Lemonade: A Woman’s Narrative Not a Man’s Confession
By Tayllor Johnson
When I first heard about Beyoncé’s Lemonade, social media was abuzz with gossip. All I could see were posts speculating if Jay Z truly cheated, or was this all a rouse to get more people dedicated to Tidal, a music streaming site founded by Beyoncé and Jay Z. I knew then I was in no rush to see Lemonade. Beyoncé is a brand, I thought, it’s her job to keep us curious and engaged in her content. The public knows nothing about Beyoncé’s life besides what she wants us to know and even then, the public stays guessing. What was going to be different about this album? All of a sudden she was going to share herself with the public, regarding her marriage of all things? HA! Not a chance! I’ll pass on that publicity stunt. It wasn’t until a good friend of mine invited me to a Lemonade listening party to watch and discuss it amongst other women that I conceded to see what the hype was really about.
After experiencing Lemonade (because it is an experience) as a film and an album, I saw less of a confession of fidelity to the public and more a testimony to the complexity of a woman’s world; and the acceptance of that world, in all its seasons and forms. Yes, it was somewhat confirmed that Jay Z and Beyoncé had marital problems, but in Lemonade, we witness a woman’s perspective, exclusively. The three male features on the album, Kendrick Lamar, The Weeknd, and James Blake are nowhere to be seen in the film. Jay Z is also missing in action until the end and even then, he does not utter a word. Lemonade is not about a man cheating; it is about a woman being, which is much less exciting to the general public apparently.
Beyoncé took us through 11 states of emotion during Lemonade: Intuition, Denial, Anger, Apathy, Emptiness, Accountability, Reformation, Forgiveness, Resurrection, Hope, and Redemption. I not only witnessed her expressions of those emotions, but my own as well. These emotions existed in me and they were just as powerful, dynamic, and colorful as she was in portraying them. From the shameless glee of denial to the absence of my own father’s sound advice, Beyoncé put up a mirror to my own womanhood, as complex and messy as it can be. She told me it was okay, it was okay to be complex, to fall, to cry, to love… as long as I got back up. It was almost a comfort to see her break windows, swim in her own madness, become the tormented mistress herself, and heal her wounds in mother nature’s bath. My womanhood became a mosaic of experiences stuck in my throat and mixing with the tears on my face. She was not speaking to her own isolated existence but to all of us woman who exist on multiple realms of being at any given time. She was sharing a narrative of mothers, daughters, sisters, and grandmothers.
Lemonade was the space for all these facets of woman to be and through that vessel we too gained access to that freedom. It was clear to all of us watching the film that day, amongst pie and lemonade, that this is a project was for us. The dancers were women, the poet featured in the film was a woman, the community of women gathered for the song “Freedom” were all women–Lemonade embodied the epitome of womanhood, down to the very end when we witness womanhood as a community effort. We were transported to a different time, a community of women living amongst willow trees and wooden cabins as if in the deep south. They were eating together, laughing together, planting together, and unapologetically by each other’s side. This is where the tears started up again as I knew so many women, myself included, who were striving for that sisterhood–that utopia of women showing up for women, just because it was our pleasure to do so.
But it says a lot about a society when a woman opens her mouth to speak her truth and all that is seen is a man on her tongue. How did we miss the positive symbolism of sisterhood and womanhood only to ask whether or not Jay Z is cheating? Jay Z remains voiceless in Lemonade for a reason. Do not get it confused, Beyoncé’s womanhood is the only muse here. Images of trees, the ocean, the moon, fire, dirt, and sunlight were the only transitions Beyoncé needed between songs to make it to the final track, “All Night.” Just like she did not need a man to verify her process, I did not need a confirmation of Jay Z’s marital commitment to be moved by her healing. All I needed were other women who sat with me, and cried, laughed, and snacked on guacamole together, as we witnessed some facets of our own womanhood via the big screen.
Beyoncé speaks up for all of us women that sometimes get tired, get sexy, get defiant, get angry, get insecure, get heartbroken, get confused, but most of all we heal and we keep moving forward. Lemonade is declaring that all of those emotional spaces deserve the space in a woman’s being, as Beyoncé gave an hour to explore herself visually and through an album without the interruption of male perspective. We as human beings and as women are allowed to be complex in our own way and society has ceased to recognize that. We are either bosses or we are worthless. We are either sexualized deviants or pure angels. We are men’s puppets or their nuisances. But we are so much more than that and we have the right to declare and celebrate that.
This is Beyoncé’s Purple Rain. She cannot take the transparency, honesty, and inspiration back from our eyes. I am irrevocably inspired and can’t wait to see what comes out of me, when I too try to hold my womanhood in my own hands. What will she say? What drink will she personify? How many colors can my womanhood paint me in one day? How many windows will she break? I think all of us should rise up to the challenge, and dive deep into our own womanhood to see what we find, no matter how undefinably beautiful and complex it is. Because freedom is sweeter than lemonade.