This week students learned to read against the grain as we analyzed bell hooks’ “Moving Beyond Pain” for our main reading.
It was a week packed with new vocabulary, explorations of misogyny and misogynoir, and Lemonade.
“Don’t you all find it clever hooks used the word ‘BEYond’ in her article about Beyoncé? Get it?” I love wordplay and risk being corny.
Since we are moving along in our course about research (and argument), I had students give me the lecture about who our featured writer is this week. Students did their research and explained why hooks selected her name and writes it in lowercase letters, how prolific a career hooks has had so far, and hooks’ career arc spanning over 40 years.
Our reading was hooks’ analysis of Beyoncé’s most recent album, Lemonade, so we also looked at one of her pioneering music videos from the album: “Formation.”
Students weighed in during our class: was hooks too hard on Beyoncé? Do people, not just hooks, put undue pressure on Beyoncé, one person (though a remarkable one), to do all the work of social change? There were mixed responses, and I was overall pleased at how critical students were. We had numerous microdiscussions within the lecture, and one of the most lively was the representation of women in popular media.
Visual Art: Lorna Simpson, “Waterbearer”
For our first warm-up, students analyzed Lorna Simpson’s 1986 piece, “Waterbearer,” which got them thinking about Afrocentrism and Afrofuturism, some of the themes in Beyoncé’s work. Holding the past while existing in the present, bearing weight, and the pain of being silenced or purposely misunderstood were brought up in our discussion.
Song: Erykah Badu, “Bag Lady”
We also examined Erykah Badu’s “Bag Lady,” a piece filled with symbolism, in small groups. Students were eager to analyze the lyrics in Badu’s piece, I find this group enjoys the socio-spiritual aspects of art. I encouraged them to also see the socio-political aspects of Badu as well. One of my students pointed out Badu has influenced a lot of other artists and led them towards new stylistic choices modeled after her body of work.
When it came to discussing women, one of the questions, especially concerning women of color was: “Can they ever do anything ‘right’ in the eyes of the public?” How broad, but when you consider the large role of misogyny and misogynoir, it’s helpful to wonder broadly.