all the single ladies

Posted by anya on January 29th, 2009 filed in think, Uncategorized

So I think that mainstream radio is pervasive enough that most of us have heard Beyonce’s chart-topping song “Single Ladies.” From the first time I heard it, I thought that it was offensive and outmoded (or perhaps that I would like it to be) and ignorant. I know that I could deconstruct the latent social stereotypes and gender roles exhibited in almost any current pop song, but for some reason this one just really gets under my skin.

You see, here Beyonce is addressing a man that she broke up with and saying that “if you liked it then you should have put a ring on it.” The point here being that if the guy was committed to her then surely the next logical step is marriage. There are problems here: for one, there’s a complete lack of recognition of the fact that marriage has been an oppressive institution for many women, often stripping them of rights under the assumption that this ‘contract’ brings the woman under de facto control of the man. One does not have to look back very far to remember that in Canada women lost their status as ‘white’ or as ‘Indian’ upon marrying a man of the opposite group. And even if we accept that marriage is an institution into which many women enter into willingly and eagerly, then Beyonce is still bathing in convention by saying that relationships hinge on some sort of linear trajectory in which the next logical step is marriage. This winter, I decided to afford myself the pleasure of reading “He’s Just Not that Into You”, which, in one of its many brilliant chapters, states that “he’s just not that into you if he doesn’t want to marry you.” The assumption here is that of course marriage is a natural thing for women to want, and any man not willing to grant this must be just not be that into you. That’s the only logical explanation, girls. Live and learn.

Here is more, from the last verse of the song:

Don’t treat me to the things of this world
I’m not that kind of girl
Your love is what I prefer, what I deserve
Is a man that makes me, then takes me
And delivers me to 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

What I deserve is a man that makes me? delivers me to destiny (marriage, presumably)? say that I’m the one you own? These are the things sung by the same woman who once made it big by singing about ‘Independent Women.’ I guess that this is what it means to have your cake and eat it too. Or something like that. My rant against this song isn’t some crazy feminist tirade (although I risk it being perceived as such), but it’s instead an observation of the fact that the pop icons we idolize as embodying female power and success are happily singing about quite disempowering ways of conceiving of relationships. And we eat it up.

here are the full lyrics for you.

self-deprecating aside: is this kind of thinking the reason behind which I generally don’t have long-term, stable relationships? hah.

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