Last week, my post on the Top 5 Pseudo-Feminist Anthems inspired a spirited discussion over what the meaning of “it” is. The “it” in question appears twice in one pronoun-heavy line from Beyonce‘s “Single Ladies”: “If you liked it then you shoulda put a ring on it.

What is this “it”?

In the song, Beyonce uses the line to taunt an old flame who wouldn’t make Beyonce his wifey. Beyonce shows this guy what he’s been missing by dancing “up on” another man in the club as her ex watches on. That scenario is followed by the it-heavy verse:

If you liked it then you shoulda put a ring on it
If you liked it then you shoulda put a ring on it
Don’t be mad when you see that he want it
If you liked it then you shoulda put a ring on it

Beyonce’s man wouldn’t ring up; ergo, he is no longer treated to Beyonce’s love in the club. The “it” refers to Beyonce—-and more specifically, to Beyonce’s sex. Even kids today know what doing “it” means; what else could a random guy in the club “want” from getting “up on her” while she’s “up on him”?

But that’s not all “it” signifies. Beyonce uses the dual “its” to objectify herself on two levels: first, as a sex object; second, as a wife. Beyonce asks her man to mark his territory by putting a “ring on it.” Later in the song, Beyonce implores her man to “say I’m the one you own.”

But that’s just my opinion. Your theories are below.

Iris thinks “it” means “ring finger”:

The “it” refers not to Beyonce as a person, but to her ring finger. You put a ring on a finger, get it. In a relationship, a ring also signals commitment. Otherwise, we wouldn’t symbolize engagement/marriage with rings, as a society in general. I suggest that you read the lyrics or listen to the song again. Because Beyonce is saying that she’s moving on with her life, even though she still has some feelings for the guy. But she is going to leave him because he won’t seriously commit to her. She’s telling the guy he had his chance, and he blew it. The song is not only a feminist anthem, it’s kick ass and infectious as a song can get.

Dave thinks “it” does not mean “ring finger”:

So Beyonce is really saying “If you like my finger then you should have put a ring on my finger”? What does that mean? Is Beyonce’s boyfriend some kind of finger fetishist? Does he have photos of physically perfect fingers on his bedroom wall? Does he subscribe to Finger Monthly magazine?I think your interpretation of the pronoun subtext here is a little shaky.

Richard thinks “it” is beside the point:

On “Single Ladies”, I do not think what the pronoun refers to really matters. You can take the lyrics literally or not, but the point is clearly that the person should have committed to marriage or faced losing “it.”

I’m sure why this song would necessarily have to be considered feminist or anti-feminist. Its just about a guy who was unwilling to commit to the relationship and now is regretting it as the woman moves on. It might be misunderstood as feminist because a lot of women really empathize with and like this song.

Also just for fun to throw another interpretation of the “it” out there, I always thought “it” was the relationship. With the “put a ring on it” as a simple metaphor for committing to the relationship.

Gabrielle thinks “it” means “the relationship”:

I take the “it” to mean the relationship or the woman’s ring finger. Regardless, it’s all about the guy should’ve committed to the relationship if he wanted Beyonce to stay in his life. Feminist fall in love and when a relationship isn’t working for them they get out it. I think that’s a very feminist approach to relationships.

gkorein thinks “it” is him:
i interpreted it as being addressed to her boyfriend’s ex though. hence “all my single ladies, put a ring on it!” not “all my single men, put a ring on it!” it’s saying “women, if you don’t put a ring on the man you love, eventually you’ll break up, and then you could end up watching him dance all sexy-like w/ someone like me and you’ll be steamed.”

Jenga thinks “it” is intentionally vague:

I don’t really see how this song works as “anti-feminist” unless you are talking about separatists or going out of your way to be obtuse about the interpretation of the lyrics. Yes, she says “it” by that’s for flow of the song and is really a vague pronoun (given the fact that it’s being discussed). Though I suppose one could argue about the usage of the “ring” as a symbol, but I think given the context of the song, it’s not marriage per say that she is looking for, but rather real commitment, and well…. It’s just cleaner to say “put a ring on it” than to say, “I don’t want to be married, but I want this relationship to have serious commitment”

Dave thinks “it” is the new “Lola”:

I’m so glad I’ve inspired this lively discussion about pronouns!

This proves that Beyonce is a very grammatically challenging (not challenged) songwriter. The last time I heard a song where punctuation played such an important role was “Lola” by the Kinks.

“I’m not the world’s most masculine man/but I know what I am and I’m glad I’m a man/and so is Lola. L-O-L-A, Lola.”

Is Lola also glad the narrator is a man? Or is Lola, herself, also… A MAN!?!?!

Sorry for just blowing all your minds there.