I did not see or listen to Lemonade. I don’t have HBO and I have $20 in my bank account right now so I can’t exactly afford to buy it on iTunes. I do, however, have the Internet, so like the rest of the world I now know that Bey implies on the new album that Jay-Z cheated on her with “Becky with the good hair”. I also know that the Internet has exploded with speculation about the identity “Becky with the good hair”. Since I am unfamiliar with the slang kids these days use, I was completely clueless about the fact that Becky is a slang term used for “the other woman”, so I was confused as to why accusations were being made about women not named Becky. Women suspected of being “Becky with the good hair” have been enduring insane amounts of online harassment, even death threats. Amidst all this chaos all I keep saying to myself is “why is everyone so mad at Becky with the Good Hair?”
I don’t condone cheating. I don’t think people who do cheat shouldn’t face consequences. However, I do think that both parties to cheating deserve to face those consequences equally. As is almost always the case, that is not happening with Jay-Z and “Becky with the good hair”. The Internet’s reaction to Jay-Z in this situation is largely satirical. There are a lot of memes about how embarrassed he must have been watching Lemonade or how he’ll be sleeping on the couch for weeks. I have yet to see any reports that Jay-Z is receiving death threats for cheating on Bey. Nobody seems to be acknowledging that Jay-Z is just as responsible for the situation and no one seems interested in him facing the consequences of his actions. The focus is all on “the other woman”.
This is consistent with the patriarchal interpretation of infidelity that has existed for centuries: men are weak willed when it comes to women, therefore their occasional dalliances are understood. It’s basically the same argument that fuels rape culture: men are powerless against the sexuality of women. This narrative portrays a man who “can’t help himself” being ruthlessly seduced by a harlot without morals. It’s not the man’s fault because he was pursued. This sets up the woman to take the blame for the entire situation. In reality, many men are the pursuers, not the pursued, but even if they are the pursued it does not alleviate their responsibility for the situation. We can’t honestly believe that men are such slaves to their sex drives that they lose all sense of logic and rationale when confronted with a sexually forward woman. Unfortunately, this narrative is so ingrained in our culture that many still consciously or unconsciously agree that women are more to blame in situations of infidelity than men.
Women are also much more likely to lash out at other women than they are at men, so when they are hurt and confused by infidelity it is easier to blame the other woman than to blame the man. Women are taught from a young age to be confrontational with other women. Women are also taught that other women are competition for men, so it’s not surprising that when they men cheat they blame the women they are taught are trying to “steal” their man. Women are much less comfortable lashing out at men. They have been taught that men represent safety and security for their futures, so they risk all of that by lashing out at the men who cheat. This makes it much easier to just blame the other woman.
I’m not saying that “Becky with the good hair” doesn’t deserve to face the consequences of her actions. I am saying so does Jay-Z. They should equally share the consequences since they were both equally involved. I’m also saying that facing the consequences should not include being crucified on the Internet. This was a personal issue that Bey chose to make public, which has resulted in the defamation of many women. We don’t even know for sure who “Becky with the good hair” is, so we should probably stop harassing women we don’t know. “Becky with the good hair” is probably devastated right now and though she should be held responsible, it’s not up to us to do that. Leave her alone.