SynopsisThe purpose of the research is to examine how women have been represented in hip hop culture from the 1980s up to the year 2010. Most of the analysis will be concerned about their roles, how they have been used to facilitate achievement of specific objectives in the music industry, and their portrayals within the specified timeline. The whole research process begins with a historical perspective of women representation, their commodification, and development of identity constructs that have been accepted as reality in this particular genre. Therefore, the whole dissertation is aimed at discovering how such representations are influencing perceptions of women and if there is a need to come up with alternative ways to improve the already established norms so that they can align with acceptable socio-cultural constructs.
The issues of gender, identity, and representation have been an area of interest due to the need to alter social structures that promote inequality and underrepresentation. I have chosen this topic because of my interest in issues of gender equality and representation in various social, economic, and political aspects. Modern social settings are changing, and representation of the women demographic is an aspect that cannot be ignored. I contend that more representation is appropriate hence the need to analyze how women have been represented in hip hop culture in the past decades for an in-depth understanding of the situation, as well as provide basic information relevant for creating strategies that improve their situation. It is true that feminine representation in the hip hop culture is controversial and powerful due to imagery, filming techniques, and contexts in the lyrics.
Morgan (2005:426) has provided an admission that women were involved in hip hop music for decades and participated in the evolution of hip hop culture until what it is today. As per the dissertation, the historical presentation begins from the 1980s up to 2010 since it marks a period when the culture developed significantly to dominate the music industry. In the year 1985, America heard of the trio Salt and Pepa with their debut album that was released in 1986. Their music gained them recognition and awards especially due to their role in mentoring young girls of the time in the art of rapping. In addition, this was perceived as the beginning of women representation in hip hop although men dominated the industry.
Based on their numbers, women were minimal as compared to men but they managed to attract their own viewership and following. However, they were forced to work harder in terms of looking like their male counterparts by dressing in baggy clothes, indicate similar attitudes, and show aggression even to their fellow women. This suffices to state that during the 1980s and early 1990s, women were not adequately represented, and the ones who managed to get into the culture had to alter their personalities, and behavioral patterns in order to be seen as one of the guys. In the quest for representation, women had to adapt to another tradition where they included provocative, violent, and sexually charged scenes in their music as it was done by Lil Kim in late 1990s.
This is the same tradition that continues even past 2010 where hypersexual imagery of women is used to increase popularity as it pertains to hip hop culture. During the research process, I have found out that women representation should be taken from different perspectives of numbers, portrayals, commoditization, and other aspects related to their existence in the hip hop culture. Donalson (2013) has explained that most of the issues emerging in hip hop are a direct reflection of reality, regarding how women are treated, perceived, and represented in their quest to advance their need for equitable opportunities. Although music is something that people can connect with, express, and advance their artistic capabilities, hip hop music has continuously stirred controversy, debates, and trends that describe inescapable issues of representation.
The way hip hop culture has represented women has influenced the way people think; negatively. It has been a trendsetter and guided cultural progression in the last couple of decades allowing the culture to be infiltrated by business interests, prejudice, and other notions that encourage unacceptable forms of women representation. In the era of corporate development and mass consumption as it occurred in the 1990s, women were represented as accessories that could lead to success. Corporations used top rappers to include their product marketing aspects using women in order to attract their consumption. Viewership of hip hop music at the time formed massive market opportunities and brand promotion; therefore, the feminine aspects of the music guaranteed increased consumer awareness since most followers were attracted by the women appeal.
Morgan (2005:427) has taken another analytical dimension to the discussed argument by outlining that:” it is not that rappers felt that women are inferior, but they considered treating women like a collector’s item is how they should go about displaying their new-found success”. This means that their representation is of success although the overall portal is demeaning and derogatory. This is the reason why artists tried to have the most beautiful girls in their video productions to generate the ‘wow’ effect and illustrate the kind of good life they are living amidst beauty. On the contrary, the intention of such representation is money driven, and rappers do not realize their implications on the younger generation. From my perspective, this is among the reasons for choosing the topic about representation in order to understand what has been driving the trend which is persistent in hip hop to date.
In the early 2000s, women representation in hip hop culture was to provide the definition of success. When people watch artists with a lot of women and cars throwing cash and other valuable items, the image creates the perception that to achieve success as a woman, you have to be beautiful. A classic example has been provided by Price (2006:34) where the song titled successful by Trey Songz out rightly states “…money, clothes, cars, the hoes…I suppose…I just want to be successful…:.This is the kind of representation that is contentious since it influences social responses among listeners that to achieve any success, you must have beautiful women by your side.
Stereotyping is another aspect of representation, especially among women who have been featured in the black and hip hop cultures. Cundiff (2013:15) has presented research findings that hip hop culture is characterized by music videos that tend to reproduce dominant ideologies characterizing women sexuality. The culture began during the 1970s and became popular with African American communities until it became the most listened by the late 2000s. However, the interesting aspect is how women are represented as models, vixens, and performers creating the strong presence of misogyny. In fact, it is this representation that has led to the increased demand for misogyny in the industry where most videos exploit femininity in order to feed into perpetuated stereotypes. The strong demand for misogyny is attributed to the need for portraying self-reliant imagery of success, destiny, and self-independence, of which is resultant of the demand to represent women in the hip hop culture as vixens and models.
There is also the trend that representing women through hyper-sexualized stereotypes is regarded as acceptable and the ultimate way to having wider viewership. For instance, hot mama and Jezebel have been used on lyrics that exploit and comment on sexism among women with an intention of catering to the interests of the male audience. Even the female artists participating in hip hop culture are forced to illustrate particular social patterns that emphasize on their bodies. This means that performers must maintain high beauty standards and levels of physical attractiveness. As such, this kind of representation has influenced the way society thinks and treats women since hip hop is among the major influencers of sociocultural progression and such incidences are assimilated as norms.
It has been attested by authors like Pough (2015:89) that capitalism had not gained influence in the hip hop culture prior to 1980s; however, as the years progressed, women began gaining popularity in videos because of public entertainment demands. In other words, commercialization in hip hop culture has sold out women to attain more recognition defining the nature of representation in songs, as well as the accompanying lyrics. The song by Ludacris supports the argument of Pough where containment of appealing sexual content results in higher sales volumes. The existence of these catchy songs is the reason why the society has continuously accepted representation of women as part of the commercialization of hip hop culture despite its holistic implications.
Closer examination points out that the nature of representation of women throughout the hip hop culture is linked to the foundations that define their social recognition. Most aspects of the culture create imageries that depict how women are treated and their physical importance when programming to appeal the male gaze. Masculinity is demonstrated in videos with an implication that women are inferior and can be objectified according to music industry trends. The culture has created normative social phenomena that bodies of women are like materials to be shown off causing the concerns about the evolution of social forces defining the progression of hip hop culture.
In the world of hip hop culture, its existence is based on portrayals that are made of stylized videos that illustrate how women are normally treated in their respective environments of existence. In the mainstream hip hop culture, women are always encouraged to dance, dress, and act provocatively in order to decorate video sets. Other times they are referred with vulgar terminologies such as hoes and bitches. Based on this line of argument, women have been represented as individuals who have been reduced down to their sexuality. This representation has taken place within the specified timeline not only as background dancers but also female hip hop artists as well often promoting into prevalent misogynistic themes.
Most artists use misogynistic themes notable from the lyrics, imagery, and video activities within their songs. In the culture, most women are represented as decorations and objects that attract followers to increasingly view the artistic works. In most videos, they are characterized by large numbers of women with fewer men at festivals in luxurious locations like yachts. In such situations, suggestive outfits such as tiny swimsuits and small dresses are used to refocus attention to bodily elements. In fact, postures and dance formations signify that women are sexually submissive of desires and sexual wants as demanded by dominant players in the hip hop industry.
Despite the perceptions and implications generated by the featured music culture, instances where cultural norms are pushed to their limits are accepted. It has been justified by the fact that some people push issues to the limit in movies, television, and athletics making such occurrences relevant to hip hop culture as part of its social influence. Most of the producers do not think that anyone is out to demean women considering that more than 60% of fans are women. Therefore, more criticism provided room for additional popularity irrespective of the way women are represented throughout the industry according to prevalent trends as dictated by music industry dynamisms.
It is therefore safe to assume that many people are outraged by representations since they affect the American woman in various perspectives. When represented the way hip hop culture wants them, people tend to have prejudiced ideas about behavioral characteristics of women outside the music industry. Remediation of such issues demands the application of strategic aspects that facilitate variation of current norms where women are supposed to be objectified, commercialized, and used in ways that represent them against acceptable societal norms. Another part of the dissertation is the number of females to males working in the industry since it plays a major role in defining the subsequent representations and cultural aspects.
For the dissertation, I have chosen content analysis technique so that various aspects of the collected data can be subjected to objective evaluations. Although this methodology seems simplistic and removes subjectivity from the selected content, is subtle because it provides wide scope to human judgments while assigning relevance to the specific content. Applying various aspects of this method will enable me to make links between hip hop culture, women representation, and influence on the audience size. In fact, content analysis is an accurate and reliable method of gathering data and it will help me in discovering various forms of representation of the genders especially women in the hip hop culture.
For the successful application of content analysis, I will begin by following a six stage process until the final report is generated to provide conclusive results. The first step is selecting the content for analysis which is the number of women, kind of songs, progression of the hip hop culture, audience responses to the selected topic, and other selected variables as deemed appropriate. The other part is deciding the sample size for the dissertation research, data collection instruments, coding of the content, verification, and generation of conclusions. Since collecting sufficient data is sometimes impossible for comprehension, the content will be analyzed optimally in relation to identified units of media content, audience content, and other industry specific variables defining fundamental aspects of hip hop culture.
Aesthetics, representation, and cultural aspects of hip hop will be considered so that they can help in the critical analysis of the content. For this case, I will divide the analysis into sections that illustrate historical trends, the rationale for current forms of representation, social influence, and gender presentations according to their contribution to the existing music culture. In order to give some content, I will also look for information from music regulators, industry experts, and producers regarding cultural aspects in terms of representation of women in varied perspectives.
In this part, I will provide an overview of the hip hop culture and its influence on the representation of women
I will feature historical aspects of women representation in hip hop culture between the 1980s and 2010 and how it evolved during the same timeline. I will also study the nature of representation in musical works to establish its appropriateness and conformity to popular social depictions of women participating in hip hop music.
This chapter discusses the methodology and its selection on the featured topic of how women are represented in hip hop culture. It will identify the content, define ways for selecting an appropriate sample size, and data collection instruments before proceeding to the next chapter.
In this chapter, I will present the results collected and apply content analysis techniques to create a comprehensive analysis of hip hop culture, historical progression, the role of women, and how they are represented. Also, the analysis will seek to understand why they are represented the way they have been through comparative analysis at different points of time within the selected research period of 1980s-2010.
This chapter gives summaries of my findings, analysis results, and other forms of evaluations conducted in the research. Then, I will seek to provide conclusions on the issue of how women have been represented in hip hop culture between the 1980s and 2010.
- Cundiff, G., 2013. The Influence of Rap/Hip-Hop Music: A Mixed-Method Analysis on Audience Perceptions of Misogynistic Lyrics and the Issue of Domestic Violence. The Elon Journal of Undergraduate Research in Communications, pp. 1-23.
- Donalson, M., 2013. Representing: Hip Hop Culture and the Production of Black Cinema. Chicago : University Of Chicago Press.
- Morgan, M., 2005. Hip-hop women shredding the veil: Race and class in popular feminist identity. South Atlantic Quarterly, pp. 425-444.
- Pough, G., 2015. Check it while I wreck it: Black womanhood, hip-hop culture, and the public sphere. Califonia: Northeastern University Press..
- Price, E. G., 2006. Hip Hop Culture. New York: ABC-CLIO.