Nicki Minaj may have attracted many looks and headlines over the racy video to her song “Anaconda,” but for bell hooks, the clip falls into the been there, seen that many times category.
The feminist/social activist was among a group of women weighing in on female sexuality in pop culture during a recent panel at the New School in New York called “Whose Booty Is This?” Other participants included Anna Czarnik-Neimeyer, Lynnee Denise and Stephanie Troutman.
Hooks’ mention of Minaj’s video came as she expressed a desire for variety of images that showcase different looks and experiences for 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,” hooks stated. “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?’”
Minaj wasn’t the only celebrity mentioned in the panel. Beyoncé also came up during the open discussion as the panelists touched on women in today’s media. Regarding how many notable women show their sexual liberation through their willingness to expose their body, hooks questioned the notion as she referenced Queen Bey.
“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 liberatin’,” she explained. “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?”
Beyoncé was cited throughout the panel as hooks zeroed in on the power of money and the booty.
“They can exercise control and make lots of money, but it doesn’t necessarily equate with liberation,” the author noted. “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.”