The New School in New York City hosted a panel discussion this week that has caused quite a stir after author and social activist Dr. bell hooks called Beyoncé a “terrorist.”
”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, referring to a recent TIME magazine cover photo. The 32-year-old singer made the cover of the magazine’s “100 most influential people” issue last month.
Things got a bit heated when author and transgender activist Janet Mock argued Beyoncé–who is her own manager at this point in her career–had control over the image, as well as any image she takes.
“I would argue she chose this image, so I don’t want to strip Beyoncé of choosing this image — of being her own manager,” Mock said.
hooks then made comments that has stirred controversy amongst feminists.
“Then you are saying, from my deconstructive point of view, that she is colluding in the construction of herself as a slave,” hook said. “I see a part of Beyoncé that is in fact anti-feminist — that is a terrorist, especially in terms of the impact on young girls.”
“If hooks’ analysis held Bey’s humanity at the center, she would necessarily come to different conclusions about whether Bey is a terrorist or not,” said Brittney Cooper, a professor at Rutgers University and co-founder of the group of feminist bloggers Crunk Feminist Collective.
Cooper said she’s disappointed that hooks’ analysis “conflated Beyoncé’s brand and image with Beyoncé the person.”
“She trots out the ‘what about the children argument’ as a way to police how Beyoncé styles and presents her body. Black women should be able to be publicly grown and sexy without suffering the accusation that our sexuality is harmful, especially to children,” Cooper said.
Other feminists who Fusion spoke with also disagreed with hooks comments, especially when you consider Beyoncé is her own manager.
“Beyoncé is very much in control of her image, meticulously so actually. She makes decisions about how she is presented and I’m with Ms. Mock–I believe Beyoncé presents herself in ways that make her most comfortable and happy,” Feminista Jones, a self-identified ‘sex-positive’ black feminist writer, , told Fusion.
Tanisha Ford, a professor at University of Massachusetts Amherst said some of Beyoncé’s recent actions actually demonstrate her power, that she uses to protect her own self image.
“We saw that powerfully when she took control over who could take and publish photos of her during her Mrs. Carter tour. This power allows her to shape the contours of her public image on her own terms, and it’s power that most black women (even those who are wealthy, educated, and so forth) don’t have,” Ford said.
“I think Janet Mock’s comment in response to bell hooks speaks to the reality that black women of different generations, of different social classes, of different life experiences will read and interpret Beyoncé differently,” Ford went on to say.