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Article contents

Representations of femininity in popular music

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 November 2008

Extract

Every text and every reading has a social and therefore political dimension, which is to be found partly in the structure of the text itself and partly in the social relations of the reader and the way they are brought to bear upon the text. (Fiske 1989b, pp. 97–8)

The position outlined in the quotation above suggests that meanings are the result of convergence between material properties of a text, and the particular social allegiances of the reader. Two approaches to music and meaning are embodied in this stance: the first theorises music as the material realisation of social forces which are structured into the text and into the reading subject, while the second promotes a view in which the text is rewritten in the act of recontextualisation within the practices of everyday life. Both approaches, the former represented by the critique of mass culture offered by the Frankfurt School, the latter by theories of popular culture, have their roots in the Marxist tradition which theorises the fundamental conflict in society as one between the dominant economic class and all those subordinated by it. Within this context, music is subject to a critique which reveals its stance as either affirming or opposing the ideology of the dominant economic order. The central question is therefore not whether music is ideological, but how ideology is made material and the extent to which listeners are free to produce meanings. In this paper these issues are examined in relation to ideologies of femininity in popular music.

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Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1999

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