This was my second time watching Lemonade, and after both times I watched it, I thought it was simply an album about how Beyonce found out Jay-Z cheated on her, and how she got through that and was ultimately able to forgive him. While it is thought that this was a large inspiration for Lemonade, after listening to Dr. Nardone’s presentation, I have realized that the visual album calls attention to many more topics widely discussed in our society today, such as culture, heritage, capitalism, and, the one Dr. Nardone primarily focused on when she spoke to us: gender stereotypes. I liked how she showed us the recent picture that Beyonce posted on her instagram to announce her pregnancy at the beginning of her presentation. There were motherly, feminine features such as the flowers and veil, but then a sharp contrast with Beyonce’s lack of clothing. I thought this was an effective way to begin because of our later in-depth discussions on appropriation and subversion that is seen all throughout Lemonade.
Audre Lorde’s quotation that “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house,” is something that we learned Beyonce is proving wrong. In our society, we defined the “masters” being things such as capitalism or white men. By using appropriation and subversion, Beyonce uses the “tools” of these masters, including money and sex appeal, and turns them into a form of empowerment and identity, similar to how people in the LGBTQ community have turned the word “queer” into a form of identity. The stereotypical gender role that I found most fascinating in Beyonce’s Lemonade was the male gaze. When I watched the album on my own, I noticed particularly during the song “Hold Up” how Beyonce would stare into the camera, and then smash it with a baseball bat. At first, I thought this was just a way for her to show the anger she felt, but now I know that it symbolized much more than just that. Laura Mulvey would say that in films, women are the objects, rather than possessors of the gaze. When Beyonce looked directly into the camera, and later how numerous black women similarly looked directly into the camera, she became a possessor of the gaze, and by smashing the camera, she took away any opportunity of being an object of the gaze.
I think the subject of the “male gaze” connects to some of the discussions we had last week following Ms. Hamovit’s presentation on Lady Montagu. In class, we talked about how it was oppressive for Muslim women to wear the veils because it puts all of the pressure on the women to protect themselves from the male gaze. In contrast, we also tossed around the idea that here in America, women might wear more revealing clothes to please men, thus also succumbing to the male gaze. After Dr. Nardone’s presentation and learning about appropriation and subversion, I think that Beyonce is a role model of sorts for girls to embrace their bodies and not to cover up to protect themselves from the male gaze. Rather than showing off her body to please men, though, Beyonce is using the “tool” of sex appeal and making it about herself and her own personal identity, which is something that I think is becoming a more common form of empowerment among girls in our society today.
Although Beyonce has many critics, including bell hooks, it is safe to say that Beyonce is a feminist. Chimamanda Adichie said that for her own personal view of feminism, “Beyonce’s style is not mine... We women are so conditioned to relate everything to men.” In Elle Magazine, Beyonce can be quoted saying “we're not all just one thing. Everyone who believes in equal rights for men and women doesn't speak the same, or dress the same, or think the same.” Both of these quotations emphasize Dr. Nardone’s point that feminism is not monolithic. I think that the only reason Beyonce receives any criticism is because her way of expressing her feminist beliefs is different than the way others may express themselves. In the same article in Elle, Beyonce also says that being a feminist is simply being “someone who believes in equal rights for men and women.” Regardless of whether one agrees or disagrees with her methods of expression, based on this definition alone, it is hard to argue that Beyonce is not a feminist.