Solange’s Jay Z Attack Is No Joke: Why We Need To Take Violence Against Men Seriously

What happened in the elevator is more than a meme.


by Daisy Buchanan |
Published on

Anything Beyoncé does has the power to blow up Twitter. Put her in a lift with her sister (Solange) and her husband (Jay-Z) and you can break all social media forever. When TMZ posted a video of the rapper being attacked by his sister-in-law, the mocking memes started to emerge before many of the biggest news outlets had even had a chance to cover it. An Instagram user posted, ‘I Wish Solange Would’ across an image of Chris Brown, #whatJayZsaidtoSolange was trending worldwide almost instantly and someone doctored Solange’s Wikipedia page, adding 'Jay-Z’s 100th problem' under ‘Occupation’.

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Twitter was the first place that I saw news of the attack, and I was tempted to join in with the jokes and memes. But when I saw the video itself, I was horrified. Solange hits and kicks Jay Z so forcefully that she’s restrained by a bodyguard. The idea of watching a woman going for a guy with the heel of her stiletto seems quite comical, until you see Solange actually doing it and you realise that it’s deeply distressing and aggressive. Commentors have wondered why Beyoncé stood stock-still and watched, but if her reaction was like mine, she may have been frozen with horror.

Imagine the scenario was gender-flipped. Or, if it’s easier, think about what our reaction would be if Jay-Z had gone for Solange

Now imagine the scenario was gender-flipped. Or, if it’s easier, think about what our reaction would be if Jay-Z had gone for Solange. I’m pretty sure the reaction wouldn't have been humour – but rather universal horror. There would certainly be a few people making inappropriate memes or playing insensitive hashtag games, but I doubt we’d be sharing and retweeting so gleefully. I think we’d find it chilling. People are declaring their loyalties with the hashtag #teamsolange and speculating about what it was that Jay-Z did to drive her over the edge. But victim blaming is never OK, even if the victim is male and one of the most financially successful entrepreneurs in the US.

According to a study conducted by the charity ManKind, two out of every five victims of domestic violence and abuse are male. Last year, 720,000 men were believed to have experienced abuse.pdf){href='' target='_blank' rel='noopener noreferrer'}. And, as Nicola Graham-Kevan, an expert in partner violence at Central University, puts it: 'Society is blind to women's aggression… People often won't believe that men are victims [of female violence].' Surely our collective reaction to this incident is only going to make it harder than ever for vulnerable men to get help. We’re not taking Jay-Z’s assault seriously, and we saw it happen. So what happens when violence is hidden from view? No man or woman should ever feel that they will lose respect and credibility when they’re weak and in danger, no matter how strong they seem on the outside.

Victim blaming is never OK, even if the victim is male and one of the most financially successful entrepreneurs in the US

I suspect our fan culture is a big part of the problem. Solange has become a hipster darling – we love her music, we love her outfits and we thought we loved her ethos. Beyoncé fans wanted her to be the offbeat offshoot of her big sister, and having a visible sibling in the biz made the Knowles empire seem a little softer and easier to relate to. The assault simply doesn’t fit with our concept of Solange and, specifically, who we want her to be, so we make light of it at the expense of Jay-Z, even if he is a victim of violence. It’s horribly reminiscent of the early stages of Operation Yewtree, when some people simply refused to believe that some of their childhood heroes could possibly be guilty of horrible crimes because they were the cosy figures who came into their homes via the TV every Saturday morning.

We struggle to accept that women can be violent and aggressive, and that comes with its own set of problems. We’re socialised not to express our anger and so we don’t always find healthy ways to release it. We can speculate endlessly on what motivated Solange to attack, but we’ll never get anywhere. But it’s safe to say that she was deeply distressed and needs help and support. But there’s nothing funny about what happened to Jay-Z and making a joke out of it perpetuates the myth that only men are potential attackers, and women are their probable victims. Feminism doesn’t just exist to address the problems women face, but to ensure all men and women are treated equally and kindly. And that means we support, assist and listen to anyone who faces abuse – even if it is at the hands of Beyoncé’s little sister.

Follow Daisy on Twitter @NotRollerGirl

Picture: Rex

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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