‘Beyoncé Feminism, Rihanna Womanism’ course goes mainstream at several colleges

Beyoncé and Rihanna have transformed from entertainers into a political topic in a college course that has become an academic hit among students

Beyonce (L), Rihanna (Getty Images)

Dr. Omise’eke Tinsley is gearing up for another run of her successful college course, “Beyoncé Feminism, Rihanna Womanism,” which is where pop culture, Black culture and a lesson on women’s rights, unite.

Back in 2015, Tinsley, an associate professor of African and African diaspora studies at The University of Texas, launched her course “Beyoncé Feminism, Rihanna Womanism,” a class that helps analyze how these women of color — and women in power — both reflect various aspects of intersectional feminism. In an interview with The Texas Standard, Tinsley spoke on her decision to use both Bey and Rih as entry points for a conversation on feminism.

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“The wonderful thing about Beyoncé and Rihanna is that very few people have no feelings about them. People have strong feelings about them, some positive some negative,” Tinsley said. “This is also a course that students are going to have strong opinions. To find a way for them in a large classroom to be able express those opinions, I think is going to involve some creativity. And perhaps things like doing some dance moves, right, to allow some room for expression of course.”

Fast forward four years later, and as it stands, Tinsley has already taught the course six times, including a run at Harvard University back in Fall 2018.

In a recent interview with Elite Daily, Tinsley opened up about the run of her course, and how much has changed since she initially introduced the class in Spring 2015.

“It quickly became apparent to me that people were showing up to this class for Beyoncé and to think about what it meant to them to be Black women and Black queer people in the U.S. South,” Tinsley revealed.

She said all she had prepared went out the window almost immediately, including barely being able to get passed the first two slides of her prepared Power Point presentation.

“I got through two slides. In an hour and a half. Because the students had a lot to say. The students took the conversation in directions that started out from where I was starting, but went somewhere else.”

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Tinsley also noted that Beyonce’s visual efforts in Lemonade, which was heavily influenced by the Black Southern experience, had a huge impact on her syllabus changes as well.

“I wanted students to know — and I wanted to be reaffirmed — that Black women in the South have long, rich traditions of creating meaningful lives for ourselves … despite and because of the oppression around us.”

Despite the fun name of the class, Tinsley tells Elite that her course is far from all fun and games, and is not just an outlet to “stan” your faves. Even with her book, Beyonce in Formation: Remixing Black Feminism, Tinsley credits extensive research to the large success and credibility of her course and published work.

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“I did not rely on my love and knowledge of Beyoncé videos to write the book I wrote about Beyoncé,” Tinsley said. “I treated that subject matter with the same amount of rigor that I would treat anything else.”

Tinsley’s “Beyoncé Feminism, Rihanna Womanism” returns to the University of Texas in Spring 2020.