Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name

English (Literature)

Department or School/College

Department of English

Committee Chair

Katie Kane

Committee Co-chair

Bob Baker

Commitee Members

Elizabeth Hubble


Feminism, Cultural Studies, Beyonce, Beyonce Knowles, bell hooks, Laverne Cox, Gender Studies, Race


University of Montana

Subject Categories

English Language and Literature


In 2016, the cultural conversation around feminism and intersectionality has shifted towards new problems of inclusion and change. Feminists are beginning to ask whether the commodification of female sexuality and objectification are extricable, whether a hypersexualized mainstream identity and a feminist one are mutually exclusive, how to integrate female experiences of different socioeconomic backgrounds, races, and cultures into a new feminism, and how to define feminism as we begin to move away from binary gendering. Increased visibility of trans issues has brought genderqueerness and femmephobia into the feminist conversation, and technology and globalization have forced that conversation to open up to new voices. The fourth wave of feminism has, as Jennifer Baumgardner claims, arrived. It lives in and beyond academic institutions and political movements. It lives in high school hallways, underground queer spaces, and VMA stages. The fourth wave of feminism might be Beyoncé’s.

This paper explores the feminist and race politics of celebrity Beyoncé Knowles, focusing particularly on her recent single “Formation” from the album “Lemonade.” It argues that Beyoncé represents an example of radical politics using mainstream currency, and suggests that the compromises made to maintain public favor ultimately facilitate a deconstruction of the institution from within. The paper goes on to explore the ways that teaching pop media like Beyoncé’s “Formation” video in juvenile detention center settings can be an effective tool for affecting social change, and explores some of the most effective classroom approaches to working with incarcerated youth.



© Copyright 2016 Sarah Kahn