The Objectification of Women in Dancehall

By:Charissa Granger

“Woman is not inferior, she is subjected”(Rose 2006: 69).

“That the woman should be inscribed in an order of exchange of which she is the object, is what makes for the fundamentally conflictual, and, I would say insoluble, character of her position: The symbolic order literally submits her, it transcends her… There is for her something insurmountable, something unacceptable, in the fact of being placed as an object in a symbolic order to which at the same time, she is subjected just as much as the man”(Ibid.).

As described in “Sexuality and Dancehall” on the theory page, I believe that the insurgence of homophobia in dancehall is tied to the misogynistic circumstances within this music. In this music, Women have a prescribed role to play as do men. Here I would like to examine the aspect of the objectification of women in dancehall music and more specifically in the music videos that present themselves together with this music.

It is no secret that the majority of dancehall lyrics tend to be geared around the objectification of women. Black (Caribbean) women are depicted as; vile whores, cheaters, loose and brainless nymphomaniacs who are just about willing to do anything to acquire money or posses an amass of material objects. Women have taken on this musical projection to the point where; upon entering any dancehall rave one would easily behold women strutting their prowess on the floor, tables, poles and walls. What remains appalling is that women generally seem to enjoy this unflattering manner in which these lyrics portray them. It makes one question the popularity of this genre especially among women ranging from ages 14 to 40. What is so appealing about a music that continuously denigrates women?

Historically, Black women have been depicted in the media (this includes the news broadcasts) as congenitally licentious and voracious jezebels. To look back on colonialism and slavery Collins suggests that this demeanor stems from slavery where the demeaning Jezebel stereotype was used during slavery as a rationalization of the sexual exploitation of Black Woman (Collins 2000: 83). For this part of the theory section I will query the relation between colonial portrayals of black women and the current depiction of women in dancehall.

There seems to be an uncharted mirror between these two periods that remains prominent in the Afro-Caribbean diaspora. Degrading images of jezebels that were eternalized during enslavement to vindicate debasement and the objectification of Black women’s physique and sexual nature are still relevant. The disparaging aspect of this past and current relationship is that, current day renderings of jezebels are catastrophic because cultural misapprehensions bequeath to unscrutinized acceptance of the inclination of the misogynistic aspect of blaming women for socio-economic boundaries to progression.

When we examine these two examples, we may witness an overlap or continuation of negative stereotyping and projections. the imagery of the jezebel is used to portray women as sinful beings whose main purpose in life is the pleasuring of their male counterpart. There is no expectation or socio-standards to which they are held. The preponderance to prostitution, abuse and exploitation is further encouraged through dancehall music. The over sexualized visuals and the engagement of this popular Caribbean music has skewed the perception of those looking in. The self perception and the reality has brought about a devaluation and a form of social dominance that is visible in gender relations. It may seem inconceivable that a single genre may carry such baggage, but it does. The entire culture surrounding dancehall music is geared towards the afore mentioned countenances. The last videoclip gives a rather general overview of the dynamics of dancehall culture. Which, as time goes by has less and less to do with music and much more to do with appearances.


Collins, P. 2000. Black feminist thought: Knowledge, Consciousness and the Politics of Empowerment (New York: Routledge).

Rose, J. 2006. Sexuality in the Field of Vision (London: Verso).


2 responses to “The Objectification of Women in Dancehall

  1. M. Campos (@El_Perro_Suelto) 23/02/2017 at 04:58

    Excelent article. I totally agree with your arguments but I also would like to exalt the so called Conscious Dance Hall sub – genre. where artists like bobby dixon and Macka B avoid that.

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