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Still from Formation

Author bell hooks critiques Beyoncé’s Lemonade

The feminist scholar gives her verdict on the singer’s latest album

bell hooks is one of the leading voices on intersectional feminism. She’s written countless books on the overlap between race, capitalism and gender – and now, she’s written about Beyoncé’s Lemonade. In the essay, which is titled ‘Moving Beyond Pain’, hooks provides a critcal analysis of the album.

She starts off by saying that her first reaction to the film was “WOW – this is the business of capitalist money making at its best.” As well as praising its commercial success, she applauds the film’s diverse representation of black female bodies, how “portraits of ordinary everyday black women are spotlighted, poised as though they are royalty” and how “the unnamed, unidentified mothers of murdered young black males are each given pride of place.”

However she’s not without her criticisms: “Even though Beyoncé and her creative collaborators daringly offer multidimensional images of black female life,” she writes, “much of the album stays within a conventional stereotypical framework, where the black woman is always a victim.”

hooks also criticises Beyoncé’s notion of feminism. “Her vision of feminism does not call for an end to patriarchal domination,” she writes. “It’s all about insisting on equal rights for men and women. In the world of fantasy feminism, there are no class, sex, and race hierarchies that breakdown simplified categories of women and men, no call to challenge and change systems of domination, no emphasis on intersectionality.”

“In such a simplified worldview, women gaining the freedom to be like men can be seen as powerful. But it is a false construction of power as so many men, especially black men, do not possess actual power. And indeed, it is clear that black male cruelty and violence towards black women is a direct outcome of patriarchal exploitation and oppression.”

It’s not the first time hooks has critiqued Beyoncé and her brand of feminism. Speaking on a panel on liberating the black female body in 2014, she 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.”

Read the full essay here.