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Britney Spears 101 Offers Feminist Take on Pop Star's Life

By Serena Dai | March 31, 2015 9:03am
 Britney Spears in
Britney Spears in "Hit Me Baby One More Time," one of her first singles. A Greenpoint woman is teaching a class dedicated to breaking down the life and times of the pop star.
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YouTube/Britney Spears Vevo

GREENPOINT — Britney Spears is back in class — and this time, she's the subject, not just a pigtailed school girl.

Friends Rachel Goldberg, 27, and Suri Ratnatunga, 26, started a class in Goldberg's Greenpoint apartment in December dedicated to breaking down the life and times of Britney Spears.

The class — which features a multimedia presentation with GIFs, video clips and more — starts with a rundown of Spears' life and career trajectory and ends with an analysis of her place in pop culture and feminism.

The duo has already hosted a handful of sessions, attended by a mix of die-hard Britney fans and people with a more casual interest in the pop star.

But because Spears has been around since the '90s, even non-fans can learn something about society from her, the women said.

 Rachel Goldberg and Suri Ratnatunga teach a class about Britney Spears.
Rachel Goldberg and Suri Ratnatunga teach a class about Britney Spears.
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Rachel Goldberg

"A lot of people have that base understanding of 'sexualized pop star,' but what else is there?" Goldberg said. "Even if you don't care about her, you have an opinion on her, and you know something about her.

"It's a discussion about something that's universal in American society."

Goldberg and Ratnatunga, who work together at tech site Sidetour, realized one day during lunch that they shared an obsession and deep knowledge of the pop star.

They spent four hours one night in 2013 breaking down and ranking all of Spears' singles.

The two decided to see if others would be interested in their take. Those who attend the class pay $25, and the self-described "Britney Spears scholars" put out drinks and snacks like a "Hold It Against Meat" veggie platter and "Baby One More Thyme" crackers.

Many of the classes have sold out.

Ratnatunga talks about Spears' agency in her own career, from the America's sweetheart era to the shaved head, Kevin Federline era to the modern, Vegas era.

And Goldberg talks about how the popularity of describing Spears as "crazy" says more about society's historical need to define women in culture as hysterical than about Britney Spears herself.

"We look at things and feminism and gender studies and how those things relate to Britney," Goldberg said.

People who attend the class usually end up wanting to stay in touch, and the two women have slowly seen a community of people who love talking about Britney Spears and pop culture.

It's easy for critics to dismiss Spears as manufactured, but it doesn't make looking at her life any less interesting, the women said.

And truthfully, they simply may never know how involved Spears has been in her own career, Ratnatunga said.

"The easy way to look at it is, 'She's part of the pop machine. She's a corporation. She has no control over it,'" Goldberg added. "It's much more interesting to realize that there's a human being behind this."

Britney Spears 101 will be adding classes later this month. A maximum of 10 people can attend each class. Drinks and snacks are included.