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Research investigation a

  1. 1. Research Investigation Sample A A Textual Analysis Contrasting Representations of Men and Women in Women’s Magazines - More! and Cosmopolitan.Women have become increasingly aware of what they want from life, in aspects such as career andrelationships. Magazines in particular, reaching a similar target audience of older teens-middle agedwomen, are being prompted to become more independent and sexually aware of their needs. Menare often presented as sexual objects in texts such as More! and Cosmopolitan magazine, living up tothe well known masculine stereotypes. I am going to deconstruct how the representations arepresented and whether men and women are portrayed in a realistic way. My analysis will be basedon the constructionist view, the male gaze and the audience reading which will provide me withknowledge on ideologies of men and women within the magazine industry.Masculinity is often said to be ‘in crisis’ as women are becoming increasingly assertive andsuccessful, apparently triumphing in all roles, men are said to be anxious and confused about whattheir role is today.1More! magazine was first launched in 1988 by Bauer London Lifestyle2 and it hasbecome increasingly popular among women, even referred to as a magazine which ‘can make mensubmit to your sexual will’ 3 However the magazine has come under criticisms for its tone andrepresentations of men after one blogger claimed to ‘finding particular distaste at the effect onyoung girls’ self-esteem, and the tendency to group men into ‘identikit characters.’ 4 The first article Icame across in More! was ‘More! men of the week’ which is initially eye catching as the majority ofthe text is up-close images of attractive well known male celebrities, aiming to immediately engagethe reader with attraction alone. The tagline ‘we’d speed date all of this lot’ is colloquial, implyingthe mode of address is friendly and down to earth to appeal to a broader audience of teenagers. Itwould also suggest how modern day women lead busy and chaotic lifestyles and only can offer mena short amount of time to get to know one another, and also how women are no longer devoted tothe idea of being with just one man for the long term. This idea is supported by David Gauntlett whosuggests ‘like other girl power texts, it (More!) emphasises that women should be able to get whatthey want from men, when they want it; that men should not dictate the terms of a relationship.’5The text is acknowledging the modern woman’s lifestyle and catering to her esteem needs so she is1 Media, Gender and Identity (first edition 2002) – David Gauntlett2
  2. 2. Research Investigation Sample Aable to feel in control. All of the men featured are voted by readers via social networking site,Facebook which prompts the audience to interact with the text. The Facebook page6 allows theeditor of the magazine to ask the readers to vote who they want featured, which creates an initialbond between the reader and text producer, this then develops into conversations betweenfemales discussing ‘who is the fittest.’ It is as though men are competing for women’s affectionwithout even being aware of it, contradicting the stereotype that men are the confident,competitive sex vying for female attention. Gauntlett suggest how ‘In the magazines for olderteenagers and young women, the encouragement of women to be sexual actors - even predators -rather than sexual objects or victims, reflects a feminist turning of the tables. Feminists never reallysuggested that having sex with lots of men was a goal in itself, but the rejection of passivefemininity, and the freedom to openly desire others, is feminist progress.7 ‘Two of the men featuredare shirtless actors who appear butch, muscular and handsome reinforcing the typical male ideologyof The Big Shot, who is defined by his professional status. He is the "epitome of success, embodyingthe characteristics and acquiring the possessions that society deems valuable.8" This stereotypesuggests that a real man must be economically powerful and socially successful.9 However as themales featured are all famous, it is hard for the ‘everyday male’ to reach this wealthy, well groomedpotential in life and feel able to provide, which overall could have a subconscious effect on theencoders that men must be powerful and successful in order to win a woman over. This is supportedby Nick Lacey’s theory that ‘there is an acknowledgement that women do have active desires andcan be confident enough to assert them.’10. Gender oppositions that men are dominant, hard andstrong11 are all reinforced through mediation, through using such up-close and intimate shots hascreated a male ideology which is unattainable for most normal men to reach, which is the standardwomen are forced to expect. The men appear psychologically and body confident with broad smilesand cheeky grins reinforcing the unrealistic standards of male appearance a woman should aim for.When asking members of the public how they felt men were represented, ‘sex obsessed’ and ‘imageobsessed’12 were used to describe the encoders vision of More! magazine. The article also contains‘Fittest Facebook Face’ where a woman is able to send in an image of a friend on Facebook who isattractive. This is allowing normal men to be represented however only for their appearance. The6 David Gauntlett – Media, Gender and Identity (2002)8 Image and Representation – Nick Lacey Second Edition (2009). Published by Palgrave Macmillan11 Image and Representation – Nick Lacey Second Edition (2009). Published by Palgrave Macmillan12 Survey
  3. 3. Research Investigation Sample Acolumn portrays men only to be good for one thing – to look at. Laura Mulvey’s male gaze theorythat internalization of the gaze, changes womens perceptions of themselves and makes them thinkof themselves as objects. Also men, as the dominant group have been the lookers (the subjects;women the objects.)13 However I contradict this theory as the encoders aim is to empower womenand make them feel in control of men and their relationships. The article has been constructed tofulfil women’s desires of sexual fantasy to be able to gaze from afar. It provides women withescapism and a standard of what she expects from the man in her life which is supported byGauntlett of how Some people complain that the magazines reduce women to sex-obsessedpredators, and objectify men as eye candy - but this is a blatant reversal of the traditional malegaze, and remains powerful politically. Also, like all womens magazines (and to a lesser extent,mens magazines) they may promote an ideal of attractiveness which readers may be unable orunwilling to attain.14Cosmopolitan has a long and varied history. The current content includes articles on relationshipsand sex, health, careers, self-improvement, celebrities, as well as fashion and beauty. Published byHearst Magazines,15 The article in Cosmopolitan is an interview with a male celebrity singer. The titleis ‘The Man Manual’ which implies that men are hard to understand and women need to be guidedin order to discover what men feel and need from a relationship. The tag line ‘Usher isn’t talking tohimself – he is addressing us ladies’ supports stereotypical male ideologies of being dominant and incontrol, it implies women are very submissive and again, need to be directed. The first questionasked is ‘You are a massive hit with the Cosmo girls, have you always been this popular?’ Instantlythe female interviewer is gaining insight into the ‘male world’ allowing only a female orientatedresponse from the male in which he replies ‘I knew how to identify with girls so it was a naturalprogression to woo the ladies.’ The singer is also asked ‘what is sexy in a woman’ which prompts themale to discuss a woman’s body sexually. The statement supports the egotistical and self assured,negative male stereotype we are familiar with men who ‘feel they have the right to self-expressionand self-indulgence, to love and be loved’16, yet it is the encoder who has set up this representation.The laid back and non serious tone to the magazine could suggest why they regularly feature thearticle ‘Men OVERHEARD’ in which women can send in any funny remarks they have overheard aman saying. The tagline – ‘Another day, another idiot’ suggests that men are dumb and have nosocial awareness and women are allowed to laugh at their expense. This is a contrast as the celebrity13 David Gauntlett – Media, Gender and Identity an Introduction15 Barthel 1992:148 (Danielle Limpinnian – The Portrayal of Men and Women in TV Ads)
  4. 4. Research Investigation Sample Amales previously featured were shown to be something women should be in awe of, in this articlethe everyday male is suggested to be something which we should mock. The images of men, whichframe the title, are all captured on the street and are not edited; each person appears to be doing asmug, joking face which doesn’t look very self assured in comparison to the male celebrities.Cosmopolitan, however appeals to broader audience of the older generation of women, as the toneis formal yet friendly and the front cover is never busy and always exudes class. The tagline ‘FORFUN FEARLESS FEMALES’ is bold, striking alliteration which aims to emphasise its target audience ofindependent, confident women. Cosmopolitan has varied audience groupings, one being ‘TheSucceeder’17 who will need to seek out the best as they feel it’s what they deserve, withCosmopolitan attaining the highest readership of 1,571,000 18 the brand promise is that ‘Afterreading Cosmo, the reader will feel engaged & empowered to achieve anything she wants to in love,relationships and work. The breadth and depth of content inspires ALL women to be the best theycan be.’19 The theme would aid the succeeder in their core values for control. ‘The Aspirers’20 whoseek status and are perceived to be superficial with an interest in fashion would seek Cosmopolitanfor its guidance and known repertoire as a self help text. As the magazine regularly features advertsfor high end fashion campaigns such as Jean Paul Gaultier and Givenchy this would provide theaspirer with the need for attractive packaging as well as contents. This could suggest whyCosmopolitan have a bigger interest in finding out what goes on in the mind of a man and it providesreaders with answers, it is more stimulating for the reader as opposed to having a man there to lustafter which could prompt why Cosmopolitan appeals to an older audience.The dominant ideologies in society are that men are the strong, dominant and unemotional sex, andthat women are expected to base their lives around men, creating a family and domestic bliss. Theideologies associated with males could be linked to Hegemony. By hegemony, Gramsci meant thepermeation throughout society of an entire system of values, attitudes, beliefs and morality that hasthe effect of supporting the status quo in power relations. To the extent that this prevailingconsciousness is internalised by the population it becomes part of what is generally called commonsense so that the philosophy, culture and morality of the ruling elite comes to appear as the naturalorder of things21. Magazines such as More! and Cosmopolitan aim to empower women through theirdismissive male articles, reinforcing how women have their own sexual identity and don’t need to bedependent on the opposite sex. However there is still a huge emphasis on relationships being a vital17
  5. 5. Research Investigation Sample Apart of life, with the majority of articles based on men and how to ‘bag’ one which would suggestthat a woman may be able to enjoy her life and being single, yet will never be fully satisfied until sheis in a relationship, reinforcing the ‘female weakness’ and gender oppositions. This could be linkedthe ideologies of women having a maternal instinct and feel their goal is to nurture and love,through finding their ‘soul mate’, these ideologies being supported by Lacey who claims ‘Thetraditional image of a ‘wife-mother-housewife’ is now being replaced by images of sexually assertive,confident and ambitious women who express their “freedom” through consumption. 22Total Overall Word Count including bibliography: 2,18222 Image and Representation – Nick Lacey Second Edition (2009). Published by Palgrave Macmillan