So Beyoncé’s Lemonade dropped this week. I’m not usually down with the kidz (that’s how they spell it now) enough to follow releases in popular music that aren’t Taylor Swift (teeny bopper 4 eva), but I love the stuff that Beyoncé has been producing recently, so I was ready and waiting for Lemonade.
Surprise surprise, human manifestation of white, upper-middle class male priviledge, Piers Morgan is “uncomfortable” with Lemonade. He thinks any mention of racially aggravated violence is exploitative. This has already been pretty effectively taken down by UK singer Jamelia, and there’s nothing I, as pretty much the whitest possible woman ever (see picture) could add to her moving, eloquent and eminently sensible destruction of Morgan’s flaccid and facile argument.
I think Morgan’s response highlights, too, attitudes towards women of colour with opinions. Now, I’m all too aware that I’m outside of that category as a white woman, and I’m making these observations about media portrayal rather than lived experience. With that in mind, what I see is that women of colour who step outside of stereotypes are seen by people like Morgan as distasteful.
Mainstream media is already familiar with the politicisation of black rap. I remember hearing Jay Z’s 99 problems for the first time and being struck by the delicate satire. It’s a rap song about a drug dealer evading the law, and you still end up sympathising with the protagonist rather than the drawling, casually racist cop who’s pulled him over. We’re familiar with the stereotype of the politicised black man. We know it from Martin Luther King Jr to Malcolm X to Johnny Cochran. That doesn’t mean there’s no criticism, but mainstream media knows where that fits.
What white mainstream media is less familiar with is the politicised black woman, and I think that’s why Morgan finds this so uncomfortable. When Beyoncé was singing about being crazy in love or wishing her scrub of a boyfriend would pay the bills he ran up on her card, Morgan was comfortable. But when she’s urging women to get in formation to make some kind of challenge to established power this is ‘distasteful.’
Of course its distasteful to you, Piers. You and your ilk are very comfortable. Lemonade is not supposed to make white, upper-middle-class men comfortable. Not every song is meant to make everyone comfortable. If we’re pushing for change, for equality for women, people of colour and people of every sexual orientation some of the people at the top are going to get displaced, so they’re going to feel uncomfortable. But if Beyoncé is to be believed (and I hope she is), it’s coming.
So I hope you feel uncomfortable, Piers. Women, and particularly women of colour, do not just exist for your entertainment. And if Beyoncé tells me to get in Formation, you bet I’m going to be there.