Dr. Gheni Platenburg

Dr. Gheni Platenburg

In the ongoing faculty spotlight series at the Jack J. Valenti School of Communication, this week's focus is on assistant professor Dr. Gheni Platenburg and her research regarding the influence of Megan Thee Stallion and other rappers on black women.

The genesis of the project dates back to 2019, culminating in a special issue published by Feminist Pedagogy in 2024, featuring a multipart series titled "Real #HotGirl Sh*T: Megan Thee Stallion & Mediated Hip Hop, Black Feminist, and Communication Pedagogy." This series includes an introduction by Platenburg and her colleague Dr. Katrina Overby of the Rochester Institute of Technology, followed by the "#HotGirlSemesterSyllabus."

Platenburg noted that the issue contains academic readings, multimedia, and thought-provoking questions. "In addition to myself, we also have five contributors to the issue," she said. "Each of us has created either a teaching activity or a critical commentary on various topics under the umbrella of Megan The Stallion and popular culture."

Although the research comprises a multipart series, Platenburg emphasized the syllabus as the primary focus. The name of the syllabus is derived from the popular hashtag "#HotGirlSemester," which originates from Megan Thee Stallion's song "Hot Girl Summer."

As Megan Thee Stallion herself is a college graduate, the concept of being a "hot girl" took on new significance online among women, according to Platenburg. "There was this idea of women, even those in academia, using this hashtag to discuss what they were doing in school, their achievements, their accomplishments," she said.

Despite initial setbacks due to the pandemic and difficulties finding a journal for publication, they secured a special issue from Feminist Pedagogy. While the series focuses on Black women and culture, Platenburg encouraged all interested parties to engage with the topic, as it offers valuable insights into the impact of music on black culture.

In a separate piece within the series titled "Listen to Black Women," Platenburg contributes insights into using digital third spaces to facilitate learning about black women. She hopes the syllabus will stimulate conversations on social media through the use of the hashtags provided.

Platenburg's research stems from her experiences as one of the few people of color in newsrooms during her time as a journalist, leading her to explore "contemporary black press" and subsequently study pop culture as it pertains to black culture. Recognizing Megan Thee Stallion's broad reach, she and her partners opted to create a public scholarship to make the issue accessible to all.

Although the course is not currently offered at UH, Platenburg intends to incorporate a portion of it into one of her existing classes. She currently teaches Electronic News and 21st Century Pop Culture, having joined UH in the fall of the previous year following a tenure at Auburn University.