How can these theorists/ statements be applied to the magazines? How could you use them to
discuss identity and representation?
Ferguson and the ‘cult of femininity’
Marjorie Ferguson analysed women’s magazines and the extent to which they are concerned with
the practices and beliefs of a ‘cult of femininity’. According to Ferguson, these magazines not only
reflect the role of woman in society but they also offer guidance and socialisation into that role.
Ferguson suggests that women’s magazines attempt to ‘promote collective female social ‘reality’,
the world of women.’ Top-selling magazines such as Woman, Woman’s Own, Bella and
Woman’s Weekly offer both guidance and membership into this ‘cult of femininity’.
“This is a world founded on conformity to a set of shared meanings where a
consciously cultivated female bond acts as the social cement of female solidarity.
…Through the selective perception and interpretation of the wider world from the
viewpoint of the ‘woman’s angle’, the editors of these sacred oracle sustain a
social ‘reality’ that is ‘forever feminine’.”
(Ferguson, Forever feminine: Women’s magazines
and the cult of femininity 1983)
“The success of the women’s magazine is no doubt connected with its ability to
encompass glaring contradictions coherently in its pages.”
Peter Jackson “Making Sense of Men’s Magazines”, pg. 9
1. Magazines offer audiences 2. Magazines continue to address
membership into a gender- 3. Magazines reassert and
gender in terms of binary reinforce a specific archetype of
based club, making them feel
division: you are either what it is to be male/ female,
part of a group and offering
‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’ and constructing a sense of
there is not plurality within ‘masculinity’ or ‘femininity’
’brotherhood’. It is socialisation
4. The treatment of an entire
gender as homogenous is a
mode of oppression. The denial
of plurality within genders and 6. Magazines reinforce
the reinforcement of binary 5. Magazines increasingly offer stereotypes of gender in a way
opposition signals a taxonomy audiences a choice of how to that maintains patriarchal
of division, the definition of express their own gender relations and the subordination
gender roles through exclusive of women
categories, and the
reinforcement of hegemonic
structures of gender relations.