Currently, our American culture focuses on coherence something we, as civilized humans, strive to make sense of as a way of interpreting our place in the world. However, establishing a woman’s place in American society, free of stereotypical notions, is not usually an easily achieved acquisition, and in fact, is often unattainable. When societal messages become fixed, people close down to other potential interpretative links about individual persons. Oftentimes, this leads to the creation of harmful, generalist stereotypes.
By definition, a stereotype is a generalized image of a person or group, which does not acknowledge individual differences and which is often prejudicial to that person or group. In general, people develop stereotypes when they can’t or are hesitant about trying to get all of the information they need in order to make fair judgments about a person, or a group of people. When this happens, as it most often does, the person judging misses the ‘whole picture.’ Thus, in many cases, stereotyping allows us to ‘fill in the blanks’ and come to erroneous, overly general conclusions. In many cases, the way in which someone is stereotyped becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy. Societal influences are deemed to have pre-eminent importance in the creation of stereotypes, which are usually unfavorable, and can lead to unfair discrimination and persecution. Stereotyping can be viewed as a negative communication circle. It emanates from, and further perpetuates discrimination and racism.
“I’m a Barbie girl, In a Barbie World, Wrapped in plastic, It’s fantastic, You can brush my hair, Undress me everywhere, Imagination, life is your creation”
These are the first few lines of a popular song released in the year, 1999 by a band named Aqua. The name of the song is, “Barbie Girl.” It is one of many examples of how a contemporary communications technology can be used to promote a specific idea about a particular type of person. The song was played on the radio and through CD’s and was primarily listened to by young girls. New media technologies have been influentially because they can powerfully impact a wide geographical audience. Thus unfortunately, many young girls strive to become Barbie Girls, and many young boys, treated these “Barbie’s” as objectified dolls, to be handled and played with at will, illustrating John Bargh’s research on the automatic behavior priming effect; wherein, social behavior not necessarily mediated by conscious choice, becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy.
Mediums such as television, Internet, magazines, and radio have become the babysitters of both the younger and older members of society. As media technologies continue to multiply their number of users, they also find themselves increasing the influence they share over the population. Although some forms of media are used to encourage positive learning, there are many forms of communication that promote the exact opposite. Contemporary communications technologies can be a risk to children who are highly influenced by what they see and hear in the media. It is doubtful than any mother would consciously strive to have her daughter be a “Barbie Girl” yet, millions of mothers and daughters, have fallen prey to the mass communications advertising that being a “Barbie Girl” is desirable. It takes songs like the one from Aqua, as well as other forms of communicative messages to expose the true negativity of the Barbie image as little more than a horrible stereotype about an ideal woman.
Media sources are important influences on people’s ideas about social reality, and popular music has provided various perspectives on the lives of women. Images vary; but a fat woman is rarely considered attractive, and thus, also becomes the object of unconscious automatic behavior priming, discrimination and abuse. Sometimes females are portrayed as naive, virginal, submissive creatures in need of male protection, adoration, and direction. At other times women are cast as wild, wicked, lustful beings that are guilty of heartbreaking, home wrecking, as well as other forms of unruly behavior. Popular music is considered to be a significant socializing mechanism that both transmits and reflects norms regarding all social behavior, including the way males and females act and react. The symbolic realm of society, especially the media, assists people in a society to affirm and maintain these gender role pictures even when the images do not reflect reality.
The female role in the development of music over the millennia certainly must have been dramatic. Today, women’s voices are heard nationally through all the various forms of technology. However, because of our material culture, their voices seem reduced to commercial opportunism, deprecated by the effect of money, MTV, and the unrealistic Barbie stereotype. Unfortunately, women in today’s society are still subjugated to whatever role provides for the optimum profit of the dominant group running the music industry. The reproduction of gender stereotypes, myths, and role models by this media perpetuates and mirrors the view of women in modern society. From a “making” perspective, women in American society, as represented in popular music, have a long way to go before they are viewed as individuals; i.e., not stereotypical “Barbie Girl” objects.
The Psychological Article on STEROTYPES OF WOMEN IN AMERICAN POPULAR MUSIC is part of Boomer Yearbook’s continuing series of baby boomers psychological coaching tips and how to alleviate elderly problems. We believe knowledge is power. We’d love to hear what you think.
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