Female Lifestyle magazines – progressive or patriarchal?

Female Lifestyle magazines are a mainstream form of magazine that is there to promote popular culture and to give the average woman insight into the world of fashion, beauty and health.

Patriarchal ideologies are ‘where the dominant ideas in society stresses the desirability of males dominating females in all areas of social life’.

Hegemony is ‘the way in which relationships of domination and exploitation are embedded in the dominant ideas of society’.

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In December 2014 Elle released ‘The Feminism Issue’ of their magazine which is different to what they usually release, you would expect this magazine to offer a progressive set of feminine values and beliefs.

To some extent this magazine does reinforce non patriarchal ideologies. The main cover line on the magazine is ‘be inspired’; this is counter-hegemonic because it is showing women as the people to be inspired by. There are two known feminists mentioned in the cover lines, this would attract feminists and those interested in feminism to buy this magazine.

This magazine can reinforce patriarchal ideologies, looking at the key image it is clear that Emma’s facial expression follows Marjorie Fergusons’ ‘chocolate box’ expression, this is used in female lifestyle magazines to create a sense of ‘flawless’ beauty. This is therefore following Naomi Wolf’s notion that in order to be accepted in the world of liberated and independent “new women”, you have to conform to the stereotypes of being slim, beautiful and flawless.

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Cosmopolitan is a well-known magazine brand that gives advice on how to please your man and how to get a man by changing the way you look and behave. On every cover of this magazine there is always a cover line that relates to men, specifically how to please them and how to keep them in your life.

It is especially clear in the January 2014 cover with Ellie Goulding on the cover that the magazine is attempting to tell you what is ‘inside his sex brain’, this is reinforcing the patriarchal idea that women are there to please men and that they are passive objects to be desired.

It was said by Tessa Perkins that stereotypes are not always negative, for example, it is not a negative idea that people want to make their partners happy, Perkins also said that not only are stereotypes not always false they can also be held by that group, such as some women do embrace the fact they wish to please their partners.

The openness of female sexuality was desired by feminists in the 70s and now it being in a mainstream female lifestyle magazine is a positive thing as it shows that attitudes towards this topic have changed.

Vogue has high end celebrities on their key images, Stuart Hall says that media shows you three forms of people to identify with ‘what I am, what I am not, what I aspire to be’. Vogue tends to show the ‘what I aspire to be’ in order to sell the products to their audience. This is seen to promote patriarchal ideologies as because this adds to the ‘the social pressure on women to be beautiful, which is an example of a patriarchal societies treatment of women as chattel[a possession] –property to be displayed and exploited’.

When it comes to the representation of female actresses and models they are predominantly sexualised, this is seen in Scarlett Johannsen’s, Kate Upton’s and Sofia Vergara’s issue.

They all have the chocolate box and romantic expression, the romantic expression expresses availability and the chocolate box expression shows a subtle want for the person.

All three of these covers are stereotypes of women, feminist critics say that stereotyping women is the way men stay dominant in the media, Betty Friedan says that in female lifestyle magazines women are represented as ‘young frivolous, almost childlike, fluffy and feminine’. This is definitely the case for the representation of models and actresses in Vanity Fair.

The majority of female lifestyle magazines do still promote patriarchal values as it predominantly represents women in a sexualised way and gives them reasons or how-tos’ on improving themselves in order to look better or make others happier and not for their own self-value.


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