Though Beyoncé’s Lemonade is aesthetically divine and she is a goddess for her passion and energy and voice, bell hooks raises some important points of critique of Beyoncé’s work that are worth listening to, in her thorough questioning of what it really is Beyoncé is trying to fight and her methods (lusty violence, sexualisation of black female bodies, fantasy feminism disengaged from the very real and historically-weighty binary and exploitative power structures that real feminism and that in its deconstructive mode seeks to dismantle for true equality) by which she does this.
Essentially, however, bell might have to take arms with the music industry at large, the global audience and market of popular music, ‘a world of gendered cultural paradox and contradiction’ itself. She shuns Beyoncé’s ‘stylized, choreographed, fashion plate fantasy representations’ and ‘glamorous showcasing of Deep South antebellum fashion’, disregarding the fact that Beyoncé’s very promoting of ‘unnamed, unidentified mothers of murdered young black males’ and ‘real life images of ordinary, overweight not dressed up bodies’, is in itself realistic and laudable. The, in fact paltry and meagre, ‘glamorisation’ of which bell speaks seems misplaced in the context of the multi-billion dollar industry with which Beyoncé is working to, respectably, promulgate and diversify images of the life, struggle and superlative victimisation of the black woman in America (and arguably worldwide).
bell concludes, ‘To truly be free, we must choose beyond simply surviving adversity, we must dare to create lives of sustained optimal well-being and joy. In that world, the making and drinking of lemonade will be a fresh and zestful delight, a real life mixture of the bitter and the sweet, and not a measure of our capacity to endure pain, but rather a celebration of our moving beyond pain.’
Thus the female artist (and beyond that, all women) can no longer sway recklessly, as comes so naturally, between femme fatale and her dramatised acts of confused and pained vengeance against the sometimes demonised but more often charmed, heroified and worshipped male perpetrator. She must build her own robust and durable structure of self-representation, self-expression, and, ultimately, self-respect.
© Gabriella Zoe Harris. All rights reserved.