This past week, Jay-Z released 4:44, his first album in four years, following his wife Beyoncé’s 2016 Lemonade. Immediately, fans zeroed in on the title track, which contained lyrics that pretty much eliminated any residual doubt we had that he cheated on Beyoncé at some point in their marriage.
And, just as quickly, fans turned the most common story of all time—infidelity—into a spectacle of incredulity that overshadows what is really just a very simple story of a man, a woman, complete betrayal, and the complicated task of forgiveness.
There was a certain sentiment passed around last year when Beyoncé released Lemonade, and it has resurfaced over the last few days. The common reaction from fans seems to be, “Who could cheat on Beyoncé of all people?”
I flinch a little every time I hear it.
I can admit that any woman whose nickname begins with “Queen” definitely has more of a majestic power surrounding her public presence, and it might seem unthinkable that a man could cheat on pop culture royalty. But when anyone begs the question, “Who could cheat on Beyoncé of all people?” it supports the idea that most other women are ordinary, basic, and weak enough to fall under the category of Plausible Victim of Infidelity.
Beyoncé is a woman. She’s a girl from Texas. She married a dude named Shawn who changed his name to Jay-Z. She’s an iconic figure, sure, but she’s also a woman. She is not, nor will she ever be, less likely to experience infidelity. Her odds are as good as ours. Why? Because a woman’s profession, income level, attractiveness, fierceness, classiness, stage presence, or dance skills have absolutely nothing to do with her man’s decision to step out. It does, however, have everything to do with his weakness and lack of integrity. His infidelity is a one-man show, and there is a not a woman out there who can sing or dance her way into making him a decent partner. It’s his character and his active decision, through and through.
It’s detrimental to look at a woman like Beyoncé and think that she’s too rich, powerful, strong, or independent for a man to cheat on her. That type of notion supports the idea that there are some women who deserve to be cheated on.
It supports the idea that all the women out there who are not Beyoncé (you know, the rest of us) are just not amazing enough to dodge adultery. It supports the idea that all the other “ordinary” ladies out there are somehow more easily cast in the role of The Deceived.
The phrase “Beyoncé, of all people” does nothing but put her on a pedestal and lower any other woman who has ever been cheated on down to Basic Bitch Realm. I know sassy, beautiful lawyers who have been cheated on. I know intelligent, hilarious entrepreneurs with asses that won’t quit who have been cheated on. I know kind, ethereal women, who love with their whole hearts, who have been cheated on. I know women who are bravely doing their best to simultaneously love themselves and others and, they too, have been cheated on. I know students, mothers, and doctors who have been cheated on. I can add my name to this long, endless list of diverse women.
I can say with certainty that we all have one thing in common: A conflicted man who was not strong enough at the time to either love us, work with us, or leave us.
There is not a woman out there who deserves to be cheated on.
And if you’re still able to think of one who could be a more plausible or deserving victim (i.e. the meek prude, the ‘skanky hoe,’ the less pretty, the dirt poor woman, etc), I challenge you to rethink the external values that you place on women for simply being something other than Beyoncé. Instead, I urge you to take a deeper look at all the Shawns of the world and wonder what it is about them that makes them unable to love or leave women properly. “4:44” is a valiant effort to do just that.