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The battle between bell hooks and modern day female artists continues. Last week the feminist scholar-in-residence led a panel — called “Whose Booty Is This?” — for New School students that put a critical lens on the butt “trend” that’s now made it to the mainstream. She then used this time to come for Beyoncé (again) and Nicki Minaj.

New York Magazine reported:

According to hooks, reducing female sexuality to “the pussy” raised questions about “who possesses and who has rights in the female body.” By contrast, the booty is a more visible, PG-13 stand-in for female sexuality, easier to represent (and sell) in pop culture, but freighted with more racial connotations. A booty-centric vision of female sexuality, hooks explained, asks, “who has access to the female body?”

hooks and Beyoncé need to talk about “Partition,” specifically. The song’s lyrics exemplify hooks’s somewhat conservative fear that feminist women might be sexually liberating themselves “against their own interests.” “If I’m a woman and I’m sucking somebody’s dick in a car and they’re coming in my mouth and we could be in one of those milk commercials or whatever, is that liberatory?” hooks asked. “Or is it part of the tropes of the existing, imperialist, white supremacist, patriarchal capitalist structure of female sexuality?”

hooks’s criticism of Beyoncé’s self-presentation extends to her appearance. Take her Time magazine cover, with stick-straight blonde hair.“I mean, try to imagine Beyoncé with some nappy dreads. Would she have the money that she has? Is there a kind of blackness that isn’t marketable?” Though hooks says she likes Beyoncé’s music, she would prefer everyone go look at Carrie Mae Weems’s photographs of black women instead. “I wish for black teenage girls that those images were as accessible to them as the images of pop culture that are limited in their vibrancy and are in some way a reproduction,” she said.

“That’s one of the things that struck me about ‘Anaconda,’” she continued. “I was like, this shit is boring. What does it mean? Is there something that I’m missing that’s happening here?”

Well, I too thought Anaconda was a boring video and was in the ‘been there, done that’ territory. But beyond that, hooks’ criticism seems to be in the ‘been there, done that’ territory as well. It’s very easy for an older generation of women to criticize current celebrities like Beyoncé and Minaj for always putting hot sex on a platter, but they seem to ignore the fact that maybe women find pleasure in displaying themselves or in pleasing a man but on her own terms?

To stifle these women’s expressions is to stifle the potential breadth and the width of feminism and all its possibilities. Do little girls need other images aside from Beyoncé and Nicki Minaj? Of course. It’s the same way that my generation needed other images than Lil’ Kim and Foxy Brown. Thank goodness that for a brief moment, we had Lauryn Hill.

What does matter is not necessarily that every woman conduct themselves the same, view sexuality and pleasure the same, but that we have the option to be different and define our individual power. There will always be a male wanting to gaze and we should create for ourselves the opportunities and freedom to give a thousand different views of womanhood, femininity, and feminism so he can have no opinion, no say so on how things should be.

Diana Veiga is a Spelman woman, a DC resident, and a freelance writer. Of course, she’s also on Twitter.

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  • Guest Post

    Like someone else said, men have won the sexual “revolution.” Who’s really being liberated? They pretty much get everything they want, when they want it and barely have to do a thing for it. When young women of the Beyonce/Nicki generation are 45-50 years old they’ll understand the repercussions of this sexual “liberation” movement.

    If you care the only thing that you can really do to fight these messages is to mentor a young girl in your life. Teach her value herself beyond what she has to offer sexually,

  • Ang28

    If feminism is about equality of the sexes how does talking about all the sexual things you are willing to do to men make you their equal?

  • sankofa

    I mean it’s a sorta damned if you do damned if you don’t argument. One that to me ceases to be infuriating, b/c I feel particularly as a black women so many expect you to be sexually demanding, neck rolling heathens so much so that in order to be taken “seriously” one must quell their sexual appetite completely.
    I dunno I have no problem with two powerful black women owning their own bodies and their own sexual preferences/desires, because I feel like that is discourse that women of color (esp. BLACK women) fail to have on a popular platform. Because god forbid as a black woman with a big butt that you actually enjoy said butt, god forbid you actually enjoy “sucking somebody’s dick”, god forbid you enjoy being a human in control of your body how you present yourself and what you want, IN ADDITION to contributing to the discussion of feminism or womanism in topics such as class struggle, political representation, LGBTQIA affairs or the multitude of issues that still need attention.
    I probably could’ve used more commas in that last sentence…
    The point is, there is nothing wrong with black women owning their bodies and being a part of the discourse on feminism. I don’t get why so many people still seem to see the two as mutually exclusive??? Like…?

  • AP

    Respectfully, Beyonce and Nikki Minaj are not comparable by a long shot so to label them both the same way is disturbing. Nikki grotesquely distorted her body to exaggerate her butt (black male symbol of black female sexuality) and use her new self-proclaimed barbie doll image to get rich. She is a caricature of black female sexuality and it disappoints. She is also serves as proof that the sh*t works and yet again “sex sells”. Beyonce on the other hand is first of all MARRIED. She is not talking about giving random BJ’s to dudes just for sh*ts and giggles – this is her husband and lets also not forget “yonce all on his mouth like liquor” (lick her, get it). In the very same song she is “sucking dick” she also talks about receiving too. That is a perfect expression of male/female sexual equality and it is especially important that this is a black couple. When I was in my late teens/early twenties (about 10 years ago), black men would never, ever admit they went down on a female whether they did it behind closed doors and denied it to their friends or flat out refused to do it. This turning of the tide of public acceptance of the act of oral sex on a woman by a man, especially within the black community and most especially by a powerful, respected man like Jay Z, is evidence that if there is a side that has to “win” the “revolution” its not the guys. So because she chose to marry a man and enjoys sex with him that means a working mother who runs a multi-million dollar entertainment empire and makes a point to hire all female musicians on tour at age 33 is not a symbol for female empowerment!?! I am currently attending law school part time and working full time while my husband helps around the house and with our daughter… and guess what I like sucking his dick and he likes licking my “pussy”. I have no problem with my daughter looking up to Beyonce. I’m not listening to the latest album when she is in the car because of course the lyrics are not appropriate for a child BUT there is no reason for her not to know who she is and that there is a woman who is literally taking the world by storm and doing whatever the f*ck she wants to do. She runs her own sh*t.
    **Whew. All that being said, the all blonde all the time thing is a bit of a drag but that’s a whole different post isn’t it….

    • Mel

      Yes! You better go off. I completely agree. :)

  • I mean

    I feel like she is missing something in regards to the Anaconda video. I felt like Nicki was projecting an insecurity that she is the ass queen. Let me explain, because I’ve actually been thinking about this. Black women are told by the media that the only thing desirable about them is their ass. We are not called beautiful, smart, or even funny (by the media of course). The only thing that makes us special, valuable, and worthy of love and admiration is our ass. And then out of nowhere White women with ass injections are popping. And its like the only thing that made Black women valuable and special is on someone whose identity is valued by our society. Nicki Minaj got ass implants because she knew it would make her valuable in the White gaze. But now she has competition, and its White. She knows her value in the White gaze/ mass media can get hit pretty bad. And to make thimgs worse for Nicki, Iggy is cosigned by a woc (jlo).