and rejoicing in our bodies. However, when that is all that we see, we become sexual objects, two-dimensional beings that have nothing to offer but our skin.

Blogger DREAMGIRLS said...
She has on more clothes then women wear to the beach now a days. So let's just leave that alone because I see nothing wrong in her choice of clothing. If it's good enough for a ballerina to wear then it's good enough for her.

Secondly, the look of the video. LMAO. It's 3 minutes and 45 second video of Beyonce dancing her butt off with fabulous black and white cinematography. It's bare and stripped down and something I don't see any other popular artist pulling off with such charisma. Is it sexy? Yes. But it's also fun, creative and the dance makes for a great workout!

And I don't know if you completely skipped over this line but she says

Don't treat me to these things of the world
I'm not that kind of girl
your love is what i prefer
what i deserve...

But I'm sure all that went right over your head! "If you like it then you should of put a ring on it" is just a simple and catchy way of saying COMMITMENT!

Blogger Amber Jaye said...
if she would have said if you like then you should commit to it...that would have been wonderful. I am 100% for monogomous, not serial monogomy, but real monogomous relationships.

Put a ring on it is much more serious than commit to it.

and please don't tell me that something went over my head. wow. you missed the entire first arguments in the orginal blog and decided to spit mad fallacies as a rebuttal. I teach critical thinking to college students, let's talk about argumentation and stuff going over people heads.

side bar, I apologize if that came across bitchy. I have been told I have a verbal anger management issue and I use words as weapons...I love friendly debate and I hope that is what this is) :)

however, and again, i don't think there is anything wrong with dancing in a leotard. but gyrating your ass in front of the camera where i can literally see all in your crack is a bit much. but yep, we can leave that alone. you provide plenty of other things for me to respond to.

now, about the bridge, yes she says your love is what i prefer, what i deserve, but first of all, the mantra of the song has to do with like and rings. She says that 12 times.

second of all, if the only way for me to keep you around is to make you jealous by being with other men, then i don't want you in the first place. what i want is for someone to commit to me on their own accord. i want for someone to love me enough to commit to me regardless of what i may do if he leaves me. and on a serious note, just because you give me a ring doesn't mean you won't cheat. HELLO! That ain't got nothing to do with nothing.

unfortunately, many young women think the same exact thoughts as the song portrays. when they break up with a boy, they go out with other boys hoping to have the original boyfriend see them so he will be jealous and want her back. and that is bullshit. if he didn't want you when he was with you, why would you want him at all.

Jean Beaudrillard has a theory titled The Commodity of Culture. In this theory he talks about how we have become a culture of consumption because of media. Because there are so many mediated images that bombard us, we literally can no longer separate our own desires from what the media tells us we should desire. This results in a culture of people who are more invested in the actual act of purchasing a product than the product itself. Case in point, we don't tell our girlfriend her new sweater is absolutely gorgeous without talking about how she paid for it. The act of buying/consuming that sweater is more important than the sweater. We don't download stuff because we really want the stuff, we download it because we can. We don't wake up early on black friday to get that one item we have been saving up all year to buy, we wake up early to beat the crowd and get whatever is on sale before someone else does.

How does this all relate? That song suggests that we are items for consumption. Men consume us and we consume them. It isn't about the relationship, the love, the MUTUAL INTERDEPENDENCY. It is about the actual act of consumption.

Again, I want someone who is willing to commit to me because of who I am, not because I have other men lined up to date me.

And if you want to talk lines, how about the first verse....this man decided to dip after three years in a relationship. then she says she has a new man and now he wants to trip. Got that.

Fast forward to that final bridge. YOur love is what i want if you take me now in your arms and say I am the one you want, then i will be back with you, otherwise, you will be alone. now, we could say that the decided to Dip part is him cheating, therefore, tell me I am the ONE you want...that in and of itself is extremely problematic...and I hope that is not what the song is referring to. However, it is equally problemtatic to suggest that it is ok to get back with someone who only wants you back because he wants to consume you and nobody else can.

i have an entire analysis on this song. i could keep going....

Blogger whatever said...
1) Single Ladies is an upbeat song, meant to enjoy as such. It has a deeper connotation to it about love and how the man should have been more committed to her, but you take it as face value. Not something to be deconstructed and broken down to this extent. This happens to so many Beyonce songs it's not even funny. From Bill's Bill's Bill's to Irreplaceable, and now,everything is taken as an opportunity for some pseudo intellectual to write a piece trying to break the song down and devalue it. It is for entertainment purposes, and a much better message than telling young girls to do other things without consequence. It is about committment generally and shouldn't be taken over the edge. Many of us know women who have been with a man for five, six, ten, years without any hint of longterm committment. Beyonce didn't make this up out of nowhere. How can you get in one song that she says all he has to do is put a ring on it to make things alright. At the end of the song the breakdown clearly spells things out, she would much rather have his love "Don't treat me to these things of the world, Im not that kind of girl, YOUR LOVE IS WHAT I PREFERRR, WHAT I DESERVE". What the eff does she not get about "YOUR LOVE IS WHAT I PREFER, WHAT I DESERVE". In the midst of writing this crazy piece the writer fails to see that.

2) She says that Beyonce perpetuates the idea that as long as the woman is shaking her hips on the dance floor then the man will love and want her. WRONG AGAIN. "Acting up, drink in my cup, I COULD CARE LESS WHAT YOU THINK,!!" I mean the song isn't rocket science by any means but where in the song does it glorify that to get a man to love her she has to shake her hips. WRONG. It's about going out and having a good time DESPITE the man leaving you alone. In a way I feel that is more empowering than feeling like woe is me, I'm going to stay in the house all night. No, in Beyonce's world it's I'M GOING OUT TO HAVE FUN. It's a fun song. What is she supposed to say "If you loved me then you should have married me and walked down the aisle with me so we can live happily ever after"..No. And she is so silly to not even know that "IT" is NOT REFERRING TO HER BODY the majority of the song. "It" is referring to the RING finger as well. I guess she wants "If you loved me then you should have put a ring on it". What she has now is much more catchier, and NOT DEGRADING.

3)For her third argument refer to number two. Beyonce is not degrading women, and making them as objects in their song. I feel like it is a club song that has some empowering themes. Nothing more and definitely nothing less.

4) Failing economy, yada yada ya. This whole paragraph REEKS of envy or something of that nature. You talk about how rings don't mean that much but go on and break yours down to the carat. Obviously the rings meant something to you in your marriage as a symbol of love or you wouldn't have gotten them. Dutch or no dutch. There are people in this world who actually do care about what the rings symbolize, and failing economy or not there are still people who choose to purchase them for their signifcant others. To me it is bogus, and reeks of a certain elitism to think that you are so intelligent that you are beyond getting rings. And to point to a failing economy as to why this song sucks is LAUGHABLE. So I guess ppl should stick to singing depressing songs instead of uplifting fun songs to get them away from what's going on in the world. OBVIOUSLY people can still afford wedding rings and marriage proposals. She goes on to say Just Because he bought you a ring doesn't mean he loves you? GTFOH, while that may have truth to it, who says that is what Beyonce believes or anyone for that matter. That is common sense, but then she would have to say "Oh my husband may not love me". Instead she puts them on a pedastal, and he must have loved her and only her. Just because you are allergic to a ring, doesn't mean that they don't mean anything..that's just foul, and another false argument for why the song is bad.

5) The video being awful. Yeah right. I don't believe that one bit. In this whole argument she completely contradicts her whole entire write up. She goes on to say that women shouldn't dance in leotards, because HER SONS SHOULD KNOW what a WOMAN IS SUPPOSED TO BEHAVE LIKE?!!!?? With that sentence she set women back hundreds of years. What normal woman dances around in heels and a leotard....??!!? Again are you serious? Let's see musical theatre dancers, ballet dancers in point heels, etc. For her to have this whole empowering article for women she really set us back, because then she talks about how a normal woman SHOULD act like, WHAT WE SHOULD wear, what WE SHOULD dance like and do in the privacy of our own home. What happened to women being liberated, all the while singing a song that is positive towards females, and not bashing them.

Sounds like to me this woman is beyond envious and afraid that husband of hers, and some others may catch on to the song and the video. Like others she may have been perplexed and even taken a back by the popularity of this song, and felt some need to take a stand against it. Lady it didn't work, and makes you come off as a professor at a preschool class with two students. I am a recent college graduate and see through the crap that is this write up. I've taken Feminist classes, and no the writer of this article clearly failed at making any cohesive and valid arguments against Single Ladies. I suggest she gets off of her high horse, and listen to the song for what it is, a fun party tune that at times makes some women feel empowered that they are worth something beyond him simply putting a ring on it. It's an anthem, and for a good reason. It's an anthem that even MEN are getting into so spare that heteronormativity mess. Let the song be, and it will continue to reign as number one on the charts.

Blogger Amber Jaye said...
Dear Whatever:

#1 In many of my arguments in the original article i am referring to society in general, not the song. I am talking about how some may interpret the song as.

#2 Again, watch Dreamworlds III by Sut Jhally. You can You Tube it. When all we have is hypersexual images, we have a problem. For instance, at a parade not too long ago, young men were sexually harrassing, groping, purijg liquidson, and pulling women's clothes off, JUST LIKE WE SEE IN VIDEOS. Unfortuantely, for most people, they don't know how to separate reality from pop culture. Therefore, when we have too many images of over-sexual women, women are treated in that manner.

#3 I didn't say I want my sons to think that women are supposed to behave a certain way. I said I don't want my sons to grow up thinking that women are supposed to behave a certain type of way. I am all for the female body, exposure, skin, etc. However, when that is coupled with the images of hypersexuality, we have a problem. If we had more balanced images of women in the media, then the occassional hypersexual would be wonderful. Sexuality is a side of everyone and we should be able t embrace it.

#4 I am not mad at Beyonce, She didn't even write the song. So go back and check those facts. It has nothing to do with her. Funny enough, it was written by a man, American Dream.

#5 If you knew me you would know that I am being sarcastic in a large portion of the original post, i.e. the whole part about buying a ring. I don't care about rings and that came well before my degrees. I bought one because it seemed as if I was supposed. It wasn't until after I realized I was allergic to it that I decided it didn't matter regardless. And here I am admitting to the ways in which society has dictated my own life. I am not above and beyond society to any degree. That was sarcasm.

All in all, the point of my original post is that we have to be conscious of the images being portrayed about black women. We are seen as hypersexual, primal, unintelligent people. This video does nothing to deconstruct that, nor does it have to. I am pointing to an alternative point of view. And alternative understanding. This is my view and everyone else has their view. However, when you say oh it is just a fun song and meant to be taken at face value, do e same the same for every other song that can be seen as degrading towards women? When do we stand up and say enough. I will admit, Single Ladies is far better than "Get Low," "Shake that Ass," and so on and so forth.

Finally, ad homonem an straw man arguments are innapropriate. Please don't put words in my mouth or attack me as a person. That only weakens your argument.

and I am only making an observation about one point of view, not on a high horse, not concerned with being percieved as an intellectual, just my rant.

Blogger euphoria said...
WOW!! what a heel of a post as well as the responses it promoted, I like B but I also agree with you and all points, insaying that it seems like the bulk of B's songs are created for A "Womens Anthem" some of them are silly some are motivating, but I say to each his own.

Blogger Angel Locs said...
Ladies let's all agree to disagree we all have our own opinions. I personally like the song and the choreography. My impression of this song was Commitment when I first heard it,and I agree "If you like it put a ring on it" Commitment is what our children need to see in our families. Commitment is what our sons need to learn, so many young men do not know how to commit in a relationship because they haven't seen it in their homes.