The construction of femininity through the lyrical and visual portrayal of women in Afro-American and African mainstream hip-hop music

2017-02-16T04:49:29Z (GMT) by Moswa, Melisa Rumbidzai
Media text may disseminate ideological aspects about gender based on the way that individuals are represented. Mainstream hip-hop songs are a form of music text, and therefore it is argued that the lyrical and visual material may assist in the construction of femininity through the manner in which women are represented. The main purpose of this research is to critically analyse and describe the ways in which mainstream hip-hop music, lyrics and videos construct femininity through the manner in which they portray women. The study is grounded in a critical inquiry paradigm, following feminist arguments’ presented in third-wave/grrl feminism where sexism is problematised as an issue recurrent within mainstream hip-hop music. Moreover, the study is qualitative in nature, as the endeavour is to get an in-depth understanding of how femininity is constructed through the lyrical and visual portrayal of women in Afro-American and African mainstream hip-hop and to increase the knowledge concerning this research phenomenon. Thirteen Afro-American and African mainstream hip-hop songs were analysed, utilising discourse analysis for the lyrics and semiotic textual analysis for the videos. The themes utilised during the analysis were derived from marrying prior research with the three main theories utilised in this study: genre theory, symbolic interactionism and objectification theory. The main issues stem from third-wave/grrl feminism where it is argued that sexism in hip-hop music takes the form of the sexual objectification and labelling of women. Through an in-depth analysis it was found that sexism is exemplified through women being portrayed as sex-objects, materialistic, superficial and manipulative as well as malleable, which are themes consistent within the thirteen songs analysed. Traces of misogyny and hate speech were found in some of the lyrics and videos of the songs. Another prominent theme that arose from the data revolved around female sexual exploitation by the pimp, in the pimp-prostitute dynamic, where women’s bodies are exploited for the pimps’ personal gain. Moreover, sexual acts of sadomasochism and ménages à trois are also consistent with some of the lyrics and videos, through which male domination and female subservience may be displayed. The relevance of the study stems from it adding to the knowledge about how femininity is constructed in Afro-American and African hip-hop, particularly in the African context where there has been very little research conducted in understanding mainstream hip-hop and the messages promulgated through the genre.