Spring Semester 2009
Rap Video’s and the Effect on Female Adolescent Body Image
Music videos are a prevalent part of today’s music industry. There are television channels that are devoted entirely to music videos of all different genres, from country to rap and hip hop. Because they are viewed by so many adolescents, they have become a highly influential force in today’s society. The Internet also plays a part in the success of music videos. Websites such as youtube.com have made it easier than ever to find and view a music video.
This paper examines the effect that music videos have on female adolescent body image. In this study we are defining body image as how the girls are judging the physical aspect of how they look; in comparison to the women they see on music videos. Do the adolescents have a positive or confident perception of how they look? Or do they feel that there bodies are inferior to the women on the music videos? Many studies have already been conducted regarding the effect that music videos have on teenage violence, drug and alcohol use, and body image. In this paper, the focus is on female body image and rap music videos, specifically, which have not been fully investigated. The information in this paper could help shed light on the power that this particular type of media has over adolescents.
Television has played a major part in the power of music videos. One station that has had a great impact on American culture is MTV, or music television. It arrived in 1981 and sparked a whole host of studies examining a wide range of topics. The station has since changed so that it is now more of a reality channel than music video, but it marked the beginning of a new era of that aspect of television. With the international growth of MTV’s popularity, its influence has become a world-wide phenomenon. Even in 1996, there was evidence that showed that African American teenagers watched approximately 3.3 hours of music videos per day (Peterson, Wingood, DiClemente, Harrington, Davies 2007). That number has likely increased, considering the media now available to adolescents. They can watch music videos on the Internet or download them onto their iPods to watch whenever they want. This constant bombardment of media messages can have an effect on a teenager’s image.
Because of the increased exposure adolescents have to the media, Tiggeman and Pickering (1996) investigated the relationship between exposure to television and body dissatisfaction and drive for thinness. The researchers discovered that total television viewing time was not significantly related to any of the weight variables they used in their study. However, they did discover that when television viewing was broken down by type of program (soap operas, music videos, movies, and sports), some correlations were found. Total time spent watching music videos were positively correlated with the drive for thinness and sports were correlated negatively with body dissatisfaction. Peterson, Wingood, DiClemente, Harrington, and Davies (1996) made a similar finding. There were high levels of association between female adolescents’ exposure to music videos and unhealthy body image beliefs and greater premarital sexual permissiveness attitudes” (Peterson, Wingood, DiClemente, Harrington, & Davies, 2007, 1187). In another study, by Tiggeman and Slater (2004) participants were briefly exposed to music videos containing thin and attractive women, then were questioned as t how they felt. Most participants indicated an increase in body dissatisfaction.
Similarly, Henderson-King (2006) found that research participants responded differently to the “ideal” body image. Thinner women, on one hand, more positively evaluated their sexual attractiveness while heavier women reported a more negative self evaluation. Even before rap music videos, music played a role in creating a stereotypical female body image. Cooper (1985) notes that women are portrayed in popular media as a “sexual object” or “a possession” (p.501). As it relates to music videos adolescents may be judging there own bodies as a direct result of watching the women on the videos. If they see that only attractive, thin bodied women are on the videos they may think that men only like that type of body on women.
A female’s sexual attitude influences how she feels about her body. Sexual attitude is in reference to how sexually attractive one might feel. Do you feel sexy to the opposite gender, and or to your same gender? Because the content of rap music videos reflects the lyrics of the songs, they are often very sexually explicit in nature. While not all music videos are negatively portraying women’s bodies as a sexual object, “40% to 75% or music videos have been found to contain sexual imagery” (Baxter, De Riemer, Landini, Leslie, & Singletary, 1985). In contrast to the lyrics in a music video, the sexual imagery is often more subtle, but still obvious in its intent. The nonverbal displays of sexuality are expressed through postures, gestures, touching, and the use of space (Carstarphen & Zavoina, 1999). Peterson et al(2007) hypothesized that “The perception of portrayals of sexual stereotypes in rap music videos may cultivate a norm among African American females regarding the desirability of certain physical characteristics and sexual behaviors (p.1162).” Zhang, Miller, and Harrison (2008) discovered that the more college men and women watched music videos containing sexual content, the more likely they were to have positive attitudes towards pre-marital sex and to endorse gender-specific stereotypes, such as women were dressing provocatively to gain attention from the opposite gender, and men viewing women as sexual objects.
Many studies have been examining how rap music in itself has an effect on female adolescents’ behavior, such as use of drugs and alcohol, violence, and whether or not they contracted a new STD (Peterson et al.2007), but only a few have looked at how rap music videos affect a teenager’s body image.
One Problem with measuring music videos is that unless the content of the video is taken into account, simply asking a study participant how many hours per day they music videos is not actually that beneficial. There are different genres of music videos with varying degrees of sexual content. A researcher would be better served by measuring “exposure to sexual music videos specifically” (Zhang, Miller, & Harrison, 2008, p. 372). Peterson et al. (2007) also acknowledged that rap music videos used in the study had not been content analyzed to determine exactly what stereotypes could be found in the videos.
Before a music video could be used in a study, it should be properly analyzed for all stereotypical content. The amount of music video viewing should not be the only measurement. The researcher should take into account exactly what kind of music videos the participants watch and how attentive they are while watching it. For example, is the television on in the background, or are they focused on it? The participants’ background should also be taken into account, such as family situation, age, level and success in school, and job situation.
RQ: Is there a correlation between exposure to rap music videos and female adolescent body image?
In order to evaluate if watching music videos has a negative effect on teenage female’s body image, it is important do an experiment on teenage females to understand the direct effects. Doing a pre-test/post-test experiment will show the cause and effect relationship between female body image and watching music videos.
The study will be focusing on teenage women between the ages of 14 and 19. This will be a cluster sample of teenage females, from five different high schools around the Greater Milwaukee and Waukesha, Wisconsin areas. Selecting such a wide range of high schools should make sure the sample frame doesn’t target a specific demographic.
The sampling frame of schools will be listed and numbered. The research team will randomly select by number to ensure the team does not know the schools selected. There will be a total of 100 females selected for the experiment. Twenty girls from each school will be selected. The study requires to randomly select an all-female physical education class at each school and testing the girls during their 30 to 45-minute gym class. The teacher will be notified and given consent forms for each of the students one week prior to the experiment. Students will have to have the consent form (Appendix A) signed by their parents and returned to school. Once the parents have given permission, the researchers will make sure that each class has 20 students participating on the day of the experiment. The students will know they are part of a research project prior to experiment. The time of day that the experiments will be conducted will vary due to the different schools running off of different schedules. Because this is a random sample of females, there will be no demographic characteristics targeted in this study.
To accurately access the effects of music videos on teenage females’ body image, the researchers are conducting an experiment using a pre-test as well as a post-test questionnaire (Appendix B). The students will be taken into a classroom setting. Each student will have her own desk to complete a pretest given to them. Students will be instructed not to converse with the other students during the experiment. This test includes 12 questions that will ask specific questions to generate information about how each student feels about their body image. The questions also focus on self confidence as it is related to body image. The goal of giving this questionnaire prior showing them a music video is to get the students thinking about how they feel about their specific body type. Raising consciousness about their bodies prior to seeing a music video is important so the researchers can judge if the video had a direct effect on how the student perceived their body. The video being shown will be very provocative in nature and will show many different types of females; therefore just showing one video should allow the students to make a direct correlation to there own race, and body types. After the students answer the questions, they are to hand in the questionnaire to the teacher located at the front of the room. The teacher is strategically placed in front of the room to make sure the students are not conversing with one another during the tests. The teacher then is to show the music video “Candy Shop” to the group of girls.
The music video titled “Candy Shop” is a song performed by rapper 50 Cent and R&B singer Olivia. This video was chosen because of the women in the video being scantily clothed, as well as dancing provocatively. The video shows 50 Cent in a bordello, looking at a random group of women to choose from. This video presumes that 50 Cent is choosing one of the women with whom to have sexual relations. The women in the video have good bodies and are generally attractive. The video has been properly analyzed for all stereotypical content. The stereotypes associated with this video are that women are portrayed as sexual objects for men.
Once the video is shown, the girls will be asked to fill out the same questionnaire, as a post-test, this is to show how the women on the video may change or influence the female’s perception of her body. By watching the women on the video, the students may be subject to comment in further detail about how music videos may affect their body image. The students may feel confident that they are just as good looking as the women, or on the opposite end, they may not feel their bodies are adequate as compared to the women on the video. By giving a post-test, it is important to compare the information to the pretest to see if the students change the way they feel about their own bodies.
Predictive validity shows us that the questionnaire shows its ability to predict the student’s individual feelings of body image. If the students answer the questions in a fashion that shows they are concerned with their body image, most likely when they see the music video they are going to comment on the post test that the video has a negative effect on their body image. The Pre-test allows the researchers to predict the outcome of the test. This is a valid measure of testing the students because we can see if the video as a direct correlation to the students feeling of body image. If the students pre-test shows that they don’t have a problem with their body image, and by showing the video changes there perceptions of body image, then the research shows that the student may be directly affected by the video. That outcome would predict that the student is impressionable of what they are seeing in the media, specifically in music videos. Using the exact same test before and after showing the video is used to prove that the students either have body image issues, or they don’t. If the questions are answered in the exact same manner the second time then the researchers will be able to come to a conclusion about how the student feels about her body image. For instance if the questions are being answered to represent that the student feels self conscious about herself on the pre-test, more than likely she is going to fill-out the post-test similarly to the pre-test, regardless of the content in the video.
I will analyze this data in a quantitative manner. The questionnaire will be based off of a “Likert Scale”. The test will have the students assign a number to how they feel about a particular statement. The numbers are from one to five depending on how much the student agrees with certain statements. In order to assess how much the video triggered negative body image issues, the researchers will compare the numbers from the pre-test to the post-test using a related measures t-test. This test is valid in measuring the student’s different levels of body image issues. It helps researchers compare the pre-test to the post-test. Distinguishing whether the girls have body image issues before seeing the music video will help confirm if teenage women are subject to body image issues regardless of whether they watch music videos or not.
Possible results may vary of course, however I predict that most of the students will have a greater number on the post test as compared to the pre test. Once the students see the objectification of the women on the video they will compare the bodies of the dancers to themselves and they may feel inadequate, or less attractive. If I find that there is a direct correlation between music videos and a teenage females negative body image, I would go to companies like Viacom who own MTV and VHI and tell them how there production of the videos are negatively affecting there target audience. This may help sway companies to produce such videos as “Candy Shop”. Also if there is a direct correlation between the music videos and negative body image, it would be important to advise parents that it may not be a good idea to let there children watch MTV. I would notify the cable companies to put out a notice to all customers that have MTV and other channels with music videos. The cable customers may want to block the channels once they understand there are negative affects to watching this programming.
There are different ways, or mediums of media that can persuade females to have a negative body image. Using a music video to judge how women perceive themselves is not incorporating enough of the Medias influence. Magazines and television would be another avenue to research due to the higher levels of visibility women have to these mediums as compared to music videos. Also only researching high school students doesn’t fully help the researchers understand women. In order to make generalizations of how women feel research would have to be done on women of all ages.
Baxter, L., De Riemer, C., Landini, A., Leslie, L., & Singletary, M. (1985). A content analysis of music videos. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 29, 333–340.
Carstarphen, Meta G. & Zavoina, Susan C. (1999). Sexual Rhetoric: MediaPerspectives on Sexuality, Gender, and Identity. Connecticut: Greenwood Press.
Cooper, Virginia W. (1985). Women in Popular Music: A Quantitative Analysis of Feminine Images Over Time. Sex Roles (13)9-10, 499-506. Retrieved February 25, 2009 from Academic Search Premier.
Henderson-King, Eaaron. (2006). Media effects on Women’s Body Esteem: Social and Individual Difference Factors. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 27 (5), 399-417. Retrieved February 25,2009 from Academic Search Premier Database.
Peterson, Shani H., Wingood, Gina M., DiClemente, Ralph J., Harrington, Kathy., Davies, Susan. (2007). Images of Sexual Stereotypes in Rap Videos and the Health of African American Female Adolescents. Journal of Women’s Health, 16, 1157-1164. Retrieved February 25, 2009, from Academic Search Premier Database.
Tiggeman, B. & Pickering, Amanda S. (1996). Role of Television in Adolescent Women’s Body Dissatisfaction and Drive for Thinness. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 20(2), 199-203. Retrieved February 25, 2009, from Academic Search Premier Database.
Tiggeman, Marika., Slater, Amy. (2004). Thin Ideals in Television: A source of Social Comparison and Body Dissatisfaction. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 35(1), 48-58. Retrieved February 25, 2009 from Academic Search Premier Database.
Zhang, Yuanyuan., Miller, Laura E., Harrison, Kristen. (2008). The Relationship Between Exposure to Sexual Music Videos and Young Adults’ Sexual Attitudes. Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media. Retrieved February 25, 2009, from Academic Search Premier Database.