Shame On Us

CLV_ScoldEver since Beyonce's album Lemonade dropped this weekend, there's been an eruption of speculation and outrage around the topic of "Becky with the good hair," aka the person, real or fictionalized, referenced in the song "Sorry," for playing the other woman to Bey's man (presumably, if the song is a reflection of reality, Jay Z). For reasons that I don't find any point in repeating, there's a good deal of suspicion around fashion designer Rachel Roy being the well-tressed Becky. And Beyonce fans have been swift and merciless in their criticism. Roy has become the target of so much public ire and social media harassment that even her sixteen-year-old daughter is even being trolled. And you know...that's really not cool. I love Beyonce. I think this new album is smashing and and a major tour de force in so many ways. But this Becky stuff makes me deeply uncomfortable, especially as a woman. 

To start, we the public, don't even know what this is really about. I mean, in reality. Whether or not Beyonce's songs and lyrics are an actual reflection of real-life events, or an abstraction of some sort, or really just fictionalized words that make a really powerful song, is her secret to keep. As much as we'd like to think we're well-informed on the relationships and marital states of our favorite celebrities, we really have no idea. For every leaked tidbit, real or rumor, there are about a hundred more truths we're unaware of, so who are we to take it upon ourselves to punish another woman so viciously when we don't even know what went down, let alone whether or not she was actually involved.

Furthermore, can we momentarily take the focus off “Becky” and consider the other person in the equation whom no one’s really talking about—and the much more identifiable of the two: Bey’s man…aka, her husband…aka JAY Z. Beyond the fact that he’s getting a modicum of the outrage that Roy and other potential “Beckys” have received, which is deeply troubling in and of itself, it’s also interesting to consider that he’s actually profiting from the album’s success (which was released though his label Tidal). That this “Becky” drama could very well be spiking sales is really just speculation, but it's a likelihood, and a twisted one, too.

But beyond whether or not any of this stuff actually happened between Jay Z and "Becky," it raises several larger, more serious questions about how we react to instances of infidelity and our perception and treatment of  “the other woman.” For example, why is it always her fault more than the husband's? Sure, there are codes of decency we should all try to uphold, the most obvious being “don’t do anything that you wouldn’t want someone else to do to you,” but he's the one who actually took a vow of fidelity. Obviously he's just as culpable as she is, since according to the lyrics, it didn't seem like Bey's man was the victim of "Becky's" sexual harassment (he's the one calling her). But one might argue that being married makes his offense worse (aren't those vows supposed to be sacred?).

This witch hunt for Becky with the good hair, quite honestly, diminishes the talent that went into this album and what a powerful tour de force it is. The phrase, "Becky with the good hair" alone is so loaded with historical and cultural meaning, it's a shame that no one's talking more about that. And we’re missing the message about Bey’s grief, too. She’s moved on. She’s over it. She dealt, she overcame, and she rose above it all. Anyone who watches the Lemonade visual album actually sees her various stages of grief and her triumphant evolution spelled out right there on the screen. It’s a shame so many of us aren’t on her level.

Bill Cunningham = New York

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