Projecting Gender and Sexuality Through the Nigerian Music Industry

  • Aretha Oluwakemi Asakitikpi
Part of the Leisure Studies in a Global Era book series (LSGE)


In Africa a number of gender scholars present the African woman as one who is bound by traditions which further make her a victim of male domination. She is described first as a mother, and evidence from the relics of African artworks indicates that her body was a symbol of purity and regeneration due her ability to reproduce and nourish the next generation. Outside this recognition, the African woman was hardly ascribed the virtues of intelligence with an ability to contribute meaningfully to her society in terms of politics and development. Studies abound which suggest that she had no say in terms of what happened to her, and her body was the object of male desire and control. The introduction of the mass media first as a tool of information and education and later as a source of leisure serves as an important variable within this context because of its ability to shape and redefine gender roles and sexuality. Added to this, the introduction of Western education has been identified as another major variable that encouraged the commercialization of the Nigerian female body and sexual immorality. This chapter considers the transformation the Nigerian urban woman has become, tracing this transformation through scholarly studies done of Nigerian women’s contributions to columns in the Nigerian print media. The chapter contributes to the discourse through its analysis of two Nigerian music videos selected due to their views and likes on YouTube. Adopting a multimodal method of analysis, the chapter considers the physical presentation of space and location on the one hand, and the lyrics of the selected songs on the other. From the analysis of the selected videos it is suggested that the transformed urban Nigerian woman can be firm in her expression of sexuality and in control of her gender while displaying a high sense of intelligence when relating to men.

Salawu (2011) in a later study (this time of newspapers printed in the Yoruba indigenous language) of columns written by women between 2002 and 2004 notes the explicitness and boldness of the writers. The female columnists not only express their pleasure in sexual exploits but also boast of their ability to dominate their men in the process. Salawu believes this phenomenon has cultural roots as indicated in traditional festivals. According to Salawu, the Yoruba people see sex as an expression of gender superiority and gender power not only for the male but also for the female. This study thus implies that the women of this ethnic group were not as sexually docile as many Nigerian literary and scholarly writers tried to imply.

The Nigerian print media during the colonial and independent eras served as an outlet for the expression of various emotions, and this includes love and romance. Aderinto (2015) in his study of the pre-independence newspaper column titled ‘Milady’s Bower’ printed in Nnamdi Azikwe’s West African Pilot published between 1937 and the 1950s was characterized by a female columnist called ‘Miss Silva’ who advised both men and women about things pertaining to ‘modern love’. The column allowed the reading audience to enjoy the contributions of other writers but also allowed anonymity to ‘express their feelings about often controversial matters while escaping the societal sanctions such expressions might engender’ (Aderinto, 2015:485). From his analysis, it can be gleaned that the Nigerian urban man was not as domineering as would have been expected but had to also negotiate and compromise in order to sustain a relationship. The study showed that a number of the urban Nigerian men of the time suffered from heartbreaks and being jilted, accusing their women of displaying ‘counterfeit love’. Miss Silva in her advise often encouraged women to be educated, socially responsible, and financially independent and to find men who were ready to take financial and emotional responsibility, while the men were encouraged to stop their promiscuous acts and adopt acts of gentlemanliness in terms of dressing, actions and manners, and to take up the responsibility of being a family breadwinner.This The presentation of gender roles and sexuality in the Nigerian urban

Male-dominated films, videos and drama series are prevalent in the Nigerian broadcast industry, which suggests that the theories propounded in relation to females and their bodies are true within Nigerian society. This was especially the case before the introduction of private broadcasting stations in the 1990s. Nevertheless, with the introduction of the private media, the Nigerian broadcast industry has witnessed diversity and innovation in its production and themes. A few of these productions have pushed the envelope by presenting the Nigerian female not as an object of male sexual desire and domination as sometimes perceived. Although such narratives and images are literally choked by male-dominated stereotypes, they nevertheless exist.

For this study, two such representations within the Nigerian music industry will be used as a case study to discuss issues of transformations as they relate to gender and sexuality in the Nigeria urban setting.

The prominent discourse of male dominance is discouraged while the message of negotiations and responsibility in gender relations is encouraged. Just as Aderinto (2015) notes, such mass media messages (though few) are significant in helping members of the Nigerian society to understand and negotiate gender relations. Such messages if encouraged could serve as prerequisites for the development of gender-related schemata which would further empower Nigerian woman in terms of her gender roles and the expression of her sexuality.


Gender Sexuality Mass Media Nigeria Leisure 


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© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Aretha Oluwakemi Asakitikpi
    • 1
  1. 1.Southern Business SchoolJohannesburgSouth Africa

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