“Hit Me Baby”: From Britney Spears to the Socialization of Sexual Objectification of Girls in a Middle School Drama Program
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This language socialization study integrates ethnographic and intertextual methods of data collection and analysis to examine how one middle school drama class’s performance of Britney Spears’s first hit song, originally titled “Hit Me Baby One More Time,” exemplifies not only how sexually charged media can contribute to the normalization of sexist, abusive, and thus also violent behavior toward women, but also how local caretaking adults can contribute to these socialization practices even within the context of official educational activities. Prior studies related to the socialization of gender equality and sexual abuse prevention in educational institutions have focused on whether and how adult intervention may prevent or stop gender and thus also sexually related abuse. This study indicates that further research into adult complicity and the need for intervention into adult behavior may also be called for. The ethnographic fieldwork for this paper was conducted during a larger language socialization study at a middle school in the western United States. This included the videotaping of rehearsals and performances by middle school students of popular songs. The intertextual data chosen for analysis is based on these ethnographic observations. The conclusion that some adults are actively socializing female sexual objectification and male dominance during school-based activities is based on observations of these locally occurring interactions.
KeywordsLanguage socialization Sexualization of girls Violence against girls Intertextuality Popular media Middle school theater arts
I would like to thank the National Science Foundation for the Dissertation Improvement Grant in Linguistics I received to help fund the ethnographic portion of the research conducted for this article. I would also like to thank Justin T. McBride, Debra Friedman, David Olsher for their valuable feedback. And lastly, I would like to convey my heartfelt gratitude to the students, teachers, staff, administrators, and parents who welcomed my participant-observation at the middle school that served as the field site for this study.
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