Famed feminist, author and social activist Dr. bell hooks has some qualms about Beyonce and the feminist perspective she projects.
Hooks took part in a panel discussion at New York's New School on Wednesday, May 7, alongside trans advocate Janet Mock, filmmaker Shola Lynch and author Marci Blackman. The conversation (titled "Are You Still a Slave?") discussed how images of women of color are presented in the media and what messages they send. The topic of Beyonce arose in relation to her recent Time 100 magazine cover, for which she posed in her underwear, garnering criticism at the time of the issue's release.
“Let’s take the image of this super rich, very powerful black female, and let’s use it in the service of imperialist, white supremacist, capitalist patriarchy, because she probably had very little control over that cover, that image," hooks said.
Mock argued that Beyonce does have control over such imagery, but hooks disagreed with the notion that "we can recoup the violating image and use it ... even if it serves you to make lots and lots of money." From here, hooks segued into a discussion of Beyonce's socioeconomic status:
I’ve really been challenging people to think about, would we be at all interested in Beyonce if she wasn’t so rich? Because I don’t think you can separate her class power and the wealth, from people’s fascination with her. That here is a young, black woman who is so incredibly wealthy, and wealthy is what so many young people fantasize, dream about, sexualize, eroticize. One could argue, even more than her body, it’s what that body stands for -- the body of desire fulfilled, that is wealth, fame, celebrity, all the things that so many people in our culture are lusting for, wanting. If Beyonce was a homeless woman who looked the same way, or a poor, down-and-out woman who looked the same way, would people be enchanted by her?
Hooks delivered her most pointed critique of the superstar later in the conversation:
I see a part of Beyonce that is, in fact, anti-feminist, that is assaulting, that is a terrorist ... especially in terms of the impact on young girls. I actually feel like the major assault on feminism in our society has come from visual media and from television and from videos. Just think, where do we even know, as of late, of any powerful man of any color that has come out with some tirade against feminism? The tirades against feminism occur so much in the image-making business, and what we see.
Others have challenged the idea of Beyonce as a feminist champion before. One of the most heated discussion arose after her performance beside husband Jay Z at the 2014 Grammy Awards. The singer received backlash over Jay's lyrics in her song "Drunk In Love" which reference a disturbing domestic abuse incident between Ike and Tina Turner in the biopic "What's Love Got To Do With It."
Hooks noted her own issue with Beyonce and Jay Z's Grammy performance while speaking with the Feminist Wire in March.
"The live [Grammy awards] performance is disruptive in its essentialist rendition of patriarchy, which makes her powerful embodiment no longer sexy nor as compelling as it was in the video."
Watch the full discussion at the New School on May 7, below.