Good news for stans! You can finally get college credit for doing what most of us have been doing for free – and without accreditation – on Twitter since its inception. You can now argue about who is better? Rihanna or Beyonce?
Better yet, you can argue Beyonce’s feminism vs. Rihanna’s womanism. According to KMBZ.com, The African & African Diaspora Studies department at the University of Texas will be presenting “Beyonce Feminism, Rihanna Womanism” (course number: AFR 372C, 29690 for those interested in changing majors).
According to the course description, which is available on the website, It’s All Academic:
By comparison, this class has a very eye-catching title. Whether or not you are a Beyoncé Bey or part of the Rihanna Navy, it will cause you to do a double take while scrolling through electives. The one downside, students may not realize the type of academic inquiry or material that will be covered in the course.
Students in this class will learn that there is far more than catchy melodies to Beyoncé’s and Rihanna’s music. They will not be simply listening to Beyoncé and Rihanna for fun or even comparing the roles of Beyoncé and Rihanna in popular culture, rather, students will be studying how the lyrics, music videos, and actions of these women express various aspects of black feminism such as violence, economic opportunity, sexuality, standards of beauty, and creative self-expression. The instructor hopes for students to understand the role black feminism plays in popular culture as well as everyday life.
For any student interested in women’s and gender studies or how popular culture reflects social studies, this is a class that will make them fall crazy in love.
While Beyoncé has been very vocal about her feminism, I don’t recall Rihanna declaring herself a womanist. So I’m not certain how fair and empowering it is to put a label on her that she might not own or even want. But there is no denying that Rihanna’s entire persona is so expressive, culturally centered, sexually-liberated and steeped in independence. With that in mind, I can certainly see the correlations. For instance, think about her in regards to Alice Walker’s definition of womanism, taken from In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens: Womanist Prose (and off of this Tumblr):
1. From womanish. (Opp. of “girlish,” i.e. frivolous, irresponsible, not serious.) A black feminist or feminist of color. From the black folk expression of mothers to female children, “you acting womanish,” i.e., like a woman. Usually referring to outrageous, audacious, courageous or willful behavior. Wanting to know more and in greater depth than is considered “good” for one. Interested in grown up doings. Acting grown up. Being grown up. Interchangeable with another black folk expression: “You trying to be grown.” Responsible. In charge. Serious.
2. Also: A woman who loves other women, sexually and/or nonsexually. Appreciates and prefers women’s culture, women’s emotional flexibility (values tears as natural counterbalance of laughter), and women’s strength. Sometimes loves individual men, sexually and/or nonsexually. Committed to survival and wholeness of entire people, male and female. Not a separatist, except periodically, for health. Traditionally a universalist, as in: “Mama, why are we brown, pink, and yellow, and our cousins are white, beige and black?” Ans. “Well, you know the colored race is just like a flower garden, with every color flower represented.” Traditionally capable, as in: “Mama, I’m walking to Canada and I’m taking you and a bunch of other slaves with me.” Reply: “It wouldn’t be the first time.”
3. Loves music. Loves dance. Loves the moon. Loves the Spirit. Loves love and food and roundness. Loves struggle. Loves the Folk. Loves herself. Regardless.
4. Womanist is to feminist as purple is to lavender.
Note: For those who want a refresher course on defining feminism, you can check out this link here. But even without the labels (or mislabeling), I can see some very fruitful debates coming out of this course, particularly around how we relate to each celebrity’s womanhood. And in fact, I can probably write an entire dissertation myself on the parallels as well as distinctions, but there aren’t any jobs out here for knowing Beyoncé and Rihanna.
What is interesting to note about this course description is how Rihanna is given the title of womanism, which has cultural ties, while Beyoncé, who has declared herself a feminist, is looked at from that angle, and according to some, “feminism” is only made for white women. I’m interested in seeing how the intersections of race (including intra-racial issues) as well as class (is feminism for more affluent women whereas womanism is for us commonfolk?) play into the debate.
But what say you? Are we here for a course focused on Beyoncé and Rihanna’s gender politics?