Written by Emma Glassman-Hughes
We already covered some of the #hashtag #basic misogyny plaguing the election cycle this week and last week (which reminds me, I have to renew my Woman Card at the post office because it’s about to expire), but then I stumbled into the eternal abyss of despair, AKA my Facebook feed, and uncovered a whole new beast. This time, however, someone threw Bey into the mix, which caused my protective instincts to flare up big-time. Not like she needs my help, but I can dream.
I discovered on my newsfeed that someone, somewhere in the depths of the Internet, had photoshopped a white man’s head with a familiarly balding pattern over Beyoncé’s body to appear like the “Lemonade” album cover, and replaced the word “lemonade” with this man’s name. Instead of going viral as What Not To Do When An Album As Earthshatteringly Remarkable As “Lemonade” Drops, it went viral because it was “lol too good.”
In the words of our Queen, hold up.
Let me get this straight: the Internet isn’t pissed that someone used photoshop to make “Lemonade” about a white man, obscuring the entire image of black female power? Are we talking about the same Internet here? The Internet that unleashed its fury when Twitter changed its approval interface (does that word mean what I think it means?) from “favorites” to “likes”? The Internet I know and love???
Oh oops, I forgot to mention that the old white guy featured wasn’t just any old white guy: it was Bernie Sanders, for whom the rules of liberal social politics apparently don't apply because he’s just so gosh-darn adorable. Or so they tell me.
In the other words of our Queen, oh... my bad.
Well y'all, the Internet might be feelin’ this meme like Beyoncé is feelin’ herself, but I do not feel anything other than mild to severe agitation.
In case it wasn’t abundantly clear, “Lemonade” is fuh-reaking sacred. This album is as unapologetically honest about and celebratory of black womanhood as the world has ever seen on this scale. For many, it’s an hour-long film and a 12-song-long album of unadulterated and uninterrupted revolution and reclamation at their most pure. Not to mention that it's a rare respite from the chaotic mudslinging of this nomination process, making no mention or even insinuation of presidential affairs whatsoever. “Lemonade” is specifically about the triumph and courage and unmatched beauty of black femininity; nothing about it rings of petty presidential politics. Most importantly? “Lemonade” is d.e.f.i.n.i.t.e.l.y. not about an old white man.
But there were other reasons why this meme berned me up in all the wrong ways.
I hate to hafta say this, but someone’s gotta: if it were Hillary’s head instead and it said “Hillary” instead of “Bernie,” the Internet would have risen, pitchfork in hand, to bern HRC and company at the stake. If a Hillary supporter tried to make “Lemonade” about her, the accusations of pandering to young folks and people of color and of appropriating a symbol of black excellence would have piled so high on the former Secretary of State’s dining room table, she wouldn’t have been able to see Bill playing with his food two feet in front of her.
And honestly, some of that would be warranted. Anyone who tries to make this non-partisan masterpiece into candidate propaganda is kiiiiiinda exploiting this rare public celebration of black femininity for their own political gain. That is yuck city.
But instead, the Internet laughed and ate it up. The Internet thought it was #adorbs. The Internet served itself lemons and made a miniature sexist, partisan mess. Womp.
More than likely, Bernie and his official staff had nothing to do with the creation of this meme and shouldn’t necessarily be held accountable for its offensive nature. BUT, that doesn’t mean this isn’t a shining example of some of the biases that are skewing this nomination process. There have been plenty of examples where Hillary has been hung out to dry for offenses similar to this; for instance, a Latina writer on Hillary’s staff once compared Hillz to her “abuela” in an article she wrote for the officially Hillary4Prez website, and the candidate was accused of “Hispandering.” HRC was asked recently what item she always carries with her, to which she responded hot sauce, and she was accused of making a Beyoncé reference as a way to pander to black voters (even though this one is actually true--she does love her spicy sauces).
It’s not that these accusations are entirely unjustified, it’s that people have given Bernie Sanders free passes where Hillary Clinton has been overcharged. Where Bernie is seen as engaging or sweet or even strategic, Hillary is seen as insulting and “desperate” and “trying too hard” to get votes. He’s a sanctimonious grandpa while she’s a calculating witch. Do we not smell the sexism stew berning on the stove???
Not to suggest that y’all haven’t already, but *if* you haven’t, peep the policies and political histories of each candidate and decide for yourselves independent of memes who can better represent the needs and desires of all people of color while in office. If you like past Civil Rights agitators, you’re in luck. If you like undercover lawyers who expose persisting segregation in public schools, you’re also in luck. If you like reparations for slavery, you’re unfortunately out of luck with these two--reparations are just ~too radical~ for some “radical” candidates, it seems.
But look: even if you like most of his policies, as I do, Bernie Sanders is simply not a symbol of black excellence no matter how expertly you photoshop him. Last I checked, he’s not a symbol for black womanhood. And if he’s photoshopped over Queen Bey one more time, don’t be surprised when someone (me) unleashes the fury of the rest of the beyhive upon ye olde photoshoppe master.
And while this may be irrelevant, Yoncé has made appearances at some HRC events in the past, so maybe it’d be best if we just refrained from putting words in her mouth, or on her coat, from here on out.