Using popular musicians as a tool for learning isn't unheard of, especially at Rutgers University.
Last year, Bruce Springsteen was part of a Rutgers theology course that examined the parallels between his work and religion. Now, Beyoncé is the taking center stage in the classroom.
The New Brunswick, NJ higher learning institute is offering a course called "Feminist Perspectives: Politicizing Beyoncé." The class instructor, Kevin Allred, is a white, male PhD student and lecturer in Rutgers' Department of Women's and Gender Studies. "This isn't a course about Beyoncé's political engagement or how many times she performed during President Obama's inauguration weekend," he says. "Rather, the performer's music and career are used as lenses to explore American race, gender, and sexual politics."
Since 2010, Kevin has used Beyoncé's videos, music, image and lyrics to compare with Black feminist thought. The course came from Allred's four semesters of teaching Women's Studie's 101 and often the topic of Beyoncé would come up. "She certainly pushes boundaries," he says. "While other artists are simply releasing music, she's creating a grand narrative around her life, her career, and her persona." The students often debate about how she walks a thin line: Is she just another sexy pop star or a true "girl power role model"?
Considering Allred's race and gender, he often gets questioned for his 'lack' of qualifications. "Of course, there are people who'll say, 'You're not black. You're not a woman,'" he says. "It's something I'm always questioning and staying aware of so as not to overstep any bounds or make any claims for a group that I don't belong to. It's a fine line and I want to remain respectful of that."