Yesterday bell hooks dropped her critique of Lemonade/all things Beyoncé. Spoiler alert– bell still feels the same about Beyoncé. And it still reads violently. And it still hurts to watch. Be not deceived, couched in a lengthy word count and what appear to be concessions that allude to bordering on positivity, bell publicly came at Bey’s head. Also a Black woman. Again.
The easy stuff. Bell said Bey ain’t saying nothing new or revolutionary. I addressed that in my last piece. I must say I’m surprised to hear that from bell whose own work built on what had been said by Black feminists before her. The point is that bell, like Bey, found her own way of saying it, a way that speaks to many. But in case you ain’t convinced, bell drops a few works she does believe worthy of praise. And they are. I just would have expected bell to cite work by the first Black feminists to touch American soil since she’s making the “but she ain’t saying nothing new” argument. For the last time (today), say it with me…shared experiences mean few of us are saying anything new. Doesn’t make it any less valid. Moving on.
Bell argues that Lemonade doesn’t solve patriarchal domination. Did those fifty’leven books bell wrote solve it? ? Ok. I legit might need a good talking to for that one. #Butwherethelie My point is that none of this works alone to solve patriarchal domination. Why are we suddenly putting that burden on Bey alone? Collective. It’s a collective. And so is the effort.
“Beyoncé wreaks violence.” Memba when folks accused Black activists and protesters of being violent when property got damaged in Ferguson? The same folks who weren’t mad that an actual person was killed? To accuse Bey of being violent when she in fact harms no one physically and visually plays out reconciliation without leaving Jay Z short a couple of limbs…That particular comment feels like people who tell Black folks that we should always respond to oppression with peace. Bey made it clear which side she stands on when it comes to the Martin/Malcolm dichotomy. But I suppose after you’ve labeled a Black woman a terrorist, calling her violent is light work.
“The scantily-clothed dancing image of athlete Serena Williams also evokes sportswear.” Where bell? Where? I swear fo’ Lawd I ain’t think about sports or sportswear once when I watched Serena dance. I’m pretty sure that was the point. Much like the Sports Illustrated Cover Serena which depicted a similarly scantily-clothed Serena. A cover Serena dictated. All I thought about watching Serena was the wholeness of my Black womanhood. A Black womanhood that makes room for scholarly publications, a code-switching blog and twerking. Sometimes all at the same damn time.
Bell’s issue with Black femmes. Janet Mock dropped the mic on that one so ain’t no need to say what Janet said better.
“Can we really trust the caring images of Jay Z which conclude this narrative.” So many layers to this particular point of bell’s. First, because that trust ain’t ours to give. It’s Bey’s. Second, on a larger scale it reads like the exclusionary nature of historical white feminism that had no room for Black women who insisted upon not leaving Black men behind. if we can’t trust the caring image of Jay, are we to not trust the caring images of any of our brothers? What’s the criteria? Who determines which brothers can be trusted? Must we depend on bell to tell us?
In accusing Beyoncé of falling into stereotypes, bell attempts to force Bey and Serena into quite a few of her own choosing. Serena, according to bell is only athlete. Not the powerful woman Serena herself puts forth herself in Lemonade and on the SI cover. In continuing to deny Bey and Serena agency time and time again, bell herself invokes the patriarchy. Bell reinforces the notion that Bey’s agency is not hers to claim and must be validated by an outside source. This is problematic, even when that outside source is the legendary bell hooks who, in her own right been putting in that work.
Bell’s critique lends to the idea that Lemonade is static in that it does not move beyond pain. As I stated in my first piece, the presence of so many young women speaks to the future, of moving beyond the pain. The presence of grieving mothers speaks to moving beyond pain. Those mothers are still here. They survived. That alone speaks to the ability to move (sometimes literally) beyond pain while still acknowledging it. Because that’s necessary and because Black women are often deprived of the ability to express pain and to be justifiably angry about it. To rest in that anger if necessary. Yes bell, to celebrate the rage. Because the fact is that the sisters are healing. And that might not look familiar to many. Might not even look familiar to bell. The beauty of our healing is that it doesn’t have to be recognized by anyone else.
I’m going to be transparent. Writing this piece has me feeling some type of way. My feelings are hurt. For a few reasons. I don’t expect bell to agree with all things all Black woman. Or anything Beyoncé. I do expect that her love for Black women would include a respect that I don’t see evident in her critiques of Beyoncé. Bell’s continued public assaults tell me that her Black feminism has no room for Beyoncé. And I’m left to wonder, did bell ever have room for me?