Objectification in Popular Music Lyrics: An Examination of Gender and Genre Differences

Abstract

Our study investigates the presence of verbal objectification in Rap, Country, Adult Contemporary, Rock, Rhythm & Blues (R&B)/Hip-Hop, and Pop music lyrics through a content analysis of the top 20 U.S. Billboard songs in each category from 2009 to 2013. Using objectification theory, we assessed the inclusion of body objectification, gaze, and attractiveness themes in music lyrics, genre and gender differences in the prevalence of objectification, and self-objectification. In support of previous research on objectification, our findings document clear genre and gender differences. Rap and R&B/Hip-Hop featured significantly more objectification than other genres. Women are the most frequent targets of objectification within music lyrics, and female artists are more likely than male artists are to objectify themselves. However, the greater frequency of top 20 songs by male artists indicates consumers are exposed to more messages about men objectifying their own bodies. Future research areas are proposed with an emphasis on the continued investigation of verbal objectification in music lyrics. Practical implications are discussed based on the findings, and the potential impact of objectification in music on audiences. The authors highlight strategies, such as media literacy training, to address this topic in young audiences that may be useful to many types of professionals, including therapists/counselors, activists/social policy makers, instructors, and organizational administrators.

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Flynn, M.A., Craig, C.M., Anderson, C.N. et al. Objectification in Popular Music Lyrics: An Examination of Gender and Genre Differences. Sex Roles 75, 164–176 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-016-0592-3

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Keywords

  • Objectification
  • Gaze
  • Attractiveness
  • Gender
  • Music
  • Content analysis
  • Media literacy