Lemonade, Black Femininity, and Vulnerability

By Keisa Reynolds

From Beyoncé's song "Love Drought" featured in her visual album  Lemonade  

From Beyoncé's song "Love Drought" featured in her visual album Lemonade 

Black women are often relegated to less than desirable emotions: anger, jealousy, sadness. Beyoncé allows herself to feel every single one in Lemonade, her sixth studio album and second visual album. Whether it's autobiographical or a work of fiction, Beyoncé creates a world where black women and femmes do not silence themselves.

The visual album reminds us of novels written by 20th century black women writers, Zora Neale Hurston, Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, who beautifully capture black women, their relationships, and their allegiance to black Southern traditions. It is not only the imagery that reminds us, it is the way Beyoncé fully humanizes herself, Jay-Z, and men who have caused harm to women and femmes they love.

My mother once told me, a man will never tell you the truth as long as he loves you. It is damaging to believe women and femmes must settle for dishonesty, and it is not our responsibility to guide a man through his shortcomings. By choosing ourselves, as women and femmes, we create a world where our desires are centered. And our stories are shared with each other; none of us go through it alone.

We know from Miss Zora: if we are silent about our pain, they’ll kill us and say we enjoyed it. Beyoncé, whether she is playing herself or all of us, creates space for black women and femmes to be vulnerable and name the sources of our pain. She questions her own emotional responses like many of us do. She affirms those emotional responses, they are hers to own.

As a sensitive black girl and someone who loves hard, Lemonade validates my sadness and anger and praises my happiness. Lemonade depicts the rollercoaster of love and relationships I’ve entered hopeful, left broken and wondering if I could do it again. Beyoncé tells us, through the words of Warsan Shire, we deserve more, we deserve love. Often we will find it within ourselves and among other women and femmes.

Watching Lemonade, like reading Their Eyes Were Watching God or The Bluest Eye, is an experience I would want to share with my sisters, my mother, and the young girls in my family who will grow up being told to give themselves to men. But it is not solely about our relationships to/with men, it is about the space we deserve to feel every emotion however undesirable they may be. We deserve our full humanity, which is not given to us; it is something we take, and as the most disrespected person in America, we fight for.  

Lemonade can and should be enjoyed by everyone, however, it is for the black woman or femme. Beyoncé doesn’t speak for every single one of us, but her work is an offering for those of us struggling to articulate how we feel or needing validation for our feelings. It puts our stories of pain, loss, and grief into the mainstream spotlight without removing us—we define ourselves, we shape our worlds. This album is a treat for all and a testimony to the power of black femininity and sisterhood. Good job, Bey.