African studies department to offer course on Beyoncé, Rihanna

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Photo Credit: Mariana Munoz | Daily Texan Staff

The Department of African and African Diaspora Studies will offer a class spring 2015 titled “Beyoncé Feminism, Rihanna Womanism,” which will highlight how the actions of these women reflect aspects of black feminism. 

Natasha Tinsley, associate professor in the Department of African and African Diaspora Studies, created the concept for the class and will teach it. She said she chose these two women to be the focal points of the course because she believes they are currently the two most quoted women in the world, and they have the capability of reaching a larger audience than any other activists. 

“Their words reach around the world in a way no other African-American or Afro-Caribbean woman’s currently does,” Tinsley said.

Beyoncé and Rihanna have both sold millions of albums worldwide and are ranked in the top eight of Forbes’ “The World’s Most Powerful Celebrities” of 2014 list. 

According to Tinsley, a course on the feminism of women of color is important because it serves as a reminder that this topic offers insight on race, class, gender and sexuality, which are applicable to everyone.

“Since black women’s voices have traditionally been excluded from the academy, it’s important to offer courses that feature those voices so that students can have access to the rich analytical tools black feminism offers,” Tinsley said. 

This course is one of many offered by the University whose curriculum is focused on popular culture. Mary Beltrán, associate professor who teaches “Film & TV Stardom” in the Department of Radio-Television-Film, said it is important to teach classes about popular culture because it reflects what is relevant in our time period. 

“I think that it’s helpful for people to consider that pop culture reflects our culture and cultural values and our ideas about race, gender, class and social power,” Beltrán said. “It can be a way to study American history and what was important in our culture during that time.”

Another course offered by the University that focuses on this theme is “Advertising and Popular Culture” in the Stan Richards School of Advertising and Public Relations. Finance sophomore Adrian Robison, who enrolled in the course last semester, said he took the class because he thinks it is important to understand what we are exposed to on a regular basis. 

“I took the class to learn where pop culture comes from — how it’s created,” Robison said. “It helped clarify some of pop culture’s diverse range of origins — some of its ambiguities — and how we interact with it.” 

Tinsley said she hopes the course can provide students with an understanding of what feminism looks and sounds like. 

“I hope, first, that they will take away the idea that theorizing is something that black women do everywhere and all the time,” Tinsley said. “Feminism isn’t about hating or detracting from anyone but about cultivating respect and love.”