Comments

Original document was submitted as an honors thesis requirement. Copyright is held by the author.

Document Type

Thesis

Abstract

This thesis contains a comparative study of the most popular female artists or femalefronted groups among tween girls in the years 2006 and 2016. During the tween years girls construct their identities, develop sexual beliefs, and interact with potentially influential media texts.1, 2, 3 Based on survey data of fifty-seven female students ages twenty to twenty-four in a mid-Atlantic university, Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus, Hilary Duff, and The Black Eyed Peas were remembered as the musical artists they most often listened to in and around the year 2006. An analysis of the music videos, lyrics, and public personas of these artists showed a dichotomy in representations of sexuality with no middle ground; while The Black Eyed Peas displayed a hypersexualized version of female sexuality that objectified women and commodified female sexuality, Montana/Cyrus and Duff expressed little to no sexuality in their music and spoke publicly about wearing purity rings and/or virginity. The 2016 survey, which asked sixty-two female students ages ten to fourteen in a mid-Atlantic suburban middle school to name their favorite musical artists right now, found that Ariana Grande, Selena Gomez, and Taylor Swift were the top three choices. Ariana Grande presents her sexuality as something that makes her a “dangerous woman” and a “bad girl.” Selena Gomez’s sexuality gets her into trouble. The sexuality displayed by Grande and Gomez often caters to the male gaze. They also claim to be unable to control their sexual desires. Despite their public statements about feminism and female empowerment and the neoliberal, third wave feminist discourse that often deems any sexual choice a woman makes an inherently feminist choice, the sexuality presented by Grande and Gomez does not fully challenge patriarchal views. Although their music is more sexualized than that of Montana/Cyrus and Duff, and less objectifying than that of The Black Eyed Peas, Grande and Gomez associate their sexuality with shame, which may be an enduring effect of the media focus on virginity and purity discussed by the 2006 acts. Contrastively, Taylor Swift presents her sexuality as something she controls, without shame, and with a prioritization of her own sexual desires. Swift’s empowered sexuality does not exist without backlash, though; I argue that the public slut-shaming that Swift experiences is a response to her more feminist sexuality, despite her music videos and lyrics being less overtly sexual than that of Grande and Gomez.