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Popular music, girlhood and identity

Coulter, Bridget Harriet (2019) Popular music, girlhood and identity. PhD thesis, University of Sheffield.

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Bridget Coulter - PhD Thesis.pdf
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This thesis investigates the role of popular music in the construction of young female identity. Research has shown that girls use music to express a sense of identity. However, this process is not yet fully understood. This study addresses this, exploring how girls use popular music to construct identities. Focus groups and interviews were conducted in England with 53 girls aged between 10 and 13, exploring how they used discourse to express opinions about music. To interpret this data, a thematic analysis was carried out. The participants had strong opinions about how audiences should engage with music, how music should sound and how performers (particularly female performers) should appear and behave. These opinions reflected wider beliefs about art, gender and selfhood. Through their discussions, the girls invoked a gendered dichotomy; “good” music was described as serious, authentic, autonomous and masculine, while “bad” music was dismissed as “fake”, trivial, worthless and feminine. Their discussions were extremely individualistic, promoting an idealised version of commodified selfhood based on self-expression, self-work and self-construction. The girls used musical judgements to align themselves with certain values, and this allowed them to take up more powerful subject positions. However, although this offered them a form of individualised empowerment, their ability to use this power was highly constrained; because they saw themselves as individuals, they were largely unable to access collective forms of support, resistance and power. This research situates girls within their wider cultural context, examining how individual girls are constrained by oppressive social structures. To address these issues, a more comprehensive approach to music and media education is required, as well as a more nuanced, socially-conscious approach to girls’ personal and social education. Ideally, strategies to support girls must go beyond individualistic self-help initiatives, instead focusing on wider social structures which impact on girls’ lives.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Arts and Humanities (Sheffield) > Music (Sheffield)
Depositing User: Dr Bridget H Coulter
Date Deposited: 02 Mar 2020 09:53
Last Modified: 02 Mar 2020 09:53
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/26248

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