I have been avoiding listening to Lemonade by Beyonce. Why? Because I don’t really care about Beyonce’s music, and I most certainly don’t care about “celebrities”. (Seriously, people ask if I “keep up” with such-and-such…but WHO CARES. They are people, we are people, and we obsess over details in their lives, details we don’t even care to know about our neighbors. In that way, modern society is pathetic, imho.) However, I finally listened to the whole album in the last 24 hours. And I’m not sure I’ll be able to encapsulate the disappointment and hurt the album caused me, but I’ll try.
From what I’ve popularly heard about Lemonade, people have praised its musical power – specifically in having elements the closest to blues that Beyonce has ever had. However, some friends I know have praised it (undeservingly, in my opinion) for its powerful black woman message and its unique, poetic sound. Let me just say first of all: I haven’t listened to much Beyonce, but this album sounded exactly like the Destiny’s Child album I have from 2000-something where she dramatically quotes the Bible. She’s changed…so much (sarcasm). And while I do love certain motifs regarding the sacredness of matrilineal heritage and womanhood, I find that she completely destroys those values. Her “powerful” message was nothing but insulting and weak as I heard it. In fact, the messages I was hearing were so triggering and upsetting for a person who has been through experiences she was glorifying that I actually had to walk away and keep myself from having a panic attack.
I was thoroughly disturbed by the message she was sending. After listening to the whole album, I still am. This is not an album to emulate. This album brings shame to women. It hurts me to think people call this “strength”, but I guess these people haven’t experienced the things I have. If you did, you would likely be triggered in the same way and be revolted by Beyonce’s weakness. And the argument that she’s so strong for making lemons out of lemonade, for making an album like this out of her pain? Okay, cool, she’s exploiting true women’s issues for profit. I don’t admire that. Who the F*** would admire that. Especially as a person living and coming from Indian Country, glorifying a man making the sacredness of a woman un-sacred – and her accepting of it – is absolutely sacrilegious, damaging, and horrifying. Maybe it’s the privilege of not having experienced what I have experienced that makes people fall in love with this kind of bullsh*t.
The album consists of a number of songs: 1) Pray You Catch Me, 2) Hold Up, 3) Don’t Hurt Yourself, 4) Sorry, 5) 6 Inch, 6) Daddy Lessons, 7) Love Drought, 8) Sandcastles, 9) Forward, 10) Freedom, 11) All Night, 12) Formation, and 13) Lemonade. In the music video, there are interludes of text read the same way Destiny’s Child read the Commandments in their previous work.
Pray You Catch Me starts off in an intriguing way. Beyonce is in a field, without makeup. There’s a southern feeling like Savannah to it with women in dresses. But Beyonce immediately starts off talking about men in a way that implies abuse is “tradition”, that it is inherited. That it is a curse. She even suggests suicide from her distraught, demonstrating how completely vulnerable she is. Fasting, abstaining from anything that makes her happy, acting like womanhood is less than human…everything about the first track and a half screams shame on women, and men are in control.
The scene is in this extortionist style of film, dramatic but not settling in how it portrays womanhood. It talks about self-sacrifice, about no matter how much she tries to make herself a better person, she is still bent out of shape over the idea that her husband has cheated on her. I literally can hear nothing but I’M WEAK I’M WEAK I’M WEAK, I am not an example for young women. It makes you think: maybe she’ll evolve?
She never does. She just gets weaker.
Hold Up is about ANGER. It is about not being able to control yourself. Beyonce rattles on about how her cheating husband is the best, how she loves him, asking why would he treat her like this if she’s the best. She’s going through his phone. She says, “Imma f*** me up a b*tch”…”What’s worse, lookin’ jealous or crazy?”
Weak. Pure weakness. Honey, you’re letting this man rule your life. Do me a favor and STOP PROMOTING THAT THIS IS OKAY. It is HARMING our COMMUNITIES when women default to thinking this way!!!
To make matters worse, she goes into this dark poetry, discussing how she’ll take on the appearance of this other woman. She’ll wear her face, her hair, her skin – basically saying, use my body if you think it’s this woman you love more and I won’t complain.
I CAN’T EVEN! From a women’s rights, anti-women’s-violence perspective, I literally just can’t even… (Yes, that’s me going into teenage sass-mode, but I can’t even. Can’t even so much that I just can’t…I just…can’t.)
Oh, but wait! She mentions her father’s violence against her mother. Strangulation. Brilliant. So now we painted this picture with violence and somehow justified it in the name of broken love (which, sorry, but it doesn’t exist anymore. Not after all of this.) She mentions that everyone else can see her, but he can’t. And this disturbs me too. This attitude that, just because someone is a celebrity, they are a “catch”. F*ck, no. People are people. If you think a celebrity is a catch, you’re probably just sexualizing her body. Probably because she exploits it for fame. And that’s not the f*** okay.
I’m also not a fan of how she exploits men. Women don’t talk as much about this topic because women are currently much more exploited than men, but it’s not like it doesn’t happen in the other direction. Her sassy, “strong” look is merely accompanied by language like “dick boy”, how she’s going to walk out on her husband for what he’s done. There are traces of strength in this song, but not in any degree worth applauding when you look at the abusive language she chooses. Also, she quotes Malcolm X, saying that black women are the most unprotected and neglected Americans. That’s actually not true, but close to true. Violence against Native women is considerably higher. Like, appallingly higher. (It’s not a pity fest, and I understand why she put it in there because black women need respect in society, but I’m just making that point. Not enough people hear it.)
In her Apathy monologue, Beyonce compares what her husband has done to her as killing her. This is insulting, as many women are actually killed because they won’t leave their abusive husbands. Beyonce was cheated on, and yet she won’t leave him. I don’t know, isn’t that kind of hypocritical? In some way, isn’t that privilege? Either way, it’s not doing anything to hold up women in bad situations.
Her song Sorry, she wears some kind of tribal painting and hints that she’s leaving him. But she doesn’t. Oh, actually, she becomes a complete hypocrite. This song is about how he’s “interrupting [her] grinding”, in other words an “eye for an eye”. That is NOT something to EMULATE! Seriously. I was expecting a powerful album out of this, not hypocrisy and weakness. She even suggests killing herself again, suicide. It’s disgusting. She pathetically ends a song, crying “Come back, come back, come back…”
She talks about abuse. Physical and sexual abuse. Father and husband abuse. She normalizes it.
She repeats, “You are the love of my life.” Over and over and over again.
“10 times out of 9 I know you’re lying”, she says. “You’re my lifeline, are you tryna kill me?” she asks. Then she says, the only way to go is up, she says her skin has gotten thick and she’s tough.
Beyonce is literally saying toughness = weakness. Toughness is dealing with problems you should be LEAVING. This is what we see in Indian Country, this dependency. THIS is what you should never teach your daughter. THIS is an example of severe weakness, of needing help. Beyonce is making this look like strength. I am disgusted by it. (Also, anyone else catch the New Orleans Indian headdress exploitation? Yeah, sore topic. Thanks, Beyonce, for sexualizing the headdress yet again.)
Her next section is Forgiveness, and I wish I had an album in hand so I could smash it to a million pieces and make something useful out of it.
Sandcastles. Letting another woman completely tear her apart.
Freedom. The idea that returning to a cheating husband is somehow freedom or strength.
Redemption. Comparing the strength of her grandmother to the choices she’s making today. That, to me, is an insult. That is not how you honor your ancestors. “Nothing real can be threatened” should mean a real woman can move on and be strong. Instead, Beyonce twists her grandmother’s words to justify her weakness and her dependency.
All Night. Trusting again. Like, are you joking me.
I’m sorry but, as a woman defined by our lovely government as a person of color, I seriously cannot tolerate this. I fight too hard on the policy level to allow mentalities such as the one perpetuated by Beyonce to solidify in the minds of women in our communities. We face the highest rates of violence, rape, assault, you name it. Abusive relationships are so rampant, we become numb to it. When Beyonce writes an album like this, she’s touching people who feel the same because they’ve been through it – then she proceeds to normalize the abuse and to justify accepting it. It’s so freaking damaging, I’m literally in shock that people are okay with it. Does no one else feel this? Maybe you have to feel what she’s talking about to realize it’s so wrong. The irony of it all.
It took me reading other articles with the same vein of thought to realize I’m not alone. I just wish more people could see it. Because they can’t, well that points exactly to why certain elements of this society are crumbling.