Laverne Cox has become a new-age feminist and transgender activist of our time, winning over fans across the board for her role on “Orange Isthe New Black” as much as her work for transgender rights. But just because she’s beloved by many doesn’t mean that Cox isn’t without critics, and one of those critics of hers is feminist icon bell hooks.
Last week, the two public figures sat down together for a panel at The New School in New York, where they discussed issues of feminism and identity.
Although Cox and Hooks praised each other for their respective work, with hooks calling Cox a “goddess for justice,” hooks avoided letting their meeting turn into a “love feast” and, respectfully, criticized Cox for her stereotypically “feminine” look of heels and blonde wigs.
However, Cox defended herself, saying, “This is where I feel empowered, ironically, and comfortable. I think it’s important to note that not all trans women are embracing this, but this trans woman does. And this trans woman feels empowered by this.”
Cox recognized that there is a struggle for women to conform to new and realistic standards of beauty or to the traditional way that beauty is shaped by “imperialist white supremacist patriarchy.” But when she asked the crowd, “Am I feeding into the patriarchal gaze with my blonde wig,” hooks quickly answered “Yes.”
Although the two women reassured that they had respect for each other, hooks took the conversation to a broader level and suggested that when black celebrities and role models wear “white” hair styles, it “may be sending a message to somebody younger that ‘I must be self-hating.’ ”
Indeed, it’s an interesting topic to explore and there’s definitely something to be said about both sides of the argument, especially since the way celebrities dress has a direct effect on the identities and self-esteem of our youth. Hopefully, through both of their work, these two women and others like them can help open up the ideas of beauty beyond the sometimes damaging stereotypical ideas we seem to be stuck on. –nicholas robinson