WAP: Women and Protests class engages students with intersectional feminist theory 

     Ilaheva Tua’one, an assistant professor in the WEST department at UCCS, introduced a new course this semester titled WAP: Women and Protests. The class introduces students to feminism from a political perspective, focusing on the impact of women’s protests on the development of feminist theory. 

     When Tua’one first started at UCCS in 2020, she noticed a curriculum gap in the WEST department and wanted to fix it. “There needed to be more advanced theory [centered around] feminism, intersectionality, materiality and women’s labor,” she said. “These are core concepts that every WEST student should be able to understand and synthesize.” 

     Tua’one thinks that this course will ideally help expand the way the WEST department teaches students about feminist theory, taking into consideration newer feminist movements to include more women of color. 

     The name of the course is inspired by the Cardi B song “WAP” featuring Megan Thee Stallion that, according to an article from Study Breaks, “emphasize[s] female power during sex and more importantly, female pleasure.” 

     The song has received backlash on the internet for “oversexualizing” the female body, with right-wing figures like Ben Shapiro and Candace Owens criticizing the song for spewing graphic and “vulgar” depictions of sexual activity to younger audiences. 

     Despite this negative backlash, Tua’one wanted a name for her class that would erase any negative feelings and concerns attributed to the study of feminist theory. The name provides a more contemporary and inclusive framework for students interested in learning about some of the less talked-about and understood fields of feminist theory. 

     “The title attracts the kind of students I want to teach,” Tua’one said. “I wanted people to take this class and not be afraid.” 

Assistant professor of Native American and indigenous studies Ilaheva Tua’one. Photo courtesy of Ilaheva Tua’one.

     The “sexy title” of the course was approved without hesitation, and Tua’one began the class in January, eager for a semester full of meaningful discussions and perspectives. 

     The class has read feminist scholars like Cheryl Clark and Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick. Clark wrote the famous “Lesbianism as Resistance” essay in 1981, which explores the impact of performative lesbianism, or lesbianism as a political statement against sexual inequality. Sedgwick wrote “Epistemology of the Closet” in 1990, which explores human sexuality from a feminist viewpoint. 

     One of the agendas Tua’one created for the course was to teach students about feminist theory in a comprehensive way. “I’m teaching them to break down highly theoretical texts,” she said. “The more time they spend with it, the easier it is to understand.” 

     The final assignment of the course will require students to read a theoretical feminist text and summarize it to the class using digestible language and handmade posters. 

     “My goal is to make sure [students] leave the class with an understanding of how to read and comprehend advanced feminist theory,” Tua’one said. The course serves as a gateway into other WEST courses, providing a base-level understanding of feminist movements and core feminist concepts. 

     According to Tua’one, WAP: Women and Protests is available every spring semester. Students interested in registering for the course can find it in the UCCS course catalogue under WEST 2100.