Beyoncé’s 2013 self-titled album, followed by her game-changing “Lemonade” album in 2016 have both laid the foundation for Omise’eke Tinsley’s course “Beyoncé Feminism, Rihanna Womanism” at the University of Texas at Austin.
The undergraduate course garnered headlines when it was launched in 2015 and the class quickly filled to capacity. Using the concept albums to explore Black feminism lead to Tinsley’s new book “Beyoncé in Formation: (University of Texas Press; $17.95).”
“It was really clear to me from the classes I’ve taught that students were really hungry for more conversation about Black feminism and women-of-color feminism,” said the author.
According to Tinsley, Beyoncé’s embrace of feminism had a powerful cultural impact that is still influencing fans and fellow artists. “When Beyoncé stood up in front of a brightly lit sign that read ‘Feminist,’ it was a unique moment … a Black woman was popularizing feminism, and then all these other white popular musicians, like Katy Perry, followed suit. So it’s this unique cultural opening, where the face of feminism is not only undeniably popular, but unapologetically Black.”
Tinsley writes as she teaches: from a queer, femme perspective that explores concepts in relation to her own marriage to a trans-man and personal a from “living, teaching and loving in Queen Bey’s home state.”
“Here I was, living for the first time in the U.S. South and craving images of what it means to be a Black woman who loves women in the U.S. South, and (the) ‘Lemonade’ [album] opened that space,” shared the visionary feminist scholar.
“I feel like 2017 and 2018 have been really rich with Black woman artists, like Janelle Monáe and Cardi B,” reveals Tinsley. “So often students hear about how terrible it is to be a Black woman in the South, but I also want them to know that there’s this toolbox that artists are referencing about how to survive and thrive and be happy as a Black woman.”
This “mixtape” memoir is an empowering presentation that encourages readers to think outside the box of when it comes to defining feminism.
“‘Womanism’ is a term that was coined by Alice Walker in ‘In Search of our Mothers’ Gardens‘ and she meant it as a Black counterpart to feminism,” explained Tinsley. “She was responding to the ways that women of color have been excluded from canonical feminist theory in the US. So, womanism focuses on the preservation of Black women’s culture as well as on interpersonal relationships — that the relationships between Black women and Black men are important. And Black women’s love for themselves and for other Black women is a feminist act.”