I usually don’t like to jump on the bandwagon of commenting on pop culture happenings because I like for the dust settle and because I usually end up reading countless other articles that express what I’m feeling way better than I can. This time, I’m going to cave in because 1) I feel the pressing need to because of how this album is affecting me and 2) I have yet to read an article that is going to talk about exactly what I’m going to say later on.
I had heard about Lemonade maybe twice before that Saturday. I knew two things: 1) it was coming out soon and 2) it was about Beyoncé. That was it. In true Beyoncé form, no one knew what the hell was going on. I walked in from a long day at Culture Shock (my school’s major music festival) and opened up the tab with Facebook. Then, like a blessing in disguise, I saw countless of my black girl friends posting about Lemonade. And I was like, “hmm, I can sign on to HBO Go, let’s see what this is about.” So, I did, and I felt that hour long film in my bones. You know that feeling you have when something moves you and speaks to you, but you really have no idea why? So, I watched it again. It started to click, and it started to fall into place. I kept rewinding to certain parts to make sure I was catching everything, and even before I read all the articles that were flooding my newsfeed, I knew that Lemonade was for black women. Of course, though, people have to hate when some Black Girl Magic starts getting spread like jelly on this piece of white bread we call America, so let me break it down as to why Lemonade is hitting the spot for so many people, especially so many black women, and for me in particular.
- “Oh my goodness. Are those emotions other than anger and passivity? And, oh my goodness, are they being captured by a black woman and magnified with the use of a crew of black women?” You see, our society is weird. Black women are expected to be strong and fierce, but passive at the same time. Black woman angry = psycho black woman. Upset black woman = black woman who just needs to get over it and keep it moving. According to society, black women must never stop and assess our feelings. For me personally, I’ve spent close to half a decade containing my anger and passion for fear of trapping myself in the stereotype of the angry black woman. I’m intimidating when I’m angry. I’m angry when I’m passionate. I’m just supposed to sit back and take all the crap people and the world throw in my direction without hitting back, yet, as a black woman, I must be strong and independent. I must shut my trap and twiddle my thumbs while still being a pillar of independence and strength. And being strong and independent either means being alone or acting as if you don’t have feelings and can’t be hurt. Something doesn’t make sense! Lemonade explored the complex emotions a woman (or any person, really) goes through and how there is a variety and validity to all of them. What makes it so poignant is that Beyoncé backs up her statement about emotions with a crew of all black women, basically making it very clear that this about black women in all our glory while also showing a strong sense of community (throwback to Formation) and beauty in different forms and from different age ranges (from girls as young as Blue Ivy to older women who can be our grandmothers). Beyoncé is validating the emotions of black women, but she’s not validating them for us since we (hopefully) knew we were valid already, but for the rest of the world.
- “Whoa, is this about Jay-Z? Are they getting divorced? Is this her saying how much she hates him?” It’s funny how Beyoncé released an album exploring the wide range of emtoions that black women are told we are not allowed to have or express, and YET SOMEHOW, all I see is people talking about Jay-Z. This album is not about Jay-Z, and it’s not for Jay-Z. Please get your priorities straight, and stop making a woman’s emotional journey only relevant because she’s married to a man. Black women don’t need reasons to have valid emotions, and that’s the idea you’re perpetuating when you watch and listen to and talk about Lemonade and only see a woman who was hurt by a man. Beyoncé is so much more than her relation to her husband, as are all women. Not only does she have emotions (whoa, shocker, I know! A black woman has more moods than anger, passivity, and sass!), but she’s made her own empire with her talent and business skill, she’s dropped now TWO surprise visual albums, she’s a mother who relates to those mothers who have lost their children to police brutality, and so much more. Also, I just want to acknowledge that the film/album ends with Beyoncé forgiving and accepting the man back. She gives him a second chance, which, if you use the album as a symbolic reference, can also be a statement as to say that 1) black women are capable of forgiving those who have done them wrong, but also that 2) black men are worthy of forgiveness and second chances, an ideology that we really don’t see in this country.
- First of all, Azaelia Banks: stop. Just stop. I’m not even going to address the fact that Azaelia Banks was singing Lemonade’s praises at first. In case you didn’t know, Azaelia Banks is claiming that Lemonade is the anti-thesis to feminism and perpetuates the “heartbroken black woman narrative,” which is a narrative that I’ve never even heard existing before since black women aren’t supposed to have feelings. 🙃 Also, how is this the anti-thesis? The tricky thing about feminism is that people seem to think that there are two extremes when it comes to women: either you are super passive and all up in your feelings or you are a hardened, emotionless boss lady. The thing that is so awesome about Lemonade is that Beyoncé is saying, “yes, I am very sad that the man I love and married betrayed our marriage vows, and I’m going to tell you about it instead of keeping my mouth closed and pretending it didn’t happen, but I’m also going to tell you that I am supremely fierce and have my life together still even though I’m hurting.” Which is a lot to say in one breath, but you get the point. By Azaelia Banks saying that Beyoncé singing about her relationship and feelings is the anti-thesis of feminisim is perpetuating the idea that black women are one dimensional, only feel two emotions, and must keep quiet when something plagues them. White women can shout on the roof tops and be angry and they’re seen as liberated. A black woman does it, and all of a sudden we’re aggressive and need to get over it. This is where intersectionality within feminism becomes important because different races within the feminist community face different things. Feminism is more nuanced than Azaelia Banks and others are realizing. For white women, this probably isn’t all that feminist for them. For black women and womanists*, this is a feminist statement. A black feminist statement, and it’s shocking that Azaelia Banks (A BLACK WOMAN) is somehow failing to see that. I guess she’s too busy planning her next attack on Twitter.
- Serena Williams was slaying my life. Not only was having Serena Williams in the Apathy section of Lemonade just refreshing and surprising, it warmed my heart. Here was a woman who is known for her tennis talent, but who has also suffered immense sexist and racist bullying and insults by commentators and spectators her entire career. She has been compared to a gorilla, said to have a meaty and unattractive figure, said to have been too masculine, and countless other gross things. Serena Williams, in a mainstream sense, has never been called beautiful, sexy, attractive, etc., but here we see her take that back in the best way possible. She is slaying the game, and she is doing it without a tennis racket in her hand because she is more than her career. She is fierce all on her own.
- I better not see those hairstyles pop up in a white woman’s fashion magazine and be coined as new because I will have to fight the urge to throw something. Beyoncé held it down with a myriad of black hairstyles being worn by herself and by the other women within Lemonade. The thing that really brings this home for me is during the Hope segment when all the women are gathering around the large, plantation-looking house and are dressed in clothing that reminds us of our country’s past. I don’t know about you, but I immediately thought of colonial and slavery times because of the attire, the house, and the coloring of the segments, which I’m sure was on purpose. This makes a statement. Here we are shown black women in a seemingly old-fashioned setting sporting black hairstyles, as if to say “Hey! We’ve been doing these hairstyles for centuries, and there is nothing new about it. These hairstlyes are black, and there’s no getting around it.” This is definitely a slap in the face for the fashion industry because there’s no more denying that these hairstyles are black and not new. They might be new for white people, sure, but they are not new for black people, which means that they are not new at all. Beyoncé, one of the world’s biggest musical talents, just made it known that the myriad of hairstyles featured in Lemonade are black and not just black people watched Lemonade. So, I dare a fashion magazine to call a black hairstyle new again. I dare you.
6. Black. Girl. Magic. There’s something about seeing a bunch of black women all throughout an hour long film that warmed every part of my body. … The white majority in this country is seeing pride in being black as anti-white, and it’s for one important reason. Confidence isn’t meant to be popular. I mean, the mainstream society wants to preach about confidence, but they don’t want everyone else to have it. Once you have confident people, you have liberated people. And liberated people don’t take slaps in the face sitting down – they stand and make it known that they’re not taking this bull anymore. Black people have been in this country longer than it’s even been an official country, and yet it’s just becoming popular to love ourselves. That’s centuries of being beaten and told we’re ugly finally melting away. So, to see that many black women all coming together for a common cause was amazing. When you see that many black women in one film, it’s either a comedy, a Tyler Perry movie, or a movie about slavery. This was a film about love, acceptance, beauty, strength, and so much more.
There are of course some critiques that can be made, like the fact that larger black women were pretty much not existent in this video. And, no, I’m talking about curvy women, but heavyset women. And that’s something I’m hoping will be addressed, covered, and rectified in future days.
I thoroughly love this album, though, and it’s definitely my favorite of hers. It spoke to me and woke something up in me that no other album ever has. I’m a huge Michael Jackson fan, and if I had the chance to ressurrect this man and meet him, I would, but I will be so honest with you: I’ve never had a MJ song hit me the way the individual songs and the entirety of this album did. I was wondering why, and it’s honestly because MJ never made a song for me, let alone an album. And I’m not saying it was his job, either, but I use him as an example to try and explain how much I stand behind the statement that this is an ode to black women.
Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below!
*Womanism: The social theory deeply rooted in the racial and gender-based oppression of black women. (Wikipedia)