Male rappers see the "independent woman" as an educated, bill-paying person who will care for an average guy without making demands, while female rappers stress their sexual prowess and keep mum about their domestic skills, according to a Baylor University researcher's study.
But despite their very different takes on independent women, both men and women artists displayed a definite lack of the R-E-S-P-E-C-T that Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin craved in her 1967 mega-hit song.
"Both groups use misogynistic language to describe women," said Dr. Mia Moody, assistant professor of journalism and media arts at Baylor, in a study published in the spring issue of American Communication Journal.
The trend clearly shows that parents must take back roles as image-makers and discuss lyrics with children, that literacy programs should stress the true meaning of independence and that rappers must take responsibility for their negative or mixed messages, Moody concluded in her study.
She analyzed six songs and corresponding YouTube videos by male and female rappers, as well as comments posted to videos. Rappers were Yo Gotti, Webbie, Drake, Candi Redd, Trina and Nicki Minaj.
"It's also worth noting that male rappers set the bar higher for women than for men," Moody said.
In her study, she found four main messages:
- Wealth equals independence
- Beauty and independence are connected
- Average men deserve perfect women
- Sexual prowess equals independence
Among her examples are Yo Gotti's "Five Star Chick." He describes his ideal mate as a church-going college grad with a perfect credit score who gives good back rubs. Those lyrics are better than ones glorifying drugs and violence, Moody said, but he never mentions how he can reciprocate.
Both male and female rappers are obsessed with materialism, Moody said. Female rappers send mixed messages, boasting of buying things for themselves, yet emphasizing the importance of men spending money on them. They are more sexually explicit than men, often bragging about their skills in bed.
Moody suggested that many male rappers deal with money-seeking groupies, so they create the image of the self-sufficient woman. But they see women as gold diggers or independent, with no happy medium.
Few who commented on music discussed double standards or conflicting messages about independence.
Moody said parents and literacy programs should teach that beauty, materialism and unrealistic domestic standards are not necessarily part of independence; that independence standards may vary based on personal circumstances; and that independence may become secondary for those wanting relationships and families. She said rappers must infuse positive messages into their lyrics to downplay materialism, sexism and bias by lighter-skinned people against darker-skinned ones within the same ethnic group.
Explore further: Mapping the world's linguistic diversity—scientists discover links between your genes and the language you speak