Before you dismiss hooks' assertions, there are several things at play here:

  1. hooks is a respected writer and thinker; her ideas have formed much of what feminists of color think about feminism, therefore she will always be relevant even if her thoughts are divisive. And yes, her thoughts are usually divisive and full of righteous anger. This is part of why most of us love/hate bell.
  2. Age is a factor. Older feminists don’t always see feminism in the same way as the generations after them — that's why we have the "waves." So where you and I might see Beyoncé controlling her sexualized image and turning it on its ear in videos like “Pretty Hurts” or claiming ownership of her body, hooks and my own mother would probably just think she fell victim to The Man’s idea of “being sexy” and she’s degrading her body to slang records. Not a lot of room for nuance there.
  3. hooks is the old auntie at the dinner table who doesn’t care if you like her opinion or not. She’s going to say it and she’s earned the right to do that, just like we’ve earned the right to disagree with her.

As for Beyoncé being a "terrorist," it seems to me that hooks was opting for some Cornel West-style sensationalism (I'm thinking of when Dr. West when he called President Obama a "global George Zimmerman"). It's a strategic move to share your perspective with the most controversial words possible — if the goal is to draw attention to your opinion, it works.

Beyoncé has stayed demure during most of her career, allowing the public to think what they wanted about her. However, with her 2013's surprise Beyoncé LP, she shared her exact thoughts through each song, complete with complementing video interviews. Hearing from the woman herself, it's that she’s in control of her image and her music. It is her choice to literally show her ass in the “Partition” and “Blow” videos. And it's a great ass, but it also conforms to beauty norms. Bey knows the norms aren't necessarily a good thing; when she attacks the unrealistic standards of beauty in clips like “Pretty Hurts” and starts a website called “What is Pretty?” asking fans to submit their definitions, she seems to push back against the constraints of beauty standards. She plays by the aesthetic rules, yes, but her messaging tells us that she refuses to be defined by them.


I'll play devil's advocate for a moment: These efforts might ring hollow as the pop star parades around in tailored bodysuits, flaunting the perfect hourglass shape. And that is hooks’ point, no doubt, but what’s the alternative? Beyoncé eschewing her diet and walking away from the treadmill? She is a business, and she wants to look good. That's fine, and I think her feminist messaging is an attempt at balancing the human Beyoncé with Beyoncé the business. And ultimately, that's her business.

And for all that terrorism talk, bell hooks still can't help but dance.


Image via Getty.