Date of Award

4-2006

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Music Criticism

Supervisor

Christina Baade

Language

English

Abstract

As popular music publications have the potential to shape the public's perception of stars, the continual belittlement of women's efforts, both musically and socially, will, in tum, affect how people position women within Western society. This thesis explores the problematic definitions of popular music and the complicated ways in which women are relegated to specific genres, such as top-40 pop, while systematically being written out of rock history, to ensure that authenticity and credibility remain male-coded. Through an examination of the publications of Rolling Stone, Blender and Spin, what emerges is a view that the industry remains male-dominated, not only in regards to the number of women writers within in these publications, but also in the style of writing used. Critics, in order to be successful, must utilize a masculinized approach in their journalistic style, which belittles women's efforts and judges them on their appearance, rather than musicianship. Women are relegated to hegemonic labels, such as "Women in Rock," in order to compare their music to other women, without regard to different genres and the different definitions of credibility inherent within those genres. In order to showcase the problematic discourse created within popular music publications, case studies are presented on Gwen Stefani, Beyonce Knowles and Britney Spears. Each of these women presents differing definitions of femininity, but Rolling Stone, Blender and Spin all undermine their efforts by representing them as sex symbols, or as male-dependant. In general, Gwen Stefani represents a woman in rock music, but the publications have difficulty affording her credibility because of her overt girliness. Beyonce Knowles is a black pop star, who distances herself from negative black stereotypes, while the press seems unclear on how to deal with her race. Britney Spears challenges female sexual repression, but is represented as a sex symbol.

McMaster University Library

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