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Friday, April 24, 2009

Put a Ring On It

So you'd have to be living under a rock to not have heard the song, it's playing everywhere. I don't care for it. It's got a catchy beat, and the video is pretty hot. But it irks me. A) It's like one chord. Hip Hop is repetitive, but seriously? Get a chord transition somewhere. B) I hate the message. And this is what this post is about. I wondered if it might not be offensive to a woman, say, a feminist, so I asked the G-to-the-F. To my surprise, she said she thought it was empowering.

Go fig. So, I guess the reason, as close as I understand, and we speak a different language, is that it's a good angry woman song about not being appreciated by a/her man. And no, we're not married. I get that read on it, but I can't help but think there is a lot more here. I mean, "put a ring on it" means marriage. That's all it means. People get married for lots of reasons, and though appreciation ranks fairly high on the list, it is NOT a given. So to my highly trained and logical mind (yes that was a joke), I see that she's actually angry she's not married. Appreciation, to her, her writers, her audience, means committment to a legal protection. That's fine, because it's an important protection. But to me, the larger issue is that this song could have been made popular, sans scantily clad dancers, in the 50s, like Doris Day's "A Guy is a Guy." A time only a decade after women attained the vote. If I were a mother, I'd be furious that this song, and others like it, are promoting the idea that the only way a woman can attain self-respect, and by association, the respect of her peers, is by getting married. Marriage is not the endpoint ladies, it's a waystation along the path. More important than say, losing your babyteeth, but as important as say, getting your highschool diploma, graduating from college, having a career. What I fear is that Beyonce, arguing from her station on high--who has already achieved a career, mega stardom, universal worship, ascendency-to borrow a word from my favorite new fantasy series. For her, marriage probably is the final piece of the puzzle. But she's not singing to her fellow popstars. She's singing to all the single ladies. All the single ladies? All the single ladies. ALL the single ladies? Why yes, ALL the single ladies. That's not just thirty-forty-and twenty somethings. That's right down to the age of 13. Lower really, we just had bring your kids to work day, and all the 8 year old girls were gushing about their boyfriends.
How's that for feminism. Look, it's fine for some people. But there has to be a role model out there for girls who want more than that. And she can't be Janet Neopolitano, who conservatives called a dyke since she's in her forties and not married. The conservative feminism backlash hit my generation pretty hard. But, I'm not sure why. I mean, all of the girls I've heard talk about this came from families where the woman had a career and a husband, not just the career. It's the fear of spinsterhood that's driving this ludicrous reemergence of 50s gender roles.
I just had a thought that may shed some light on my own confusion. Note that there is no accompanying theme of women going back to the home resurfacing. So it's not the traditional marriage, although I do occasionally hear women say they never want to have to work again. Ha Ha. So what is marriage to women of the new century? It doesn't mean any of the things it used to, no sexual enslavement--although not providing sex to her husband is still grounds for divorce in many states. It doesn't mean domestic enslavement anymore, there is a ton of popular evidence to suggest that men have assumed an equal burden in the raising of a child, as well as the keeping of a house. It still means STATUS which is purely unfortunate. But I can now understand the argument advanced by the g'f. What's left? Committment/appreciation. Well, ok then. I guess it makes sense. I think it's a bit naive, because I think domestic enslavement still exists, and I hate that women's social status should depend on whether or not a man has engaged in a legal agreement with her. But I guess that I get the argument. But riddle me this, o ladies, why don't men need such a thing? We like to feel appreciated, we like to feel committed to...I'm looking for honest answers here. So no glib responses.
This will probably be the only time that Beyonce is a label for a blog of mine.

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