Beyoncé’s song “Sorry” has some of the strongest feminist lyricism in the album. By crying “I ain’t sorry,” Beyoncé is taking a stand against masculine power and creating an anthem for women. Here, we will take a deeper dive into the song’s content, parsing it and discussing other critical viewpoints on the song. Are the unapologetic feminist war cries as inspirational and uplifting as are made out to be, or are they merely a farce for some other gain?
While other Beyoncé songs on the album, such as “Freedom,” may have a perspective on feminism through the rise of women in their own right, “Sorry” allegedly takes a different approach on transnational feminism by placing women adjacent to men within the context of the power dynamics created. As Dave Zirin says:
It was a staggering statement of the fragile-resilience of the black feminine self. I say “fragile resilience” because Lemonade is defined by these performative shows of strength amidst demonstrations of how difficult it can be to hold on to your mental wellness when not only a society steeped in racism and sexism lives on your back, but also the betrayal of the love of your life.
“Sorry” can be seen as an important showing of the mental state a woman can be in when reduced in power because of a man and shows a mentality that can be reached in order to overcome the pain felt in a patriarchal society. According to Beyoncé, one must find power in oneself, saying “Suicide before you see this tear fall down my eyes.”
Not all critics are so fast to put such weight on Beyoncé’s words, however. Famous feminist theorist bell hooks believes that Beyoncé is promoting an incorrect interpretation of women finding power against men. She sees the use of Malcolm X in the album among violent imagery to be completely counterproductive, saying:
Among the many mixed messages embedded in Lemonade is this celebration of rage. Smug and smiling in her golden garb, Beyoncé is the embodiment of a fantastical female power, which is just that—pure fantasy. Images of female violence undercut a central message embedded in Lemonade that violence in all its forms, especially the violence of lies and betrayal, hurts.
The arguably aggressive viewpoint of “Sorry” is potentially following this model, taking a stand against men and continuing the vicious cycle of pain. There is no good to be found in fighting others instead of communicating, argues hooks, and that it is unwise to wish women to “seize power” over the patriarchy.
- Harris-Perry, Melissa. “Melissa Harris-Perry’s ‘Lemonade’ Round Table.” ELLE, 11 Oct. 2017, www.elle.com/culture/music/a35903/lemonade-call-and-response/.
- hooks, bell. “Moving Beyond Pain.” Bell Hooks Institute, Bell Hooks Institute, 9 May 2016, www.bellhooksinstitute.com/blog/2016/5/9/moving-beyond-pain.
- Knowles, Beyoncé. Lemonade. Tidal. 23 April 2016.