Studying Beyoncé: singer becomes subject of university course
Beyoncé. A record breaking female artist. A popular sex symbol for the 21st century. And now the subject of a university course?
‘Politicising Beyoncé’ is being offered by the Rutgers University Department of Women’s and Gender Studies.
The successful female artist provides a new perspective on gender, race and sexuality, says Kevin Allred, course lecturer.
The course compares Beyoncé’s music videos and song lyrics to the writings of black feminists such as Sojourner Truth, Alice Walker and bell hooks.
Allred discovered the work of black feminists as a homosexual teenager growing up in a conservative town in Utah.
“I found myself identifying with their writing because racism, sexism, homophobia, and privilege are larger systems under which we all operate” he commented.
The reading list for the ‘Politicising Beyoncé’ course is primarily made up of black feminist texts, an academic discipline in which the politics of identity are particularly important. The black feminist movement sees the politics of gender, class, race and sexuality as inextricably linked to one’s identity.
Allred developed the course after teaching women’s studies at the university for four semesters. Course discussions often moved round to Beyoncé and the apparent hypocrisy between her girl power lyrics and racy fashion sense.
And that’s one thing that Beyoncé manages to do – raise discussions. Her empowering lyrics and attitude, juxtaposed with her saucy videos and sexy image has sparked debate over her place as a feminist icon.
However, whether you view her as a fourth wave feminist, or simply as a scantily clad sex symbol, her career has offered a new lens through which to study gender politics.
If the course helps a whole new generation of students to discover the influential writings of the black feminist movement, then what’s the harm in that?