The Society for Social Work and Research

2014 Annual Conference

January 15-19, 2014 I Grand Hyatt San Antonio I San Antonio, TX

Use of Popular Media and Gender Studies to Educate Young Adults About Intimate Partner Violence

Saturday, January 18, 2014: 9:30 AM
HBG Convention Center, Room 008A River Level (San Antonio, TX)
* noted as presenting author
Megan Lindsay, MSW, Research Assistant, Arizona State University, Phoeniz, AZ
Jonel Thaller, MSW, PhD Candidate, Arizona State University, Phoenix, AZ
Jill T. Messing, MSW, PhD, Assistant Professor, Arizona State University, Phoenix, AZ
Background: Activists have made the problem of intimate partner violence (IPV) public, but have had little control over how media frames it. The music video for Eminem and Rihanna’s hit single “Love the Way You Lie” reproduces commonly held myths about IPV—for example, that many women instigate and/or enjoy their abuse (Thaller & Messing, 2013). Youth are particularly at risk for IPV (Black et al., 2011) and also considered developmentally susceptible to gendered sexual scripts (Martino et al., 2007). However, some scholars suggest audiences are “practical actors” who filter information according to first- and second-hand experiences (Loseke, 2004; Berns, 2004). The extent to which education and experience helps individuals challenge myth-based beliefs is debatable (Postmus et al., 2011; Black, Weisz, & Bennett, 2010; Peters, 2008; Worden & Carlson, 2005). This study’s purpose is to inform development of IPV education/prevention programs by understanding to what extent heterogeneous youth draw from education, experience, and social identity (gender, race, pop culture stereotypes, etc.) to make sense of a music video depiction of IPV. Researchers have begun to experiment with Hip Hop and other youth art as a means of education and prevention (Hopkins, 2011;Turner-Musa et al., 2008).

Methods: A purposive sample of young adults (n=22, 11 males/11 females, Age: M=20.7, range=18-22) was recruited from a public university in the Southwestern US. Participants were interviewed in 6 focus groups for approximately 1.5 hours, beginning with questions about media consumption, followed by a “Love the Way You Lie” video screening, then questions eliciting responses to and interpretations of the video. Audio-recorded interviews were transcribed then coded independently by two researchers for content related to participants’ 1) education, 2) experiences, and 3) social identity. Emergent themes were noted. The third researcher independently reviewed the first two analyses and marked commonalities/differences before all three researchers determined final results.

Results: Participants were like-minded in their harsh judgment of Rihanna and her involvement in an IPV incident, and many excused the violence of male performing artists. However, participants’ responses varied dramatically according to education, experiences, and social identity. Many participants contributed to the reproduction of myth-based beliefs, though education (particularly women’s studies classes) and first- or second-hand experiences with IPV and intimate relationships generally yielded more nuanced and complicated interpretations of the video. Education about IPV occurred among participants within groups, indicating that peer-education may be prompted through popular media depictions.

Conclusions/Implications: Findings support the notion that young people are experts on their experiences and perceptions, as well as the media culture they inhabit (Pittman & Wolfe, 2002), but interpretations of IPV depictions will be diverse. Social workers practicing with young adults in schools or other settings should consider popular media as a starting point for discussion among heterogeneous youth groups. Positive responses to gender studies courses may warrant a focus on feminist theories, including texts that explore the intersection of pop culture and feminism, for educating youth about gendered interactions and preparing future social work practitioners (Anderson- Nathe, Gringeri, & Wahab, 2013).