Five College Consortium

S-Radical or Respectable:

Subject Name: 

Women, Gender, Sexuality

Course Number: 
UMass Amherst
The American public is fascinated with black women's sexuality, their performance of gender (non) normativity, and their perceived criminality. The language of "radical" and "respectable" is often used to describe black women both in popular culture and in scholarship. These terms are employed to denigrate and/or celebrate black women, their bodies, and their political and cultural contributions. But, is there a clear line between radical and respectable behavior? Have constructions of radical and respectable changed over time? Are these terms even relevant in the twenty-first century? These three questions will guide our discussions and debates on representations of black women in contemporary popular culture and digital media. We will use feminist theory to explore the various cultural constructions and problematic controlling images of black womanhood. Our in-class debates and activities will focus on real and fictional women such as Michelle Obama, Beyonce, Alike (Pariah), and Olivia Pope ("Scandal") as well socially constructed images such as the jezebel, the sapphire, and the black lady. During our class meetings, we will view and analyze a wide range of primary sources-- including fashion magazines, films, novels, music videos, and album cover art. We will also read classic black feminist texts as well as some cutting-edge scholarship on body politics and queer theory. Students will be expected to write two short essays and design a creative portfolio of original and reproduced material.
Instructor Permission: 
Permission is required for interchange registration during the add/drop period only.
Schedule #: 

Course Sections

S-Radical or Respectable:
Sect # Credits Instructor(s) Instructor Email Meeting Times Location
01 3.0

Tanisha Ford

TU TH 11:15AM 12:30PM