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Take a Britney Spears 101 Class

Interested in gender studies? Spears scholars weigh in on why the pop princess should be considered a feminist icon.
BY Braingain Staff Writer |   25-03-2015

Does Britney Spears matter from a feminist perspective? Find out by taking a class taught by Spears scholars Rachel Goldberg and Suri Ratnatunga. The class eponymously titled "Britney 101: From Humble Beginnings to Pop Icon" channels multimedia presentations, including pictures and videos, which trace Britney's high-octane career in the context of two questions: Why should Spears be considered a feminist icon? And why is she so compelling to so many people?

Participating in a workshop-style "Britney 101 Class" at Greenpoint, in Brooklyn can't be converted into real college degree credits, but it can be illuminating from a gender studies perspective. It is one of the coolest classes in New York, taught for small groups of 10, so seats fill out quickly.

Over the course of 90 minutes, the Spears scholars weigh in on material like the "Baby One More Time" video concept.

"It’s one of the most iconic videos of all time, and she was 16. It plays on this Madonna/whore complex you’ll talk about in any gender studies 101 class. Women are put in this box where they have to be virginal or over sexualized, and I think Britney decided right away she was going to play off of that. It flies in the face of that contrast women are put through," New York-based writer Rachel Goldberg told "Time Out New York."

Goldberg adds; "We have a video showing the paparazzi following her around and her head shaving and another video of her commenting on that. We go over her breakdown and also just the concept of craziness. We trace the word hysteria, which comes from the Greek word hystera, which means “uterus.” Being crazy is historically a female problem. [Britney] represented the hysterical woman. When you look at the evolution in her career, she owns her craziness; in “Womanizer,” she says, “You say I’m crazy, I got your crazy.”

Britney's first two albums sold more than 39 million records, making her part of a teen-pop trifecta, with the Backstreet Boys and 'NSync. The multibillion-dollar new-media economy has fed off her celebrity.

Goldberg and Suri put Britney's dramatic career into a broader social context, with explanations of the star's bumpy journey, while delving into the true meaning of Britney's fame, and cultural reverberations.

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