Wednesday, February 18, 2009

An Excerpt From my MA Dissertation - Stereotyping Women In Lifestyle Magazines

When I was born, they looked at me and said: 'What a good boy, what a smart boy, what a strong boy!' And when you were born, they looked at you and said: 'What a sweet girl, what a beautiful girl, what a pretty girl!'" "What A Good Boy," The Barenaked Ladies. 

For several decades now, media critics and feminists alike have been examining the role of the media in creating and reinforcing stereotypical representations of women and femininity. But only recently have they expanded the research to consider how the media also constructs, informs and reinforces prevalent ideas about men and masculinity, which in the process also builds a stereotypical notion of femininity. Take for instance ‘Masculinity and Men’s Lifestyle Magazine’ a book by Beethan Benwell which deals in detail how stereotypes of masculinity are formed by the media or a book by Jonathan Bignell ‘Media Semiotics: An Introduction’ which talks about the semiotics of advertisements in both Men’s and Women’s magazines and how women are framed as sexual objects in this all male world of media.
. What remains my concern in this paper is to try to figure out the ways in which these magazines in the process of constructing a stereotypical masculine identity, continue to relegate women to the background and, in doing so, are examples of social backlash directed against specific gains made by women in the paid labor force, mass media industries and other professions. It is true that it is no coincidence that as women are achieving greater social, political and professional equality, these magazines symbolically relegate them to subordinate positions as sex objects and objects of recreation for men. And it is also true when we often complain that the pressure put on women through ads, television, film and new media to be sexually attractive—and sexually active—is profound, more perhaps today than during any other times. Is it then to say that women who have now begun realizing their potential, which for long had been suppressed, are threatening the long and well preserved superior subject positions occupied by men? This is however not to say that Men’s magazines deliberately and visibly try to undermine the gains made by women, yet to suggest that the way in which a woman appears in these magazines through there articles and their advertisements is such that the only aspect of her that can be highlighted is nothing but her body and her intelligence is often made fun of. There are recurrent articles in Man’s World about how 10 famous men in India rate such and such woman’s sex appeal, or who according to ten business tycoons are the five sexiest women India/world. These magazines also deride women by showing them in low light through cartoons, take for instance a cartoon where a woman come in with a packet of oil n complains to her husband saying the shopkeeper cheated her by not giving the 100% cholesterol free that is mentioned in the pack etc. and most importantly, how they handle women etc. What is interesting however in these magazines is that they take women to be this object available to be seduced by good looks and manners of men. The tone of the magazine especially in its ‘Dr. Know’ (a section that deals with the problems the readers ask) is such that it relegates women to this inferior objectified level. The tone in this section is always filled with sarcasm with this assumed cool attitude towards life, and a kind of rhetoric that is filled with wit and humour which never answers questions in a serious, responsible direct way.Whereas in a women’s magazine the problems whatever it may be is invariably dealt with more seriousness and concern even when the question is from a man. What can be the reason for such a wide difference in the treatment of almost the same issues? Here comes the question of stereotypes as in why do the men’s magazines mostly have this kind of a comic approach to questions relating to the private realm? Has it something to do with the fact of creating stereotypical identities of masculinity and feminity which exist in society – to say a silly, emotional, infantile female who needs to discuss such matter of fact things as against a more mature man who does not need such advices.

P.S - I am thinking on starting up again on my dissertation. May be I will begin with re-writing it and then take it further.


Siddharth said...

I repeat, well measured writing and I encourage you to rewrite

wasted said...

thanks thanks...though some of the sentences fall flat.

shock said...

please don't ask me to read such articles, please, its well written no doubt. Since I truly and deeply hate all -isms, and articles such as these fall under the -ism and -ist categories, it is better that I don't read them isn't it? As far as rewriting your theses is concerned, of course go ahead and maybe you can publish it somewhere also, that would be great

wasted said...

how to publish?

wanda1234 said...

thanks for sharing....

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