Marjorie Ferguson noted that such magazines are organized around a ‘cult of femininity’, which promotes an ideology that where women should be caring for others/family/marriage and most importantly their looks. Modern female magazines, especially those aimed at young women are attempting to move away from these stereotypes-although Ferguson argues that even these tend to focus on ‘Him, Home and Looking good’ (for him). As women have begun to achieve more recognition outside the family home and now are beginning to compete with men in the workplace, it should be reflected in the mass media.
However, sociological research suggests that the roles allocated to the sexes in for example, TV, film, and advertising have been restricted in the following ways: Women’s range of roles have been limited Women are presented as ideals * Women are selected for roles so they can look good for men Men are seen as the aggressors and women, the victims Women’s magazines can be interpreted as providing their female readers with step-by-step instructions/recipes of how to be the ‘perfect woman’, with the two main themes and ideas as being a wife and mother.
However, there has been some movement. Firstly, there has been a shift from ‘Getting and keeping your man’ to self-help. For example, articles such as ‘Why single is better’. The role of the ‘Independent Woman’ has emerged from the mid 70’s in magazines such as Cosmopolitan. Winship stresses the supportive roles such magazines can play in the lives of young women. She says that such magazines present women with a broader range of options and information, and they tackle problems largely ignored by the male-dominated media.
For example, domestic violence, child abuse and rape. Although, even in the light of these changes, Ferguson still feels that the message is still being reinforced, that women should identify with this femininity that focuses on ‘Him, Home and looking good’. It is my belief that mainly the advertising media reinforces this idea mainly through the use of supermodels and celebrities. The majority of women on the television and in magazines tend to be under 30.
Physical good looks, sex appeal and youth tend to be necessary attributes for women to be successful in show business. Wolf (1990) points out that the advertising media present a particular physical image as the ‘normal/ideal’ or ‘perfect’ image. These images may be unattainable for the majority of the young women who read these magazines and some commentators such as Orbach (1991) have linked these images to the causes of serious psychological diseases such as Anorexia and Bulimia in teenage girls.
The objectification of women’s bodies within the media has been a diverse and frequent topic of research by sociologists. Laura Mulvey (1975) argues that the dominant part of view within the media is that of a masculine, especially where women are concerned. The female body is used so that the men have ‘something to look at’. It is displayed to provide pleasure and equip men with a sense of control. The female becomes a passive object, merely for men’s delight. This idea is taken to the extremes in pornography.
Although, there are now some mild forms of this, which have become socially accepted. For example, The Sun’s ‘page 3 girls’, who Joan Smith (1990) says reinforce ‘a fantasy of willingness’ to men. Prominent themes within popular women’s magazines are the idea of ‘The quest for a man’, the idea of women striving to look their absolute best, and following the ideas of the female stereotype in order to attract a man. Women’s portrayal in the media is an important aspect of sociological research concerning the position of women in modern society.
From research into ‘media stereotyping’, it has been said that the media reinforces and reproduces stereotypes around gender. Women are usually portrayed as housewives/mothers or alternatively, they become sex objects for men to look at (eye candy). The study I intend to carry out will attempt to follow up Marjorie Ferguson’s study to see if the situation has changed, or whether women are still being traditionally stereotyped in magazines.