Feminism through Figurative Language in Contemporary American Songs of Leading Contemporary Feminist Music Icons

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Areerasada Morakot Pataraporn Tapinta

Abstract

The main objectives of this study are 1) to identify feminist values reflected in contemporary American songs of ‘third wave’ feminist lyricists (Madonna, Pink, Beyonce, Britney Spears, Lady Gaga, and Kesha); 2) to analyze how those feminist values are reflected in those songs through figurative language. The main theoretical
frameworks of four major perspectives of third wave feminism (Mann and Huffman, 2005), of figurative language (Perrine, 1977; Arp and Johnson, 2009; Straker, 2013), and of content analysis (Miles and Huberman, 1994; Coffey and Atkinson, 1996) were
applied. The findings revealed that six major feminist values were expressed in those songs including the themes of women’s 1) Ambition; 2) Survival; 3) Pride; 4) Indiv idualism; 5) Liberalism; 6) Women’s inferior social status and struggle for life quality. These feminist values were commonly expressed through three common
f igurative devices—1) metaphor; 2) simile; 3) parallelism. Of these three devices, metaphor was employed most frequently. This device of using shared background knowledge of social values (e.g., beliefs and attitudes) between the lyricists, who are considered as feminist icons, and their audiences through metaphoric symbols of women’s behaviors, outer appearances and characteristics, abilities, and so on seems to show the most effective impact in promoting understanding of feminist sensation among their audiences. In conclusion, song, which is a common contemporary genre of literary work, can transcend feminist messages to the society effectively, and the intended messages appear powerful because of the use of figurative language.

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Research Article