Beyonce Knowles was called out as supporting an anti-feminist agenda by Dr. bell hooks who spoke on a discussion panel earlier this month at the New York New School. The discourse was titled, “Are You Still A Slave?” and included a conversation between hooks and trans icon Janet Mock. Marci Blackman and Shola Lynch are contemporaries who shared commentary. Hooks’ main argument centered on the problem that she defined as stemming from Beyonce’s participation in the degradation of girls’ values.
The panel talked about the role that women of color’s images play in the media. Beyonce came up when the talk turned to her recent cover on Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People where Beyonce is featured in underwear. The Telegraph wrote a piece that highlighted the comments made by readers that questioned what Beyonce was wearing.
The Telegraph article reminded readers of the magazine’s special edition alternate covers that presented other celebrities completely clothed. Men like athlete Jason Collins and actor Robert Redford did not pose almost nude which brought up the question over whether the image is sexist. However, General Motors CEO Mary Barra also has a cover and she is dressed in a conservative blazer. According to the article, this reveals that Beyonce’s embodiment as a woman in the music industry allows her to be placed in an objectified “vulnerable” position.
Dr. hooks was extremely disappointed in Beyonce, and she critiqued the performer’s depiction extensively. The outspoken activist scholar went straight to the heart of the school of Black Feminism when she posited Beyonce’s image at the intersection of race, class, and gender. Hooks contextualized the pop star’s exploitation in the crosshairs of where identity politics meets capitalism by postulating that Beyonce, “probably had very little control over that cover—that image.”
What distinguished hooks’ comments from her peers’ remarks revolved around the issue of consent. Panel members went back and forth over whether Beyonce had control over the shot. Mock brought up that she was hesitant to, “strip Beyonce of her agency.” Blackman took the chance to chime in as well, debating that Beyonce was reclaiming her own power by consenting to the photo.
Dr. hooks was not having it and took the time to continue to call out Beyonce Knowles’ anti-feminism. In this quote she factors in Beyonce’s class status saying that the singer’s body represents, “the body of desire fulfilled that is wealth, fame, celebrity, all the things that so many people in our culture are lusting for, wanting.”
Hooks’ poignant remarks grew to encompass a general understanding of what she determines to be the media’s assault on feminism. She attests that feminism’s discreditation is not overtly propagated in such a way that calls for the dismissal of less tangible methods. Hooks shares her observation on feminism’s biggest enemy, the media. “I actually feel like the major of assault on feminism in our society has come from visual media, and from television, and videos.”
According to hooks, feminism is challenged by popular culture. Compared to the other speakers on the panel, Dr. bell hooks explicitly called out Beyonce’s anti-feminism doing the most to strike down the partition that divides the public’s perception of feminism and fame.
By Reivin Johnson