“I Was Like, This S**t Is Boring”: bell hooks On Nicki Minaj’s “Anaconda” Video, Beyoncé And The Female Body In Pop Culture
“The pu**y is old hat.”
That was one of the first statements that bell hooks made during the panel, “Whose Booty Is This?” at the New School in New York. hooks and the women on the panel (including Anna Czarnik-Neimeyer, Lynnee Denise and Stephanie Troutman) spoke about the new obsession in the media with booty, and female sexuality in pop culture as a whole.
“One of the reasons we’ve moved from the pu**y to the butt–the ass, the booty–is that it flips that so that it’s no longer about who has rights in the female body, but who has access to the female body.”
The panel spoke openly about women in media today and the craze over the butt. Nowadays, many notable women willingly expose their assets to the world to show that they are sexually liberated. But hooks questions if that’s the case. Beyoncé was a big topic in this discussion and throughout a majority of the panel.
“This continues to be somewhat of a crisis within feminist thinking, the inability to name what we mean when we talk about feminist liberatory sexuality. And one of the things that we see, and if I were critiquing Beyoncé on this, is the collapse of hedonistic sexuality with the notion that it’s liberating. If I’m a woman and I’m sucking somebody’s d**k in a car and they’re coming in my mouth and we can be in one of those milk commercials, or whatever, is that liberatory because I might be the person initiating that? Or is it really part of the tropes of the existing, imperialist, white supremacist, patriarchal capitalist structure of female sexuality?”
hooks touched on the this idea of sexual freedom again later on in the panel.
“They can exercise control and make lots of money, but it doesn’t necessarily equate with liberation. Most of us are pretty intoxicated with money and with making money and I really feel strongly that even with Beyoncé, even with all her talent, her looks and everything, people wouldn’t be so into her if it wasn’t that she’s also so rich. And the fact that she’s young and so, so, so wealthy so, so, soon, is as seductive as the booty, if not more so. There’s a lot of booties out there that are glamorous, but not connected to the fantasies of wealth — and we equate wealth so much with freedom.”
She also touched on the image of today’s stars on the cover of magazines and on TV and what messages their looks give off. They wear the long weaves, the blonde hair and the contoured noses, and hooks wondered whether or not these same women would be embraced if they embraced more natural looks.
“Can we imagine Beyoncé with her dreadlocks, moving the heart and soul of all the white people who claim to be so moved? Or is it that part of what they’re moved by, is her own kind of self-effacement and abjection that is always there?
Try to imagine her with some nappy dreads or some nappy hair up there swinging and dancing. And think, would she have the money she has in this culture? Is there a kind of blackness that isn’t sellable or marketable?”
hooks also said that she wishes more images would be put out there that are varied and display different experiences and looks for our young girls and women.
“I’m not lifted up by the image of [Laverne Cox on the cover of Time] or Beyoncé lifted up on the white magazines and the way they’ve been dressed and the way they look. I don’t look at those images and feel lifted up. Whereas when I go to the Carrie Mae Weems show and I see particularly the section on “Roaming” in Italy, I’m lifted up. I’m more than lifted up, I’m carried away…I wish for black girls and black teenage girls that those images were as accessible to them as the images of pop culture that are limited in their vibrancy and even in their beauty. Because a lot of times it’s a lot of reproduction of the same. That’s one of the things that struck me about “Anaconda.” I was like, this sh*t is boring. I have seen it in the first couple of shots and I kept calling people like, ‘What does it mean?’ Is there something that I’m missing that’s happening here?'”
If you have the time, check out this very enlightening panel discussion below and let us know what you think.