ColumnAfter a week full of feminist news blurbs about young women sharing their pain and experiences online, “Lemonade” was the icing on the feminist, truth-telling cake.
“Lemonade,” an hour-long mystery special created by Beyoncé, aired on HBO last Saturday night. There was a ton of speculation about the special’s subject matter: Was it a documentary about her life? Another visual album? Well, “Lemonade” was a bit of both, but it was much more personal and political than anyone could have imagined.
From track one—”Pray You Catch Me”—to track 12—”Formation”—every song on “Lemonade” described Beyoncé’s life and evolution as a black woman in a marriage, as a person, and as an activist.
There are more than a few themes that run through the album, but its main story lines do a deep dive into infidelity in a marriage, how Beyoncé’s family life shaped her and her experiences, becoming one’s self, and black empowerment.
Love and pain
There are a lot of WTF moments in the album that have caused some fans to speculate what “Becky with the good hair” means, and if Beyoncé wrote about her or her mother’s experience with infidelity. None of that really matters, though. What matters is a black woman used her power to shine a light on the feelings a woman—specifically a woman of color—feels when she is betrayed by someone she deeply loves.
This is not a new theme in music—people have used songs to describe pain in the past. But by taking “Lemonade” to such a personal place, Beyoncé has made this story—her story—incredibly relatable.
Since releasing the video for “Formation” and performing at the Super Bowl, Beyoncé has already raised many un-woke eyebrows throughout the world. Well, if those people saw any of “Lemonade,” they probably had heart attacks because the entire film is, basically, a video about black culture and black girl pride.
She name drops Malcolm X, uses a snippet from one of his speeches, shows undying support for the Black Lives Matter movement, features bits and pieces of diverse black culture, and showcases the work of Warsan Shire, a Somali-British poet.
Beyoncé has always been a proponent of black female power but this album is made for black women. And the fact that it upset so many white people shows why this piece of art is so important.
Yes, women of all ethnicities can relate to the themes in “Lemonade,” but through the visual album’s art and cameos, Beyoncé makes it incredibly clear that she is talking to black women and encouraging them to standup, be proud, and not take any shit. While it’s disappointing that this type of openness is so unique, Beyoncé’s strength may influence more women of color to share their experiences in the future.
Personal stories via social media
Although Beyoncé is the current “artist of the moment” who is making the deeply personal public, other female artists are using social media to share their pain and struggles.
Recently, women all over the world used the hashtag #whenIwas to discuss the first time they experienced early sexism. All of the tweets were pretty heartbreaking. An example:
@comradeclaire tweeted: #WhenIwas 16, my GCSE art teacher speculated on tightness of my vagina, completely humiliating me in front of the class @everydaysexism
And before Melissa Broder, writer, wrote “So Sad Today,” a book that honestly discusses mental illness, sex, and her vomit fetish, she had an anonymous Twitter account she used to tweet about depression. That account—@SoSadToday—allowed Broder to use “140 characters to say something both profound and hilarious,” Bitch adds.
Broder’s work is deeply personal and a great example of how sharing one’s problems can uplift others.
I hope this “openness” trend becomes the norm because when people share their mess and get real, everyone benefits.
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