Like everyone else I know, I haven’t stopped thinking about Beyoncé’s Lemonade since it aired on Saturday night. Girl called up her friends at HBO and told them to move the television premiere of Jurassic World up an hour because she was in the market to grab that 9:00 time slot and one of the largest channels in television history obliged. Not only that, but they made their programming for the weekend free because they knew damn well Lemonade would be pirated and they would be a laughing stock if it wasn’t made available to everyone.
That’s power. Beyoncé has power. She almost exclusively uses that power for good. She used her appearance at this year’s Super Bowl halftime show to send a serious message with and to people of color. She brought unconventional models like Winnie Harlow on-board for Lemonade. In fact, she filled that one-hour special with diverse bodies as RunwayRiot’s Lindsey Peoples has talked about, strong women, and people of color. Since the days of “Single Ladies,” and “Run the World,” Queen Bey has made it known that she expects excellence not only for herself, but for everyone else, and she’s willing to use her position to bring others up with her, especially when those others are women.
While Beyoncé uses her power for good, the same can’t always be said of her followers. Like I said, I’ve been following every detail of Lemonade for days now. There is no Bey-related headline that I have not clicked. Naturally, this means I know all about Rachel Roy. In fact, as an avid celebrity news connoisseur, I’ve known about the fashion designer and her alleged relationship with Jay-Z for a while. After all, it was she who supposedly sparked that elevator brawl with Solange.
To catch you up, Beyoncé included the lyric, “He only want me when I’m not there / he better call Becky with the good hair,” in one of the songs she premiered on Lemonade. And in case you missed it, not long thereafter, Roy uploaded an Instagram photo of herself with the caption, “Good hair don’t care, but we will take good lighting, for selfies, or self truths, always.”
Gag-inducing inspirational caption aside, it was wildly inappropriate of Roy to post that. There was no need for her to insert herself in the drama that came when Beyoncé had just released 60 straight minutes of art about what viewers can reasonably assume is her husband’s history of cheating. Bey did not call her out by name. She elected to stir the pot. Still, what happened next was uncalled for.
The BeyHive, as Beyoncé’s fans are known, swarmed her account, dropping bee and lemon emojis in comments on all of her pictures. There were insults. There were threats. The vitriol was such that Roy was forced to make her account private and even cancel upcoming events. She released a statement saying she canceled a speech because of a personal emergency. Later, she released another statement insisting that she is not “Becky” and that the bullying she and her child have received online is grossly out of line.
When a woman cancels a public appearance because of a “personal emergency,” there is no question that the bullying has gone too far. In this situation, though, there is a very “chicken and egg” quality to the drama. Though neither woman should have acted against the other, assuming the rumors are true, it appears that they both did. That Roy’s transgressions seem much grander and more direct is irrelevant; she is still being unjustly victimized.
I am a firm believer that “the other woman” (or other man, depending on the case) is never to blame for a partner’s poor choices. Even Roy is not to blame for the strong reaction to her caption, someone who is (possibly) cheated on cannot say that their significant other was provoked by the wiles of another. The aggressor must always hold the accountability. That being said, I heard something today on the View that gave me pause.
The panel was discussing Lemonade and one of the hosts suggested that if a woman knows another woman is married but chooses to carry on with that woman’s husband, she is partly culpable because she broke the bonds of sisterhood. I mulled that over. I realized that yes, both the cheater and “the other woman” have betrayed the wife. In the case of Bey and Jay, there is not a person on the planet who wasn’t aware of their union. Thus, if Roy was involved with Jay Z, she committed an act of bullying against Beyoncé.
As I mentioned, I’ve known about the Roy rumors for years. Beyoncé, then, committed an act of bullying against Roy by including lyrics that may have referred to her, although in fairness, they could have referred to pretty much anyone from Rihanna to Mya, both of whom have been tied to the rapper. Then, Roy bullied back by seeming to publicly take ownership of the title. We know what happened after that. Roy’s Instagram went private and the rest is history.
There is no reason for what Roy (and, later, Rita Ora) went through. Online harassment is never acceptable. No one can say for sure why Roy chose to post that photo, no one knows. But the fact that she did should never have opened her up to so many threats that she became too afraid to do her job.
Beyoncé has power. Beyoncé should step in and call a cease fire. “Should” is useless here, though. No one “should” have ever cheated. None of this “should” have ever happened, if in fact it did. Most relevantly, Bey is a notoriously private woman. Much of the success of Lemonade can be attributed to how much insight it gave us into the emotions and thoughts of Mrs. Knowles-Carter. It took her over a month to release a statement denying that her halftime show was anti-cop. She will most likely never mention Becky or Roy again.
That’s why we have to re-learn the lessons of “Single Ladies,” “Run the World,” and now, “Formation.” We should be internalizing and channeling Beyoncé’s power into a stronger sense of sisterhood and community. This means no bullying. This means no nasty Instagram comments and no sleeping with anyone’s boyfriend. If Lemonade taught us anything, it’s that women are already devalued enough; it’s only in reclaiming our power and standing together that we have any hope of rising up to the top where Beyoncé wants us to be.