A study conducted by two political science professors at North Carolina State University concluded that though a connection exists between Hip-Hop music and sexism, blaming the music for the sexist attitudes of college students is taking the connection a step too far.
Dr. Michael Cobb, assistant professor of political science, and Dr. Bill Boettcher, associate professor of political science, conducted a study entitled “Ambivalent Sexism and Misogynistic Rap Music: Does Exposure to Eminem Increase Sexism?”
Male and female NCSU students recruited to participate in the study were divided into three groups.
Men in the first group, exposed to overtly sexist Hip-Hop lyrics, via Eminem’s “Kill You,” and the second group, exposed to Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage,” a song without any misogynistic lyrics, expressed stronger sexist attitudes after exposure to the music than those in the control group, which was not exposed to rap music at all.
“It’s like hearing the word ‘chocolate’ and suddenly having a craving for a candy bar,” says Dr. Cobb. “Sexism is imbedded in the culture we live in and hearing rap music can spontaneously activate pre-existing awareness of sexist beliefs. 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.
“At worst, we could conclude that rap music might exacerbate pre-existing tendencies,” he continued, “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.”
While men were more sexist across all three groups, the study found that even though their responses to “Sabotage” were similar to that of their male counterparts, women had a lower tolerance to sexism when exposed to “Kill You.”
According to Cobb, self-awareness motivates women to react to the lyrics blatantly targeting them.
“In the absence of explicitly sexist language, the negative associations with rap music are still being primed,” explains Cobb. “In this case, however, the receiver is unaware that this process is taking place and therefore to inhibit their reactions. When women listened to Eminem, however, the blatant misogyny is startling to them and it triggers a more careful interpretation and rejection of the premises in the song. Males, who are not the targets, are not as motivated to recognize the mechanisms at work.”
Cobb and Boettcher where satisfied with the results of the study, believing that the fact that no-sexist lyrics still evoked sexist responses proves their theory that rap music does not cause sexism.
They agreed that the results are cause for concern, but feel that the concern would be best address through research of the relationship between the origins of music and the expressed attitudes.