Friday, February 29, 2008

Study Says Rap, Sexism Not Correlative

In a study conducted by North Carolina State University, researchers found that rap does not cause sexism, as many of its critics allege. Times of India reports:

the study's authors say that the connection they have found between rap and sexism is unlikely to be a direct cause-and-effect. "It's like hearing the word 'chocolate' and suddenly having a craving for a candy bar. Sexism is imbedded in the culture we live in, and hearing rap music can spontaneously activate pre-existing awareness of sexist beliefs," says Dr. Michael Cobb, assistant professor of political science, who conducted the study along with Dr. Bill Boettcher, associate professor of political science. "We feel it's unlikely that hearing lyrics in a song creates attitudes that did not previously exist. Instead, rap music, fairly or unfairly, has become associated with misogyny, and even minimal exposure to it can automatically activate these mental associations and increase their application, at least temporarily," the researcher adds.

What's most interesting about the study is that respondents exhibited/held higher levels of sexist attitudes after listening to rap, no matter the type of rap to which they were exposed in the study (one set, explicitly sexist to the degree of misogynist, the other lacking any sexism in lyrical content), leading researchers to believe that even in the absence of sexist content, the general idea of rap as an art form and the negative associations therein somehow triggers a sexist response.

However, as stated above, researchers were sure to clarify that rap in itself does not CAUSE sexism, noting that most of the sexist ideas and attitudes held by the respondents, and, in turn, the general public, come from a variety of sources:

"Priming latent sexism is not the same thing as causing it. At worst, we
could conclude that rap music might exacerbate pre-existing tendencies, but so
too can other genres of music and varied forms of entertainment. There is not
much evidence in our study to support an argument in favor of censorship," Cobb
says.

Despite the researchers' attempt not to have their research be used for the purpose of censorship, I would not be entirely surprised if censors cited this research in the near future as a justification of the limits they place on rap music. Though, arguably, if we, as a society, were able to reduce elements that trigger sexism, though not only limited to rap, I wonder what the outcome would be. If lacking the motivation for sexism, i.e. the visual objectification of women in countless advertisements, the lyrical content of the majority of our music, rap or otherwise, and the media representations of women as pitiful, self-obsessed, male-dependent playthings, could we minimize our sexism-related workplace woes?

- Wendi Muse

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