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Paper Topic:

Women in Popular Culture

[The Author 's Name]

[The Professor 's Name]

[The Course Title]


Women in Popular Culture

Thesis Statement

Madonna is today the most popular singer and may be rated as a female icon from popular music culture . It would also cover the claim with evidence about the kind of impact that musical representation of women has had on popular culture and especially Madonna as a pop singer . The focus of the would remain how she has impacted and contributed to the popular culture


Almost every song

and musical group from the 1940 's to the present includes female stereotypes . Portrayals of women in lyrics and demands on women musicians are historical and have been seen in other media as well , particularly film or video . These ideas strongly impact a broad spectrum of public opinion . Given the unique nature of music--a kind of sublime indoctrination--and this level of public exposure , it seems reasonable to conclude "that much of popular music has contributed greatly to American attitudes about women (Anderson 36

Many deep-seated female stereotypes were firmly ingrained at the beginning of the twentieth century . Public performance by women was not considered to fit the role of the wife or mother but that of a "single show girl of dubious moral character (Ammer 110 . Women were seen as mere chattels by the dominant-white-male power elite and didn 't "earn the right to vote until 1920 . It may have been fashionable for women to play music in the home but restrictions of public performances have been in place until quite recently . A women 's place was in the home and playing music outside of it may appear scandalous . Also , aside from singing or playing piano and violin , there was a kind of taboo for a woman to play such instruments as drums . Orchestras rarely admitted women , and so they sometimes formed their own , all-female , groups . So for many women , popular or less serious music was the most likely form of musical expression they could attain . In this sense women were similar to Black Americans--they had to form their own groups in to play in public


Although women have taken to the stage in greater numbers in the latter part of this century , they are often painted-up puppets with men controlling the strings . Maybe family and oral tradition further certain types of music such as folk and country to be in areas where women singer-performers can occasionally achieve more control or input to other aspects of the production process such as how songs are performed and distributed (Ammer 113 . This is not to ignore that popular music is huge business

Popular music is an interpretation of popular culture embedded in the varied musical heritages of the United States . Although they often go unrecorded in official accounts and histories , women significantly influence popular music . Rather than a true art form , pop music is a business--this alone speaks volumes , and because of its exploitive nature and the fact that men control the record industry , women have had to men in to be successful . A woman 's talent has to be recognized by the men in power for them to be given a chance at stardom Although there have always been good female instrumentalists , it is the singers who are most prominent . Today women are heard in every aspect of popular music--from country to contemporary . Besides mere voices , modern media has focused on the physical commodities . An example is the sexy lead singer of an all male band . But for solo female artists , radio , for years , has proved a stumbling block for women artists . Since the 1960 's an unwritten rule has prevented DJs from spinning more than one woman artist per hour or so - playing women back to back was not tolerated Developed during the reign of AM Top 40 , this abysmal status quo filtered into free-form rock radio of the late 60 's and early 70 's

Madonna 's Status And Impact

Women who closely conform to the cultural ideal have often been the ones to gain pop stardom . Stars such as Madonna , modeled , as the image of a Marilyn Monroe , is a recent example . However , would Mama Cass , of the former Mamas and the Papas be allowed a video presentation ? Most likely women must be young , fit and looking sexy or they probably won 't be making any video . Some women like Tina Turner and others write pop tunes but usually it is men who put the words into the mouths of their Lolitas for other men 's satisfaction--sex equals sales . Madonna is the quintessential example in male song writing as in the tune "Like a Virgin " Although women are still treated as sex objects , women are sometimes regarded by male-defined culture as having talent--many for vibrant voices . Their voices have carried them through a century of pop music even if their words are mainly those of men

Popular music is considered to be a significant socializing mechanism that both "transmits and reflects norms regarding all social behavior including the way males and females act (Freudiger 62 . The symbolic realm of society , especially the media , assists persons in a society to affirm and maintain these gender role pictures even when the images do not reflect reality

The United States has begun to experience a women 's musical renaissance Women 's roles in pop music are steadily growing . There have been many outstanding female musicians and vocalists in the past that have aided in making the music industry less of a male opinionated society , from Aretha Franklin , Mo Tucker , and Ella Fitzgerald to pop icons like Courtney Love , Queen Latifa , and Melissa Ethridge . Along side these there are two women who have conquered most obstacles they 've faced and in addition , forced the music industry to become more of a female friendly environment . Those two women are Madonna and Brittany Spears

Madonna is an artist that most Americans are very familiar with . From rudeness to charity , she is always in the public eye . Madonna took women and sex through a quantum leap and her unique style and flair has been imprinted on pop culture forever . Besides creating major trends in music she was responsible for many fashion statements throughout the eighties and nineties (Gandee 307 . Up until 1982 , female sexuality was largely a suggestion of cleavage and tight-fitting jeans , then Madonna showed up in 1983 wearing her Victoria 's Secrets on the outside , and all hell broke loose

Throughout her career as one of America 's superstars , Madonna maintained much of her creative control while signed to a major record label , a feat few musicians can boast about . She was and is very involved with the business aspect of her career (Udovitch 300 , and even started her own sub-label , Maverick Records . Not surprisingly , Madonna has set many of the standards for music videos , and has had over 10 number one singles . At the time Madonna first arrived on the scene there hadn 't been a strong female icon in music since Billie Holiday . Like Holiday Madonna turned heads with her sexy attitude and approach to life , love and sex . Think what you might about her musical talent , she pushed the power of female sexuality to the forefront of the public eye , taking it so far as to present her sexual manifesto in a self-published soft core pornography book , entitled "Sex

Although Brittany Spears and Madonna made very different career choices aspects of their lives and influence are very similar . Both artists moved to New York at a very young age and performed at small clubs and bars . Another thing the two women share is their compassion and opinions . They both are very politically active and vocal , taking action in ways most don 't . Madonna frequently takes stands in her videos and concerts , shocking some folks with her views . In 1990 , she told the world to stop living their personal lives according to other peoples rules when she sang "Poor is the man /whose pleasure depends /on the permission of another " The song and video "Justify my Love " was banned from MTV for explicity , sending it to the top of the charts in a matter of days

Madonna and Ani did just that they did what they wanted , and to hell with those who got in their way , even though they went about their music in two entirely different ways . The major differences between them came at the point in their careers when they were faced with a decision whether or not to sign on the dotted line . Madonna signed , but had enough business sense to retain her creative rights , making sure that no one else would be running her show . Ani DiFranco did the opposite opposing the music industry completely . In her song "Make Them Apologize , Ani somewhat explains her actions when she sent this wake up call to women everywhere "The music business is still run by men / like every business and everything / but we can sing like a son of a bitch make them twitch around their eyes / make them apologize " Despite their opposing paths , they both accomplished very similar goals , for instance they both have maintained most if not all of their creative control Presently , they both own very successful record labels and both tour often

In essence , these two women have made the music industry seem obtainable to everyone . Their accomplishments represent many of the recent victories won by women in the music industry Accomplishments like Lilith Faire and Rock for Choice


Though many doors have been opened there are many that have remained shut . For instance , the way that many labels choose to market female artists like sex symbols instead of relying on their ability to perform Women musicians are becoming more and more visible , and , with this visibility comes into power . Ani DiFranco and Madonna are just two examples of women who are starting their own record labels and signing their own bands . By doing this they are insuring that female artists get heard . Obviously , not every women musician can have this kind of determination , but the fact that they are on stage playing what they love , music , makes them powerful

There is nothing natural about the contemporary pop female singing voice , because there is nothing intrinsically natural about any kind of actual vocal expression , voices being governed by changing cultural rules and fashions and varying between genres . With vocals as with music , the record industry works with a set of categories into which it seeks to mould its performers , with the aim of controlling consumer choice (Cowther , 145-50 . Gender is inevitably a factor in this categorization process . The categories available for women are restricted , and women 's music , which cannot be fitted into these , may be either rejected outright as unsuitable for signing or altered so that they do fit . Suzi Quatro , was originally in a family group with her sisters , playing strip clubs . Her first record , however , presented her as a folk-singer , with a characteristic folk image . The producer of this record was Mickie Most , who had just produced Julie Felix . With later producers she changed her image yet again , although like Madonna , Annie Lennox , and Bjork , Suzi Quatro was , apparently , always in control of these image changes . Many women performers in the past have had little influence over their image

The traditional female classification of 'female folk-singer /singer-songwriter ' has been a very conservative category offering women little scope for experimentation . Because of the lack of role models , many have been packaged as folk , perpetuating the dominance of the female folk image , so that it is not surprising that many of my first batch of interviewees had , in their teenage years , aspired to become folk-singers , whilst very few had , even briefly , entertained the notion of playing rock

Feminism and lesbianism have also had an effect on singers . Because conventional female pop songs usually presumed a male listener , women have been expected to sing in heterosexist terms for the male ear . The variety of voices were heard on the post-punk 'Making Waves ' album of women 's bands , the reason being that many of these bands were singing for other women , and thereby breaking the voice codes . There is , in the 1990s , a growing greater variety in women 's voices . Images , too , have been more artfully utilized by confident female performers , Annie Lennox and Madonna developing the tactic of presenting a succession of images in a playfully ironic postmodern way , as a means of avoiding the traditional image trap . Women vocalists have been successfully fighting for more control over their careers within the music industry

Works Cited

Ammer , Christine . Unsung : A History of Women in American Music Westport , Conn , Greenwood Press , 1980 .110-13

Anderson , B .P , Hersbacher , K .P . Etzkorn , R .S . Denisoff "Hit Record Trends , 1940-1977 " Jornal of Communication 30 (1980 : 31-43

Cowther , Bruce , and Mike Pinfold . The Jazz Singers : From Ragtime to New Wave . Javelin , England : Sterling , 1988 . 145-50

Freudiger , Patricia , and Elizabeth M . Almquist "Male and Female Roles in the Lyrics and Three Genres of Contemporary Music " Sex Roles 41 (1978 : 61-65

Gandee , Charles "In The Closet With Madonna . Vogue Oct . 1997 : 306-313 378

Udovitch , Mim "Madonna . The Rolling Stone Book of Women in Rock . Ed Barbara o 'Dair . New York :Random House ,Inc ,1997 . 299-301 Author 's Last Name PAGE 8 ...

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