Comparison Of Gender-Based Magazines Essay, Research Paper
This paper will examine the portrayals of women in two different gender-based magazines through their respective editorials, articles, and advertisements.
The first magazine is titled Complete Woman. This is a general interest publication that concerns itself with issues of health, fitness, dating and relationships, romance, sexuality, and self-help articles.
The second periodical, titled Women’s Sports and Fitness, emphasizes both participatory and spectator sports. It includes articles about health, fitness, women athletes, emerging sports trends and attitudes.
Both magazines are directed toward women with the majority of material being written by women as well. It is noteworthy that the editors-in chief are female as are most of each publication’s staff. It seems somewhat ironic that the publisher of Complete Woman is male.
The editorial section of Complete Woman is directed at three categories of women: those who are single, those who have been divorced and those looking to keep their present relationship. It introduces writers of erotic confessions to women seeking to put the “spark back into your love life.” If your love life is not working to your satisfaction, the editor suggest trying “creative divorce.” Of course, with all this turmoil comes a survival guide to help “work your way beyond betrayal into new strength.”
Women’s Sports and Fitness, on the other hand, discusses the benefits of being able-bodied. “If I can change a tire, I’m set,” writes the editor. She poses the question of what is confidence and asks the reader to consider the different skills that women at the turn of the century were expected to accomplish. These included learning to play a musical instrument
(to entertain guests), ballroom dancing, the fine art of table setting, and sewing.
Although knowing how to sew is admirable and could come in handy for replacing lost buttons, WSF thinks it is time for women to have a new list of things they should be able to do in the new millennium and they are more than happy to provide that list. The editor equates strength with confidence and tells women to “go build some of your own.”
It would appear at first glance that these publications have different agendas. The former attempts to address women’s emotional problems and the latter concerns itself with the physical capabilities of women. Yet both send the message that women are lacking in some way and these fine magazines have the secret formulae to remedy the situation.
In an article that follows CW’ s editorial, Cokie Roberts discusses how women are “confused (about where they belong) because we know that no matter what else a woman is doing, she’s also care-taking, and we worry that a woman ‘out at work’ might leave someone, especially her children, without care.” This is a prime example of what Susan Faludi describes in Backlash that “women may be free and equal, but have never been more miserable.”
In the next segments, CW leads into articles on weighing the alternatives to birth control and breast enlargement. It offers survival guides to relationship breakups and separation and further admonishes women not to ease their misery by following the “dumper’s diet” of gorging on cake and pizza. Advice on how to marry a millionaire suggests going to expensive restaurants to scope out the clientele and having
breakfast or lunch if you can not afford dinner. But “be sure to go with one or two friends who are not as attractive as you are.” Finding the right man is possible by “developing your psychic power and an exclusive book excerpt from the bestseller “What Men Want,” a dating guide written by three eligible bachelors.
All of these stories having the overshadowing theme than a woman is nothing and unfulfilled without a man in her life. This supports Mona Charen’s theory in her article, “The Feminine Mistake,” that women’s liberation “has effectively robbed (women) of one thing upon which the happiness of most women rests–men.”
In direct opposition to this theory, WSF profiles successful women athletes like Jackie Joyner-Kersee who are concerned with achieving their personal goals and desires. An interview with Olympic Gold medalist, Picabo Street talks about being a role model and that being a tomboy required her to perform at a higher level and a personal essay on reaching a goal of fulfilling a lifelong fantasy of rowing in the sport’s most famous race, the Head of Charles.
The only beauty problems discussed are soothing chapped lips, healing blisters and helmet hair. The fashion layout is dedicated to high-tech fabrics that keep you warm during those winter adventures.
An article that explores proper breathing discusses the societal influence of having a flat stomach. Michael Grant White of Berkeley says that “society values a flat stomach, but holding it in limits the movement of the diaphragm and prevents you from taking full advantage of your lung capacity. Women tend to suck in their stomachs, puff out their chests and
draw up their shoulders when they breathe, producing shallow and irregular inhalations.”
Another article dealing with societal influence looks at orthopedic surgery for women’s sports injuries. It has not been until recently that orthopedic surgeons have begun to give women’s injuries equal care. Because of physical differences women are more likely to blow out their knees than men, but they are less likely to have surgery. Lisa Callahan, MD, medical director and cofounder of the Women’s Sports Medicine Center in New York explains that, “Sports has long been considered a man’s domain, and men have been taken more seriously. If women exercised, it was supposedly to stay thin or to look good in a bathing suit.”
These two examples demonstrate how stereotypes of women and body image have created a grave and unnecessary disservice to the physical well-being of women.
The last story to be examined is called, “Big Balls: We’ve seen them at the gym, but what the heck are we supposed to do with them?” The title evokes various imagery for the reader. Although the article works under the guise of large rubber balls that are used for strengthening muscles and improving balance, the entire piece could be interpreted as sexual innuendo. Portions of the article read, “staying on the ball is the trick,” and, “Just keep in mind, the key to success is concentration: Space out and you’ll slide off.” With the innuendoes in mind, the article reads more like an instruction manual in sexual techniques for women.
The final section for examination are the advertisements in each magazine. In CW, all of the advertisements strike at the core of women’s
insecurities. They are concerned with fixing what is “wrong” with women physically and what they can do to exude more sexuality. Cellulite reducers/eliminators, invisible breast enhancers, electrolysis systems,
Kegel exercise equipment, phallic-shaped vibrating massagers, sexual products, erotic pheromone products, fat burners and energizers, are all aimed at women’s uncertainty about their physical beauty and the ability to please men sexually.
WSF counters the stereotype of CW ’s “insecure woman syndrome” with advertisements urging women to “break the rules.” Automobile ads emphasize no errands, no boundaries (drive over the yellow line).” Clothing lines promote women owned and operated products. Women are shown participating in rock climbing, mountain biking, and basketball. Personal care products are aimed at “taking care of your skin” and relieving stress. There is even an advertisement for Colt guns highlighting a female Team Colt champion.
The main message throughout these ads seems to be saying “freedom” and “break out” from the ties that bind you. The ads say more about what women are in control of or how they can take charge of their lives. These portray women as the movers and shakers in their own lives; they are not waiting around for things to happen.
These two publications are targeted to two different types of female audiences. One is independent and self-assured while the other is male-dependent and lacks self-esteem. The articles, editorials and advertisements of each magazine reflect these key messages with little room for skepticism.
We have spent millions of dollars researching that which plagues both female and male genders. Although some theories have been formed, there is no apparent hard and fast answer to the continuing dilemmas of male/female interactions. If media does indeed serve to reflect the dominant values of society, then both genders are in serious trouble. At this point in time, media serves only to cause further confusion about the roles of men and women in society. If media is persuaded by its ability to make a profit, then we as consumers have the ultimate control. We can force media to reflect what is true and fair with our buying power. Consumers can be the catalysts to bring about change in the negative portrayals of women in society.
As we enter the new millennium, it is time to leave the baggage of early feminism behind and, as Hillary Clinton said of her husband’s sexual misconduct, “It is time to move on.”