Magazines play in women’s lives Essay
Paper type: Essay
Words: 1042, Paragraphs: 12, Pages: 5
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The woman’s magazine came into existence in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century (Margaret Beetham, 1996 pg 6). They were generally aimed at the upper and middle class ladies, as these were the only women who had spare leisure time and the disposable income to purchase luxuries such as weekly magazines. During 1949-74 there were two extremely dominant themes in women’s magazines. First there was the overwhelming star billing given to love and marriage- and the family.
Second there was the heavy emphasis placed upon the Self, and the responsibility ethic laid upon every woman to be the self staring, self finishing producer of herself (Marjorie Ferguson 1983 pg 44).
It is clear from the beginning that women’s magazines promoted a picture of a ‘perfect woman’, which still exists today. One could argue the continued success of women’s magazines is due to the development of the magazine as a commodity. They have also become a crucial site for the advertising and sale of other commodities, whether nightgowns or convenience foods (Margaret Beetham 1996 pg 2).
Women’s magazines play a vital role in many reader’s lives. But do they wrongly portray a perfect woman? Many women struggle to maintain a perfect home, their children and a happy marriage. One could argue women’s magazines both add to this pressure, and act as a form of advice to women unable to cope with what is expected from them according to the media and gender stereotyping. In the early years of women’s magazines the emphasis was put upon providing entertainment and practical advice.
In this case the magazine fulfilled a role of a reference text, which women could refer to for recipes and other advice. The entertainment factor meant the magazines were viewed as a bit of light relief for women with busy lives. Janice Winship portrayed the role of women’s magazines in the eyes of the existing culture extremely differently. Men do not have or need magazines for ‘A Man’s World’; it is their world, out there, beyond the shelves: the culture of the workplace, of politics and public life, the world of business, property and technology, there they are all ‘boys’ together.
Women have no culture and world out there other than the one which is controlled and mediated by men (Janice Winship 1987 pg 6). In this respect women’s magazines provide an insight into the ‘Woman’s world. ‘ The ‘woman’s world’ which women’s magazines represent is created precisely because it does not exist outside their pages (Janice Winship 1987 pg 7). Therefore the role which magazines play in this respect is of high importance to women. It acts as an escape into ‘their own world’ which suggests why women’s magazines have been so popular in the past and continue to be as successful today.
Marjorie Ferguson argued that women’s magazines collectively comprise a social institution which serves to foster and maintain a cult of femininity (Marjorie Ferguson 1983 pg 184). She puts forward a much more positive view of women’s magazines and feels that the magazines purely identify their target market and then aim to provide their readers with ‘encouragement and entertainment to do with the business of being a woman (Marjorie Ferguson 1983 pg 184). ‘ It is clear from the above that in the past when women had little rights the role of the women’s magazines had a great importance to women.
It enabled them to have a world of their own almost, a world which was not purely occupied with males. In today’s society where women have equal rights to men (supposedly! ) the role of their magazine is not nearly as important in their lives. It does continue to provide the same features although there is a world out there not purely controlled by men, therefore the role of women’s magazines is slightly less important in the day to day activities of women. One could claim it acts as light relief although the images portrayed in these magazines can lead to this portrayal of the ‘perfect woman. ‘
In today’s society, it is difficult not to examine one’s body and feel a sense of discontent if it doesn’t mirror the lanky images one sees in not only fashion magazines, but also all areas of advertising (Annie Doig 1998). Women are increasingly faced with images of ‘the perfect woman. ‘ The portrayal of women in women’s magazines all follow the same pattern, they have a well-groomed appearance and a slim body image. Media such as television, movies, and magazines are considered to be among the most influential promoters of the thin standard, given their popularity and accessibility to the people (Anne Marlowe1998).
As women’s magazines have a massive influence on women’s self-concept many women quickly become dissatisfied with their body even at an early age. Ironically the ideal of feminine beauty which is being promoted is impossible for the average woman to achieve. This level of unhappiness can lead to an eating disorder in an attempt to conform with the publicised ‘norms. ‘ Between 1970 and 1990, there was an overall increased emphasis on weight loss and body shape in the content of a popular women’s magazine (Anne Marlowe 1998).
This concludes that the roles of women’s magazines changed from traditional and entertaining values into portraying women as consumers and directly targeting women’s own anxieties to make money. Interestingly there is evidence to suggest that eating disorders, especially anorexia and bulimia, are most prominently seen in white women (Molloy 1998). One could claim a high proportion of women’s magazines are aimed at white females. They are not directly discriminative but you rarely see a black cover girl with features on how to cope with African hair types for example.
This example outlines the impact these magazines have upon women’s self-perception. Males are also less likely to suffer with an eating disorder. This can be directly linked with the fact that male magazines are primarily concerned with leisure, pleasure and activities, in contrast as discussed women’s magazines focus on beauty, dieting and domesticity. Women are under massive pressure to conform to these unrealistic pictures of beauty. That in turn results in many women in narcissistic absorption with oneself- with ones physical appearance (‘The image of femininity in women’s magazines’ 1998).