Everyone loves a photo slideshow, don’t they? Unless you’ve been living under a rock, I’m sure you’ve seen the footage of Solange going H.A.M. on Jay-Z while in an elevator with Beyoncé at last week’s Met Gala. I generally avoid petty celebrity gossip; it’s usually followed by an onslaught of disgusting and ignorant commentary, and I have no interest in meddling with the personal lives of public figures. But I’ll go on and be honest and politically incorrect by admitting that I was dying at the memes that popped up in my Twitter and Instagram feeds last night in response to the incident. A few of my favorites:
Just as I was ready to put this story (and myself) to bed, “The Good Men Project” cleverly seized the moment by tweeting one of their recent articles on how social media is used to poke fun at violence projected unto male victims. Andrew Smiler writes:
“I’m sure a meme that joked about a woman ending up with a welt on her forehead from her husband’s ring would be reported as offensive. I know a comedian who joked about a woman getting raped would be damned all over the Internet; just ask Tosh. Violence against women isn’t funny, but violence against men is hilarious. WTH?
“When we publicly laugh at male victims of violence, we’re mocking them for being victims…You are literally laughing at their pain. So next time you’re contemplating making fun of male victims, or laughing when someone else makes fun of them, ask yourself if that’s really the message you want to send. Maybe it’s not funny after all.”
Reading Smiler’s piece made me feel a little ashamed; I agree with his points and I identify as a feminist fighting against domestic and sexual violence. Still, I was skeptical of whether his points fully applied to Jay Z’s situation. There’s no question that Solange shouldn’t have assaulted him, regardless of what it was that made her so angry at her brother-in-law. Jay Z didn’t deserve to be attacked by his sister-in-law either, no matter what it was that he did or didn’t do. But I’m hesitant to compare Jay Z’s incident to the larger narrative of domestic violence against men because of his own messages he’s projected through his brand as an influential artist, as well as the realities of the hip hop/social power structure between men and women.
I can’t speak on how Jay Z carries himself in his private life, but I think it’s worth remembering that this a man who heavily relies on a persona steeped in patriarchal ideas of what define masculinity. Furthermore, he’s casually referenced (you could even say endorsed) domestic violence against women in his music as a result of it. Remember “eat the cake, Annie Mae?” I would venture to say that the reason people find this incident so amusing is that we all know that even though Solange was throwing the punches, she’s not the one that’s dominant here because of the narrative we’ve assigned to her. Solange isn’t just violent, angry and uncontrollable black woman; she’s more like a foolish little woman-child throwing a tantrum, frustrated that her talent and her wealth isn’t as abundant as her sister’s and her brother-in-law’s.
Regardless of what people want to say about men and domestic violence, it’s ironically the woman who’s inflicting it that is the butt of the joke. Yes, I’m sure there were a lot of nervous laughs yesterday when this story broke. Between the abominable memes that made conflated Rihanna’s infamous assault with this one that was suffered by Jay Z and this situation’s strange, muddy parallel to slut-shaming and blaming females for their rape, it seems like no one can walk away from this story with a definitive answer on how it should be evaluated or what can be learned from it. All I know is that I’m not quick to be sympathetic to either party on this one. Solange truly made herself look like a damn fool in that elevator, and I’m sure a course in black feminism would do Jay Z a world of good. Hell, even Beyoncé could have done something, instead of just standing there like a dear in headlights.
I don’t know what it was that Jay Z did to provoke Solange (because I know she didn’t just spaz out for nothing). Furthermore, I’m sorry that their very private moment got blasted out to the entire Internet. Each and everyone one of us have family members that drive us batshit, and this whole blow-up just goes to show that the Knowles/Carter family is no different. Whatever it was that put Jay Z and Solange at odds with each other, let’s hope that the two can patch things up.
P.S. Don’t be tight that I had this long, didactic post waiting underneath all these photos when you thought would just get to laugh at the Knowles-Carter family guilt-free. You knew I couldn’t throw my girl, Solange, under the bus by just posting some tacky photos on here, didn’t you?