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"Can't Teach an Old Hoe New Tricks": An Analysis of Instagram Comments on Black Women in Hip-Hop Open Access

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This study is an analysis of comments left on the Instagram posts of Black female celebrities, particularly those within Hip-Hop. This analysis put the comments in conversation with Patricia Hill-Collins’s theory of the new racism as well as previous scholarship concerning the jezebel stereotype and imagery. Previous research concerning the jezebel stereotype, including Hill-Collins’s work Black Sexual Politics, limit their analysis to traditional mass media outlets, including television, news, film, and music. This study was intended to interrogate social media’s function as a form of mass media and to analyze how the jezebel stereotype can be seen in interactions therein. A data set of 800 comments, 200 each from four subjects, was created and coded using a grounded theory approach. It was found that all four subjects of the study were associated with the jezebel stereotype, but the commenters’ responses to the individual women were markedly different along axes of motherhood, class, and status within Hip-Hop. Two significant code families were created through grouping codes together according to place and method of occurrence: Bodily Motherhood and Othering & Affiliation. Within Bodily Motherhood, it was found that pregnancy and motherhood are not only antitheses to the jezebel stereotype, but the subject must be forced back into the jezebel status through regulation of the physical body as well as pejorative acknowledgement of motherhood. The second code family of Othering and Affiliating speaks to the commenters’ acknowledgement of subjectivity for some of the women, but not all, as well as how the commenters attempted to Affiliate themselves with two of the subjects even though they were relegated to jezebel status. Through these results, this study determined that social media and the interactions within are indicative of the new racism described by Hill-Collins even though they do not function within a traditional mass media platform; the results also show that the jezebel stereotype and those who participate in its evolution work constantly and consistently at all points of a woman’s life to relegate her to such status. Through engaging with how the jezebel stereotype, an example of intersectional oppression, functions in current day society, we hope to open possibilities of scholarly thought and actionable change. By acknowledging the methods through which women are successfully fighting or owning the public’s perception of them as jezebel, we acknowledge that Black women are neither passive participants in their lives nor passive victims of a racism that attacks their body and attempts to steal their agency.

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