For decades now people have been debating whether listening to rap music causes people to have more negative (and sometimes violent) attitudes towards women.

A study published this year examined whether exposure to misogynistic rap music, in the form of Eminem, increases sexism towards women. Participants were assigned to one of three experimental conditions: 1) no music; 2) misogynistic rap music; 3) non-misogynistic rap music. Afterwards, all of the participants filled out a survey designed to measure sexist attitudes.

The researchers found that listening to Eminem did in fact increase participants' negative attitudes towards women. In addition, the study found a relationship between listening to the rap music, whether or not it was misogynistic, and more negative attitudes towards women - particularly among male participants. Out of fairness, the statistical effects were weak but nonetheless significant.

Although hardly definitive, the study suggests that rap music may play a role in fostering negative attitudes towards women. Even more disturbingly, it suggests that rap music doesn't need to be outwardly hostile towards women in order to increase sexist attitudes. The finding is open to interpretation, but it is possible there might be an association in people's heads between rap music and misogyny.

In the meantime, findings like this only fuel the ongoing debate about music censorship. I can see both sides on this one. Given that the largest audience for rap artists like Eminem are teenage boys, the findings seem to support censorship. However, I'm not a big fan of censoring as a substitute parenting. Plus, censorship and controversy can often backfire as both make for very good publicity.

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Source: Cobb, M. & Boettcher, W. (2008). Ambivalent sexism and misogynistic rap music: Does exposure to Eminem increase sexism? Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 37, 3025-3042.

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