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Politicizing BeyonceRutgers University recently made headlines for their Women’s Studies course entitled, Politicizing Beyoncé. The class, taught by Kevin Allred, identifies how “the performer’s music and career are used as lenses to explore American race, gender, and sexual politics.” Allred mentioned, “While other artists are simply releasing music, she’s creating a grand narrative around her life, her career, and her persona.”

There are questions about the validity of the class, and whether or not Beyoncé’s career actually warrants a course addressing social issues. While she has certainly made strides within the entertainment industry by coining a word recognized by Webster’s Dictionary, performing at the inauguration of our first Black President Barack Obama, being honored with a statue in her native Houston, and having an animal named after her, there is still a need to think this through completely.

Looking back over 15 years ago to the beginnings of Destiny’s Child, Beyoncé identified herself early on as a champion for female independence through her lyrics.

“Bug-A-Boo”, “Bills Bills Bills”, “Say My Name”, and “Survivor” were all songs which offered pop-oriented messages about powerful women in control of their own lives. The group’s landmark release, “Independent Women”, was further inspiration for women to claim their own territory outside of the confines of a patriarchal society. They sang, “tell me how you feel about this?/Try to control me boy you get dismissed/Pay my own fun, oh and I pay my own bills/Always 50-50 in relationships”.

Beyoncé said that “Bootylicious” was written on a long flight where she ran across an inspiring moment listening to the Stevie Nicks cut, “Edge Of Seventeen”. The guitar riff immediately pushed Beyonce into writers-mode, allowing her to visualize a woman’s hips vibrating back and forth, spilling her femininity in the air all around her. “Bootylicious” was an undercover anthem for many young girls who recognized the song as a celebration of a woman’s curves.

Yet, after we began to recognize Beyoncé’s songs as messages written to catchy tracks, discussions began to swirl about her intentions in the entertainment industry. Many believed that her songs of female empowerment would be short-lived and only existed around a time which saw the Spice Girls profitably deliver similar girl-power anthems.

Thus, Beyonce transitioned as a solo artist, claiming her sexuality and boldly displaying it in a more viciously provocative manner. On the music videos and stage performances from her debut album Dangerously In Love, Beyonce wore merely a few scraps of material covering her body at times. Her outfits were reminiscent of Tina Turner, Cher, and Josephine Baker, all of whom were initially criticized but ultimately made grand impacts on the music industry.

As Beyoncé continued to push the envelope with racier performances for her audiences, the numbers of followers began to grow. Her audience was captivated in concert similarly to a Michael or Janet performance, and she began to shed light on her ability to reach masses exceeding her contemporaries.

Beyoncé’s later songs “Single Ladies”, “If I Were A Boy”, “Irreplaceable”, “Run The World”, and “Listen” have been lyrical psalms for young female independence. They’ve offered an appropriate collaborative message to sideline her all female band (The Mamas) and dancers. Yet, while the superstar’s energy in the performance of these songs is vibrant, her constant grinding and lascivious sexualized acts have historically been hard for many viewers to swallow.

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76 Comments

  1. JUST MY THOUGHT'S

    Why do people keep saying Black women are hating when??? First off Beyonce owes her whole damn career to black women @QoNew we make up at least 80% of her fan base so have a seat with this mess and just because everyone doesn’t agree on giving her a college course does not mean that people are hating. so stop with these generalizations because black women aren’t even the only ones who aren’t that are sometimes unimpressed with Beyonce which by the way I am not even one of them. But why are black women always generalizing other black women for having opposing opinions and calling them haters because they don’t agree? If you ask me that word is being extremely misused. And as I always say as a black woman Beyonce has so much of my money I couldn’t possibly hate her just because she don’t need to be taught at nobodies college doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy her music and support her but hell Mattew Knowles needs a course before she gets one but if you feel it is necessary then go for it cause I don’t attend this college so it doesn’t directly effect me but my opinion on it still stands and I have a right to have one with out being accused of a hating on another black woman by some fiendish stans,

    I also wanted to add that I think this course equals easy money for this college because Beyonce got almost more stans than money and surely some of them must attend this school so I predict this class will be full pretty quickly and I believe the ultimate goal of doing this is how can we capitalize off of her fan base especially at a time where she is being most talked about because of her pregnancy and I think it was the same with that bug they named after and the kids clothing line that they named after her daughter. But stans can go on believing she’s this profound character who should be studied when she really is just a beautiful over saturated and very talented pop star. And when people see her they see dollar signs. #wakethefuckup #idiots

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  2. Excellent read! These pop star courses weren’t offered at the university that I attended. But honestly, if they were, I would of enrolled (including the Beyonce course).

    As a fan of music and semi fan of Beyonce the question of “has Beyoncé’s impact on the world really earned her a spot amongst, Tupac, John Coltrane, Nina Simone, Prince,” is debatable. Yes, she has catchy hits and several songs that empower the ladies which makes her a match for the Women’s Studies Department.

    But her music is not, at all as socially and politically expressive as a Tupac and Nina Simone which excludes the course to be offered in other departments like Black Studies.
    She is a pop star engine who knows her audience and feeds them with what they want.

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  3. Sparkle

    I don’t know about the course, however I would love to see a syllabus ! What bothers me is that people automatically write off Beyonce because she dresses provacatively (during performances) and asserts her sexuality. For example: “These women often prefer female-empowering artists which conversely display very little over-the-top sexuality, usually wear natural hair styles or head wraps, and always present themselves in a humble light. See: India.Arie, Erykah Badu, and Lauryn Hill.”

    Since when is there a one-size fits all mode for feminism or female-empowering entertainment?? In order for an India.Arie to exist there has to be someone on the opposite end of the spectrum i.e. Beyonce.

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