Manhood and Gender Identity

From Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes collection, lesson plan 2 of 5

(60-90 minutes + assignments)

Grade Level: 9–12, College

Subject areas: Social Studies, Language Arts, Ethnic Studies, U.S. History, Media Studies, Cultural Studies, Art/Music, Current Events

Purpose of the lesson:Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes is concerned with how prevailing attitudes about masculinity are reinforced in popular representations of hip-hop. This lesson delves deeper into understanding how gender roles are produced and projected in society as a whole and in hip-hop.

National teaching standards addressed:

Grades 9-12

National standards from the following organizations were used in developing this lesson plan. See recommended national standards available in the educator guide for full descriptions of standards employed.

  • National Council for the Social Studies
  • National Council of Teachers of English/International Reading Association

Writer: David Maduli

David Maduli is an independent educational consultant who has contributed many curriculum guides and conducted various workshops for PBS programs. He has a master’s in teaching and curriculum from Harvard Graduate School of Education and continues to work as a veteran Bay Area public school language arts and social studies teacher.

For this activity, show Film Module 1, “Overview and Images of Masculinity”(7:40).

  1. Divide a chart paper into two sides: “Should” and “Should Not.” Have students brainstorm what boys/men “should” like to do, what they “should” be like, and how they “should” act. Do the same for the “Should Not” side.

  2. Discuss using the following guide questions:

    • How do you, your friends and adults you know fit these stereotypes? How are they different from these stereotypes?
    • How do these stereotypes of how boys/men “should” and “should not” be influence some people your age?
  3. Have students read Issue Brief: Men and Boys

    • How does the “Man Box” oppress women? How does it oppress men?
    • How do the images and lyrics in hip-hop contribute to the “Man Box?”
    • What can boys and men do to challenge or break out of that box?
  4. Present the following quotes to the class and have each student copy down the one that most strikes him/her:

    “Hip-hop is a man’s game.” —Suge Knight, CEO, Death Row Records

    “The notion of violent masculinity is at the heart of American identity.” —Michael Eric Dyson

    “BET is the cancer of black manhood in the world.” —Chuck D

    “From a young age, [boys] are taught that real men are tough, violent, control women and cannot under any circumstances show weakness.” —Byron Hurt

    Have students compare the quote they chose with the brainstorm list the class developed in Step 2. Use these questions as a basis for comparison: Would the speakers agree with what you generated in Step 2? Do you agree or disagree with the speakers?

  5. Break the class into pairs. In each pair, one student will research a representation that depicts men as violently masculine, tough, sexist, and so on while the other student will research a representation that depicts men as sensitive and more multifaceted. The representation each student chooses to research can be a rapper, a character in a film, show or book, a politician, a role model, or even someone the student knows.

  6. Each student pair will create a poster that places their two representations side by side. The poster should include photos or illustrations, background information, and a reflective paragraph about what the image means and what influence it has.

  7. Gallery Walk: Exhibit the posters and have students read and examine them. They should record notes about both types of representations.

  8. Press Release and Press Conference: Have students nominate and develop a list of awards they would give to people in hip-hop, for example, “Most Pro-Female Empowerment Lyrics” and “Most Positive Portrayal in a Television Series.” Have students write and contribute descriptions to a press release for print and online circulation. Also have the class present and record a press conference at which they publicly recognize their awardees.

There is no extension activity with this lesson plan.

  • Film module:
    Hip-Hop: Overview and Images of Masculinity
Download lesson materials