Beyoncé, Hillary, and ‘The Good Wife’: The Power of Women Scorned

IMG_3270First, Hillary Clinton was talking about carrying hot sauce in her bag at the same time that “I got hot sauce in my bag” became a catch phrase, thanks to Beyoncé’s Super Bowl song, “Formation.” Then Beyoncé put out an entire album, Lemonade, about enduring a husband’s cheating and eventually, if very publicly, forgiving him.

Beyoncé and her husband, Jay-Z, have been prominent supporters of our current president—with whom Clinton worked closely during his first term, as she reminds us every chance she gets. But perhaps it’s Hil’s inauguration at which Bey should be singing. Beyoncé and Hillary have more in common than it seems on the surface: They both have deep southern ties (hot sauce in bag), they’ve both fought their way to immense power in the particularly sexist worlds of politics and music, and they’ve both now become poster women for sticking with a marriage after a partner’s infidelity. (We can debate whether Bey embellished or fictionalized for her art, but it doesn’t matter—this narrative is part of her image now.) But their spiritual similarity on that last issue goes one step farther: They have reached new, dizzying heights of power after, possibly even because of, their decision to “stand by” their very powerful men.

That said, their version of standing by is hardly the one espoused in the Tammy Wynette song. Their version flips the script on the trope of the pathetic doormat who suffers through her man’s infidelity silently. Granted, Hillary Clinton was forced by media coverage (to put it lightly) to face her husband’s indiscretions publicly. But her eventual ascent in politics on her own terms, while continuing to stay married to former President Bill Clinton, showed their partnership was based on more than monogamy. Was it, and is it, strictly mercenary and power-driven? We’ll likely never know. But there’s no doubt, when you see Bill campaigning for her now, that they’re true partners. Hillary is far from a sad, scorned woman. She is, in fact, likely to be our next president, the historic first woman to hold the office.

Beyoncé, for her part, has always signified power. Even as far back as her Destiny’s Child days, she was singing about “Independent Women” and “Survivor”s. Now, even on an entire concept album about a husband’s infidelity, her most vulnerable work ever, she has still managed to maintain the power position. In the full-length film version of the album that debuted on HBO last weekend, she smashes car windows with a bat and gathers powerful women around her constantly, as if men aren’t necessary. She’s clear that he—whoever “he” may be—is the idiot here. From “Don’t Hurt Yourself”: “Who the fuck do you think I is? You ain’t married to no average bitch, boy.” From “Hold Up”: “Let’s imagine for a moment that you never made a name for yourself … Never had the baddest woman in the game up in your sheets. Would they be down to ride?” And, true to her standard style, she gives us plenty of gloriously empowering catch phrases, and even physical gestures, that we can use to invoke our own power when we’re feeling wronged: “Boy, bye.” “Middle fingers up, get them hands high.” There are few better moments in pop music than when she spits, “Suck on my balls, I’ve had enough.”

The Good Wife will conclude in a little over a week with its May 8 series finale, and that seems suddenly, oddly, perfectly timed, given the ascent of Hillary and Beyoncé. Main character Alicia Florrick borrows liberally from the real life of Hillary Clinton: The show’s premise was inspired by the string of cheating scandals that has continued to bring down politicians since the Clinton-Lewinsky days. It imagines what happens when you make that wife, the one dutifully standing behind the disgraced politician, the center of her own narrative. We’re finding out, after seven excellent seasons, that Alicia is hardly the sad woman we may have imagined her to be if we’d never seen the story from her perspective. Even in the most recent episodes, when her husband finds himself embroiled in another scandal after she told him she wanted a divorce, we understand that when she agrees to “stand by” him as the news comes out, she’s the one doing him a favor. She’s the one with the power. Whether she stays married to him is her decision, and that decision does not change her status as a smart, successful, powerful woman.

Any chance of a joint Beyoncé-Hillary cameo on that series finale? Probably not, but I think those three would have a lot to talk about.


  1. What a well written and powerful post! Thanks for giving us something to think about. I love that the rhetoric around women being too emotional is changing to one where we derive power from the emotions that once were used to make us seem weak.

  2. Great piece this one is and I have just shared in on my Facebook page (with requisite acknowledgement, of course, thank you).

    There is a prominent place for women in all spheres of life.

    And from my perspective (without encouraging teaching on either side), it does not mean if the husband cheats the wife must kick his ass out. The reverse is also true (I am an Afrikan man though, I take this with two pinches of salt. Pre-1990, most men in my village had more than one wife).

    It is girl time!

  3. Alicia is also facing the dilemma of having to choose between keeping on keeping on with her gorgeous lover…or staying with her husband for old times sake (I guess…they do seem like a well-matched set…) 🙂

  4. Alright, so this article leaves out a huge part of Lemonade. And that is the visual and lyrical references to incredibly strong and powerful, Black Femininity in this country, in all its glory, after triumphing over incredible adversity in our nation’s history (slavery, racism, brutality- by police and others). This article left out Hillary’s support of former Pres. Bill Clinton’s draconian (and failed) war on drugs. This article left out Hillary’s and Bill’s public frustration with (even dismissal of) the Black Lives Matter movement, in STARK contrast to the end of Beyonce’s Lemonade film, where the camera focuses in on the Black women left behind, devastated, carrying portraits of their Black men, young and old, now dead, killed by police or the likes of neighborhood “watchmen” (really, thugs) like Zimmerman. Beyonce and Hillary do not have as much in common as the author of this piece would like us to believe. This article is reaching so hard to make a connection between Hillary and Beyonce. And missing so many key points.

    1. Of course, this is all completely true. This was really about this one specific issue (women scorned and how they’re portrayed in the media), nothing else. Both women are such huge figures that there are many, many complicated issues they could bring up.

  5. All of these women are inspirational to me. Alicia deserves more than Peter , I commend Hillary for sticking by Bill , and I think it’s just time that Bey cut Jay-Z loose , but I think they stayed together because of Blue Ivy and that fact that separate they are great but together they are powerful.

      1. The ending of this show was SO disappointing. Alicia was indeed scatter-brained sometimes, but she did not deserve the implied ending that she wanted it all and ended up with nothing. I like to think that in the sequel her crooked husband had a stroke of goodness and suggests that Alicia be off with Jason and happy forever after. The husband (see? I don’t even recall his name!) demonstrated well that it wouldn’t take him long to replace Alicia with Some Other Woman.

      2. no, I didn’t hear about the spin-off. Yes, I did think the ending was open-ended, and that perhaps Jason was waiting just beyond that doorway…but I have always been a romantic. 🙂

      3. The all-time worst finale for me was Invasion a few seasons ago…I really like William Fitchner, and in fact I enjoyed the whole cast on Invastion. The plot just…ended… I hate that. In a perfect world they would at least attempt to concoct some kind of ending, not just drop off a cliff. The Steven King thing also had an unsatisfying ending…all the loose ends slopped together! The acting on there was SO bad, except for a couple of the kids, that it was disgusting.
        As for the good-wife-spin-off I won’t watch it…it didn’t seem to have much of a plot except for Alicia…I sort of watched that by default because it followed Madam Secretary, which I really like… sigh…

  6. Reblogged this on Overlooked News and commented:
    I love how this post inspires thought about the treatment of women in media and politics with a simple narrative. This comparison between two incredible powerhouses is especially awe inspiring, I love this!

  7. I love how this post inspires thought about the treatment of women in media and politics with a simple narrative. This comparison between two incredible powerhouses is especially awe inspiring, I love this!

  8. I see nothing inspirational about being a bitter & resentful woman scorned.
    But then again, I don’t find my inspiration in other peoples business…
    Minority, I know. In more ways than 1.

    Have a lovely day or whatever you deserve.

  9. lol Hillary was Bill’s bulldog in tearing down women who claim he sexually assaulted and Beyonce is a created talent who has men who write her songs.

  10. She is indeed a powerful woman & so is every woman in the world, In India woman are considered as ‘SHAKTI’ meaning the force that drives the world !

  11. This is a powerful piece and I love the way it also empowers me. Having been through the heartbreak of a cheating spouse I know how Low the lows can get – and while I am nowhere close to achieving the highs that beyonce or Hillary have achieved, I believe that I have managed to claim my victories through my work and success. Invite you to a new collective blog that we write on as three mothers (I am the single mum) – would love to collaborate

  12. Your article and some of the praising responses refelct the generation of who we have become as a society.

    To make the comparison of Beyonce to Hillary and then to a television show, “The Good Wife”? Comparing a highly educated woman to an Entertainer, with not much talent, but great PR? You put them in the same category which they are not.

    However, let’s talk real dirt about infidelity. Reality check! Most high powered men transgress. Most of their wives stand by their side. So this is not unusual. Surely not a method of comparison nor bonding.

    To transgress I do have one question? See in the 90’s, when Bill Clinton was President it was known that he ran everything by Hillary. Hence the nickname “Billary” came out. You seem to feel that Hillary will be the next President, so will we be calling her “Hillbilly” because she’ll run everything by her husband Billy?

    A triggering read, so job well done.

    1. Some recent research shows that infidelity has become equal between the sexes when focusing on “opportunity”. Opportunity means status, money and indeed opportunity to cheat (travel). The percentages among are 24% for women and 26% for men and the gap is closing with more women in high status jobs. The consequences and the pain of infidelity remains enormous and are long-term.
      Beyonce equals good PR nothing else. I agree. Although interesting as a concept comparing two totally different personalities…not my thing.
      Thanks ranting for your input.

  13. did Beyonce really forgive Jay-Z? I thought she was being tongue and cheek when she said the album was dedicated to him and “love ya baby” I didn’t take it as forgiveness as much as she’s part of the monied empire and wiling to endure their mutual low self esteem. For the money, But maybe I didn’t see or hear enough to know. So I’m asking.

      1. Oh. Thanks for telling me. I wonder why it’s about forgiving him… like why she is doing that. I really don’t get it!

        Icky. 🙂

        Well, great post because I needed the bigger insights. I thought at last here is something I can admire Beyonce for: She’s calling him out and gonna respect herself better and leave the dumb bastard. LO… My halo effect strikes again. Drats foiled again. Guess diamonds were worth it after all. And all the drama gonna buy more bling and maybe she can give people some shopping sprees at walmart again so the little people still worship.

        Thanks for allowing my rant. ‘preciate it.

  14. I see Beyonce as a strong and talented woman who has risen to the top of the entertainment world through incredible talent and hard work. Hillary, on the other hand, is someone who has waded through incredible corruption and slime in the pursuit of power and wealth. How many of Bill’s victims did Hillary help intimidate and silence in order to boost her own future political career?

    As far as I see it, the only similarity between Beyonce and Hillary is genitalia. All similarities end there. Just because she’s a woman doesn’t she has to be a champion and inspiration for women.

    I hope that women everywhere will be more discerning in their selection of heroes.

    1. yes you younger generation of women should be more discerning of thier selection of heroes, however look at our current culture. Loved your response, but I am a fan of neither of these women and certainly they are not heroes. Mother Theresa was a hero.

  15. There is a lot more in this article than simple narrative. According to me, the strongest idea appears to be the ‘dominance of the powerful’. Much thought provoking.

  16. I heard the whole infidelity was supposed to be more recent, and that it was made up to increase the publicity and sales for “lemonade.” I don’t know if it’s true, though.

    1. Yeah, I’ve heard all sorts of things, but I don’t really feel like it matters: This is about the message of her actual album, which is a narrative about surviving infidelity. I will likely never know what happens between these two very famous people in their private lives, and they’re allowed to tell whatever stories they want through their music, you know?

  17. Well written. Both are strong women, personally and professionally. I just hope no woman ever stays with a man simply because of his power and position.
    What I also admire about them both is that they haven’t shied away from the fact of actual or alleged infidelity. HC and BK don’t hide it. They are the winners of that situation.

  18. I also find these women so powerful and am a huge fan of the good wife (the last episode left me crying and feeling very sad). Beyonce’s music is so strong and powerful. I’m not sure if you’re heard Flawless. Its is pure motivation for when I exercise. I don’t think it could match any pill. With regards to a cheating partner, I’m not sure what the right or wrong way is to deal with that, however I can’t help but admire the woman who despite the hurt and public humiliation continues strongly on her path. Great post.

  19. I’m a little late to the party here, but I wanted to point out that stories of infidelity almost always focus on a woman scorned. Once they get caught, the cheating man is told he doesn’t deserve to speak, and the other woman is shamed. Before they get caught, though, they often have interesting stories and complex motivations, and that’s what my own blog is about. I hope that some of your readers can look at it and take at least one step back from judgment.

  20. Here we all were last year that wishing Hillary Clinton wins the US presidential elections.
    And what did we get for rooting for woman lead America for the first time in history?
    An awful character in the form and shape of Donald Trump, a weird oaf who managed to wriggle his way in the White House riding on the voters of right-wing and ‘christian’ conservatives

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