An Illinois State University professor's research has earned her an invitation to join a task force that is taking on the music industry.
The American Psychological Association created the task force to look at the messages of sexy music videos and lyrics, and how they impact young people. Prior to joining the task force, Megan Hopper -- from the School of Communication at ISU -- was part of a research team that surveyed college students regarding their attitudes after watching overtly sexy videos from Fergie, Beyonce and Hillary Duff.
What Hopper's research found was -- in the men particularly -- after watching the highly objectifying videos from the artists, the men tended to agree with ideas that supported sexual harassment, justification for interpersonal violence, and rape myths. The men who watched the low objectifying videos, Hopper noted, were not as likely to agree with sexist or violent statements.
"It's been the debate of a lot of research, " said Hopper. "You have one side saying that the videos are demeaning feminine ideals by placing a focus on their bodies -- it takes away from their other talents, and it makes young girls, in particular, think that they have to look or act sexy or they won't be valued. There's also the argument that the artists are fueling the belief that women really are powerful and are embracing their bodies."
Videos today are steeped with hyper-sexual images, said Hopper. "The task force is looking over the past decade and more of research in this area and it's not just in the pop genre. In fact, genres that we have typically considered as 'safe', like country, have become more sexualized."
Changes in broadcasting and industry guidelines have changed over the years, said Hopper, exposing younger and younger viewers to the overtly-sexy images. Blame it on the internet and social media.
"Music videos are all over the internet and there's no regulation, except if there's a parent that's personally responsible for regulating that. And even if a young person isn't going out and actively seeking this content, if it's being shared on social media, they're seeing it whether they want to or not."
The task force has a multi-step approach to deal with the situation. Currently in research mode, Hopper said that the task force hopes to next take its evidence of the pervasiveness and impact of videos to other researchers, policy makers, politicians, and the music industry. "And also to parents and educators as part of a music literacy plan. We're not as confident that we can make foundational change on a political or music industry level. But we are confident, then, that if changes aren't going to be made right away, we can equip parents, educators and music listeners to be more critical of this type of content, and be better equipped to combat the negative influences."