Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




This is a feminist rhetorical analysis of female artists' videos on MTV in the 1990's. Previous analyses support the idea that sex and sexism play a major aspect in MTV videos. However, most research on MTV was conducted in the 1980's and focused mainly on the portrayal of women in male musicians' videos. By focusing solely on female artists of the 1990's, this study proposed three research questions: Are female artists on MTV portrayed in roles that provide alternative images to traditional sexual stereotypes? Do the appearances of female artists on MTV continue to promote them as sex objects? and Do female artists on MTV present equality in their relationships with men? To answer these questions, the first two steps in feminist rhetorical analysis are applied, first addressing whether a male or female perspective is taken and if it is a traditional or alternative portrayal of femininity, and secondly, how the video may affect its adolescent audience. Three main categories emerged in answering the research question. The first is the 'Weak Female" in which female artists adapt traditional ideas of femininity where the woman depends on a man for her happiness, emphasizes her body rather than her talent, and presents unbalanced male/female relationships. The second category is the "Defiant Female," where women artists provide alternative images of femininity, often reversing sex roles and aggressively usurping the power of males. The third category is the ''Genderless Female" in which female artists focus more on humanity and culture, often emphasizing a greater love than just romantic love and presenting equality in male/female relationships. This study concludes that female artists of the 1990's are providing alternative images of women as well as traditional ones. Suggestions for future research include doing a more quantitative analysis of the content of female artists' videos as well as trying to determine what effect these traditional and alternative images have on today's youth.


A Thesis Presented to the Department of Communication and the Faculty of the Graduate College University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree Master of Arts University of Nebraska at Omaha. Copyright 1998 Holly Stommes Andrews.