My Feminism Is bell hooks and Beyoncé
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I woke up this morning to two tags on a post that bell hooks wrote about Beyoncé’s new visual album, Lemonade. I’m sure before the day ends I’ll receive several more because everyone knows that my love for both bell hooks and Beyoncé runs deep. Both of these women have helped me get through difficult points in my life and academic studies in different ways. If you’re a long-time reader, you know that I frequently quote hooks work when I discuss parenting with feminist ideals. However, I’m not reading that article.
I’m not reading it because bell hooks dislike for Beyoncé borders on irrational at this point. She’s called her a terrorist in the past and consistently chastises the way she dresses and how she chooses to express her feminism, which is incredibly problematic. hooks refusal to see Beyoncé as a feminist directly goes against everything she taught us in Feminism is for Everybody. She positions her critiques of Beyoncé as being sisterly love or wanting her to do better, but yet she openly supports other celebrities, who are benefactors of the capitalistic machine that she demonizes Beyoncé for profiting from.
Beyond her criticism of Beyoncé as an artist, hooks commentary is harmful to those of us embrace feminity in our dress. She simplifies it in a way that implies we only dress this way for men, which just goes to show that even the most renowned feminist scholar can fall victim to the patriarchy. It also upholds this educational elitism that many academics fall victim too. If there is one thing I pride myself on as a scholar, it’s my ability to use my education to reach people who are not traditionally allowed into the academy. Reading hooks work actually inspired me to do these things, which makes it even more disappointing that she continues to disparage Beyoncé, a woman who is not part of the academy, but is reaching an audience many of us do not have access to right now. Beyoncé is using her platform in a way that provides those who are not part of the academy a view into Black history that their K-12 classrooms didn’t teach them. Hell, she’s even inspiring women who are part of the academy to create syllabi around those images and concepts, just check out the Lemonade syllabus. I’m kind of sad that I didn’t hear about this in time to contribute by the way lol.
Newsflash: There is no one way to be Black and feminist. Placing exclusions on who is, in fact, an “ideal” Black feminist is just as problematic as plain ol’ white bread feminism that excludes women of color. Let’s look past color for a moment and consider how the radical feminist movement has harmed transwomen by not only excluding them from the feminist conversation, but also working alongside those who put transphobic laws into place.
The way in which bell hooks and other Black feminists seek to exclude Beyoncé and other celebrities from the feminist table hurts Black women. It forces a one-dimensional view of what it means to not only be a Black feminist, but also a Black woman worthy of respect. Yall already know how I feel about respectability politics. So, let’s all remember that intersectionality matters and skin color is not the only requirement. Our feminism needs to intersect across professions, sexual orientation, physical presentation, sexuality, social class, etc.
My feminism is both bell hooks and Beyoncé, and if we’re saying that feminism is for everybody, yours should be as well.
Who are your favorite feminists?
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