A Crunk Feminist Response to Solange, Jay, & Bey

solange jay bey

Earlier this week, TMZ released the now infamous elevator video of Solange going HAM on Jay Z.  The responses have been swift and the memes have been hilarious.  I’m a let y’all finish but, there are a few things missing from the conversation.

First of all, Solange was dead wrong.  Now don’t get me wrong, I am a huge Solange fan. She’s my favorite little sister in the history of celebrity little sisters.  I’ve always appreciated her spunk and her fighter spirit. Real talk,  I always liked that there was a possibility that she might haul off and slap somebody. Hell, I might haul off and slap somebody, so I appreciated that connection.  However as a feminist, the fact that she actually did haul off and slap somebody, namely Jay Z, is not okay.  I, like most feminist, am against relational violence in all its forms and if we are to take a serious stance against relational violence, we have to be more diligent about finding it in unexpected places and amongst unusual suspects.  Now I get that this doesn’t look the way that relational violence normally looks so it may be harder to identify it.  But, the truth of the matter is that sometimes women are violent.  Violence isn’t always a man hitting a woman or even a man hitting another man. Relational violence isn’t always with someone who you are in an intimate relationship with. It can take many forms.  Brothers and sisters fight, mothers and daughters fight, cousins fight and in this case in-laws were fighting (well Solange was).  The point is, this is a moment of relational violence and we have to see it as such.

We also need to be really careful about our reactions to this video.  When I saw the video my initial response was “yo, what the hell is going on?”  The very next thing I said was, “what did Jay do to make Solange wild out like that?!” and that is where I was wrong.  Wondering what was going on in the situation is a normal response for any nosey ass person like myself.  Wondering what Jay did to elicit such a response is where I was not being a very good feminist.  That is nothing less than victim blaming and I know better than that.  Nothing Jay did justifies her putting her hands on him.  She is responsible for how she reacts to every situation.  There were a myriad of possibilities available to her. She chose to act violently and that is not ok.

The second point I want to make is that Jay Z actually exemplifies what a man defending himself from the attacks of a woman can look like. After Chris Brown assaulted Rihanna, many men came to his defense and justified his attack by saying, “if she comes at me like a man, I’m a beat her down like man.” This language works to equate physical attacks on men to attacks on masculinity and therefore, evokes a hypermasculine response to such attacks.  Now, we know that masculinity is fragile as hell but, I do think this actually does a disservice to men by making them seem like flat, uncomplicated beings who have to respond in such demeaning ways.  What Jay Z showed is that it actually doesn’t take all that for a man to stop a woman from attacking him.  He too had a myriad of choices available to him.  He chose to block his body, grab her foot and put it down, and push her back from his personal space.  Let me be clear is saying that this was not an example of him turning the other cheek.  What it is an example of is someone who did not feel the need to defend his masculinity in a way that pulled him into participation.

My third and final point is about the Queen Bey.  Now y’all can say what y’all want about her seeming lack of participation in the fight, but what I saw Beyonce doing was exemplifying some of the core tenets of black feminism 101—self-care and self-definition.  First, let me say that Beyonce’s response felt very familiar to me.  As a child, my older brother and I would throw down fighting while mother calmly read the newspaper, painted her nails, did her makeup, etc. When we would come rolling by her she would quietly move her feet out of the way and continue to mind her damn business.  Now, we did get reprimanded after we finished the fight, but she gave no fucks during throw down. And you know why? Because, breaking up other people’s shit is fucking exhausting! Not breaking up other people’s shit is self-care!  Additionally, the conversation about where her loyalties lie is nothing more than our desires to define Beyonce. But let me remind us that black feminism demands that we allow people to be self-definitional. That means that Beyonce gets to not choose sides and that’s ok. Beyonce gets to define herself, define her boundaries, and define when and where she enters.  Y’all can say that smile she was rocking when she got off the elevator was her trying to look perfect all the time, but that looks like a self-care/self-defining smile to me!

So, I’m not going to suggest that you stop participating in the hoopla. Hell, I’m about to search some gossip sites as soon as I finish this post.  I’m just asking that we don’t throw away our feminism while we do so.  Happy hunting!

20 thoughts on “A Crunk Feminist Response to Solange, Jay, & Bey

  1. Excellent response. In my opinion I think it’s something that has happened before and Bey just let their shit unfold and stayed out of it. You’re right how could she take either side her husband or her baby sister. She knows them both and let them handle their shit. They finally gave a statement and I think it was a good one. Now the media should let it go. They said families have disagreements and that’s all it is. So the public should let it go. We don’t want anyone up in our business so let them have their privacy. Does anyone think we’ll ever know what that fight was about? No.

  2. I completely agree with your analysis. I do hope that Solange indulges in some self-care as well, as clearly there are some issues she needs to deal with; that level of violence and anger was over the top. But I still love her!

  3. Thanks so much for this. I jumped back ever so slightly when I saw CFC was responding, but I should have known you would articulate it in the CFC spirit of care and critique. I was so disheartened by the hoopla, seeing all the wink and nod commentary. Mainly because violence and conflict in families is painful and exhausting for both those involved and those forced to watch it unfold. To go through it in this kind of public way because somebody stole security camera footage must be a hundred times worse – that family’s self-care was forcibly removed from them through this ridiculousness. And about Solange’s actual act – in my experience, people who can’t process their anger and physically harm others when they feel put upon don’t only get violent when they are in the right or when the other person is a man physically larger than them. They do it whenever they happen to be angry. I feel like with women, we sometimes interpret strength or at least righteousness in their violence, when really they’re just people in pain who due to a whole host of reasons want others to share in that.

    1. Fantastic, intelligent response to an excellent post. I love your last sentence particularly, it’s such a good way of explaining that phenomenon without descending into what-about-the-men-it’s-so-unfair nonsense.

  4. I sooooo love this! Well done, and thank you for making other thoughts saturate the mind and really forcing us to just keep thinking, and talking. I especially love the masculine piece. Yess! 🙂

  5. I was actually trying to avoid being interested but this past couple weeks I went to Texas and my bestie drowned nein to the new Bey cd. Unjust barely became aBey fan.

    Anyway got caught up in some Wendy Williams gossip, saw the video and immediately thought “I hope Bey once is doing alright.” Some of Beys lyrics get me to thinking.

    But this post was great and I too respected JayZ’s stance, though commenters all over ate saying he shoyldve handled it differently. That is really what made me sad about this while ordeal. Ppl wanted him to do something worse. My personal opinion, they (as in fam) need out of the spot lights for a bit. They owe no explanation to me, I just don’t like it when.anyone fights. Makes me all emotional.
    (crappy typing from my phone)

  6. hi, the post left me with some thoughts i wanted to share, as a feminist of color ——

    i appreciate the call to see the incident in terms of domestic / relational violence, but disagree with many of the conclusions.

    i think ‘relational violence’ needs to be looked at within the context of possible unequal power dynamics and patterns, rather than based on one isolated incident. it’s hard to make a judgement from one incident…

    if you believe that Solange’s actions were wrong no matter what — are you also a pacifist? and even if you are a pacifist, would you still consider ‘suicide bombing,’ or other violent resistance to be wrong in exactly the same way, say, Israeli occupation or U.S. military invasion and drone bombing is? (considering the unequal resources and power of the two sides; considering that the powerful side is actively engaged in a deliberate strategy of harm, and is the motor behind the pattern of violence that occurs?)

    what if a non-white homeless person attacked a white cop (or ‘innocent’ white gentrifier) — is that also unjustified and inexcusable relational violence?

    while it’s hard to argue all is justified… arguing none is justified often in effect serves to side with the powerful and police the less powerful, in a situation where the less powerful’s stories often go untold. maybe a better approach is reframing the issue — to a question like, “whose or which side’s shady actions are receiving more disapproving attention, and in larger context, does this actually correspond to the harm they experienced, as well as that party’s overall power and responsibility?”

    sometimes i think holding everyone equally and individually responsible can be a form of moral policing that reinforces social, political, economic, etc. inequalities. i think asking questions about the context becomes “victim-blaming” when it acts *along* directions of unequal power, rather than against them; but other times, it’s totally important to ask the context.

    in a situation involving cycles of violence (where those abused go on to abuse others), people perpetrating harm should be held responsible when that violence works down the chain of power / responsibility, but we should also look up the chain to see if there are sources of root responsibility escaping accountability… we should consider the role of systemic oppressions in reinforcing harm — considering also that domestic violence is not an isolated incident, but a process and pattern of violence to gain control and perpetuate inequality.

    i don’t want feminism to just look out for individual/personal behavior and empowerment — to assume this already stands in for considering power inequalities…. i’d like feminism of color to put that systemic critique of power back in —- not reducing things to the identity categories of the people involved — but also not refusing to ignore the importance questions of potentially unequal power contexts….

    1. You voiced a lot of my uneasiness with these conclusions better than I could. Thank you for writing this.

    2. That’s a great response! You make a great point about violence in the overall context of power dynamics in general. Could you make an attempt at applying that kind of critique to this particular situation? Surely you would agree there’s a whole world of difference between Solange and a homeless person or someone living in occupied Palestine? Obviously Jay Z is the more powerful of the two by any of the usual metrics, he has more money, is the c.e.o of a big company etc etc but I don’t imagine Solange is broke by any stretch, and she also has her own label (to be fair it’s fledgling at this point) – but they are both extremely privileged. She went to private school – they’re at the MET ball etc. If you have two people, one has 8 million dollars and the other 10 million, the one with 10 million is “more powerful” but I don’t think that reduces the 8x millionaire to the status of homeless person or refugee or something right?
      One might suggest that we don’t know the back story and that perhaps there’s a history of violent abuse coming from Jay’s side towards Solange….. maybe, but if that were the case I would imagine in this situation he would have reacted violently to her attack, in the same way that you can be sure the cop you mention would proceed to beat the hell out of the homeless person, the Israeli military destroys the houses of suicide bomber’s families etc etc. None of them in the elevator seemed to realise they were being filmed so it doesn’t make sense to argue Jay’s response or lack thereof was “for show”.
      I’m certainly not disagreeing with you but just wondering if you, or someone else could develop the idea further – ? You say “…….but also not refusing to ignore the importance questions of potentially unequal power contexts” – could you suggest what they might possibly be in this context? Obviously we don’t know, but what sorts of things could they possibly be to justify violence?
      Also as an aside, no one seems to mention that Solange has a child, a very young son – he presumably does things that annoy her from time to time too – and presumably at times when there is no bodyguard around to restrain her – should there be concern for his safety? The power context there is that she’s bigger, richer and has legal dominion over him. You could argue the parent/ child relationship is systemic oppression, Shulamith Firestone did.

    3. Excellent response! One thing that I feel could have received a bit more attention is the ‘angry black woman’ stereotype. Could it be that this also had an influence in how we responded to the image and its collective appraisal? Just a thought which is still cooking…

  7. I think he is very smart guy. He’s Black, rich, famous, and male, he could lose so much in situation like this. I think his reaction was based on that more than anything. Solange, on the other hand, has absolutely nothing to lose here. What’s her motive?

  8. I found myself also jumping to blaming the victim and had a moment of shame when I reflected on my double standards related to violence. I also love your take on Beyonce’s (lack) of participation. I found myself questioning everyone’s insistence that she choose sides between two people she loves…particularly along lines that seemed to mostly support patriarchal norms. Love this article. Thanks for sharing your perspective.

  9. I support Solange. Sometimes you have to stand up for your sister. We know why she did what she did. And if you really want to “keep it real”, Bomb first. Thank you.

  10. Your thoughts on Solange are dead on. Your thoughts on Jay Z make no sense. Jay Zs reaction is dependent on having a 300 pound trained bodyguard to do the heavy lifting of fending her off. Jay Z only had to fend for himself for a few seconds at a time and was facing an errant foot as opposed to full on attack. When the bodyguard is constraining Solange, she is not attacking the bodyguard. She is trying to escape. If Jay Z had been left to himself he would have had to exert way more force to subdue Solange. To prevent her attack he couldn’t have even restrained her in the way the bodyguard did because she would have been delivering direct blows to his body. To act as if Jay Z’s actions in the elevator are the model for other situations is just absurd. Jay Z did nothing wrong, but few men have Jay Z security and wouldn’t have the luxury of acting that way if they wanted to protect themselves from harm. I’m not saying he would have had to deliver a Chris Brown beat down, or would have been justified in doing so, but certainly a more forceful and less laudable response would have been in order with no body guard.

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