Music videos originally served the purpose of creating an outlet through which artists could generate publicity for their work, broaden their popular appeal, and reach wider audiences with interesting audio-visual content (Berry & Shelton, 1999). Over the years, the visual imagery in music videos has increasingly become as significant as the music it represents, as music videos have now become major outlets for propagating views and stereotypes that influence popular culture.
One of the most noteworthy features of modern music videos is the portrayal of gender according to the worldviews, experiences, and expectations of the music artistes, or in line with gender stereotypes associated with specific music genres (Conrad, Dixon, & Zhang, 2009). In this regard, this paper attempts a critical interrogation of gender representations in music videos, specifically in terms of how women and men are represented in music videos of artistes in the Hip Hop genre. In doing so, this paper seeks to determine the stereotypes that underpin gender portrayal in hip hop music videos, contextualize the factors that may be responsible for the propagation of such stereotypes in music videos, and explore the implications for audiences – particularly teenagers and young adults who constitute much of the fan-base for the hip hop music genre.
In order to develop a keen understanding of gender representation in hip hop videos, it is important to first recognize that the hip hop genre presents itself as a reflection of urban reality, and seeks to give expression to the lifestyles, social orientations, and thoughts of young people in the society (Bynoe, 2006). The genre purports to represent a movement that caters to the daily hopes, dreams, ways of life, and struggles of urban communities, while provoking critical discourse to foster social change (Alexander, 1996). However, many hip hop artistes prefer to use language and images deemed sexist, offensive, or profane to communicate their messages, and this preference has largely defined artistic expression in the genre for the last two decades. Against this backdrop, it has become almost normative for hip hop music videos to represent gender in terms of stereotypes about what women should look like, how they should be treated, or what role they should play – especially in terms of social relations with men.
Many hip hop music videos contain stereotypical characterizations that seem to glorify the objectification of women, while focusing on male pursuit of sexual gratification. The depiction of the female body in many hip hop videos suggest that it is a decorative prop or trophy that illustrates masculine sexual desire and portray the female's main purpose as satisfying the male's sexual interest and fulfilling his craving for dominance (Ward, Hansbrough, &Walker, 2005). To be sure, sexual objectification is not unique to hip hop music videos alone, or to music videos in general. Modern media culture as a whole tends to...