Lemonade is important, as the vast majority of people have been writing, publishing, Facebooking and screaming from the rooftops. It is an ode, a lament, a war cry and a celebration of womanhood and black womanhood and the many experiences therein. Even larger numbers of people have been talking about one element of Lemonade specifically: infidelity. This has the internet ablaze about who “Becky with the ‘good hair’” could be, as well as if, when and how often Beyoncé’s husband, rapper Jay Z, was cheating on her. Even more recently, news has broken that Jay Z is working on an album that will reportedly explain his side of their marriage. However, whether this album references Lemonade or directly responds to it, I am uninterested in any response that is not an apology.
Misogyny in American society dictates that men who cheat are “Big Pimpin’,” while cheating women, or sometimes even sexually active women, are sluts, hoes and not ever to be celebrated for their behavior. Because of the systemic nature of sexism and the double discrimination of racism and sexism that black women face (this is specifically called “misogynoir”), Lemonade is an important and poignant piece. It is a necessary response to the many forms of oppression that hold women back, facilitate abuse in relationships, gaslight us and call us crazy for being angry or suspecting our male partners of cheating, while we understand too well that their actual cheating is supported by society.
Of course, there is also the possibility that Lemonade itself is not autobiographical of Beyoncé and her life. Artists often sing about heartbreak in the abstract (or maybe even real, but in the past), and there is little reason, besides Bey’s enormous celebrity, to suggest otherwise. Her father, Matthew Knowles, and both “Becky” suspects, Rita Ora and Rachel Roy, have claimed that lyrics seemingly pointed at them are not about them (even though Beyoncé directly talks about her dad).
Whether the contents of Lemonade are fiction, nonfiction, creative nonfiction or all of the above, one very real piece to the puzzle was given in the video portion for “Sandcastles.” There is a moment when Beyoncé puts her arms around Jay Z’s neck in an embrace, and the audience can see what was formerly her IV wedding tattoo that both she and Jay share — but Bey’s is now scarred, as if she has had laser removal treatments on it. This coincides exactly with the timing of 2014 reports that the couple was divorcing because Beyoncé was having her wedding tattoo removed, as well as the infamous elevator scandal, in which we see her sister Solange attacking Jay Z.
Because men do not experience sexism, and because Lemonade is about the experiences of women (among them, sexism), a Jay Z album is only necessary as an apology. It is necessary only as a message of “men, we need to do better” or “men, we need to treat the women in our lives better.” Anything other than this — that is, Jay Z celebrating his sexual conquests, blaming his infidelity on Beyoncé or praising other misogynistic behaviors as they relate to his marriage and his wife — is perpetuating misogyny and would perhaps diminish a lot of the work Lemonade did, is doing or seeks to do.
Naturally, I will wait for the actual album to come out. I will listen to it in its entirety. Then I will be back to write about what Jay Z had to say.