Gender Representation in lifestyle magazines


There are two main areas:

  1. How do magazines aimed at men and women specifically represent gender?
  2. Do magazines like these reflect gender stereotypes, challenge them or actually construct them?

In other words are our ideas about men and women and their roles, interests and characteristics as a group, natural or cultural?

If they are cultural, what role do magazines play in this?



Magazines are mostly produced by a few dominant companies.

Publishing is a phenomenon of convergence, cross­media ownership and oligopoly (a small no of companies controlling a large market.)



Descriptive analysis:

  • Glossy
  • Weekly, monthly, ­ bi annually
  • Fiction and non­fiction varieties
  • Mass or niche audiences
  • Specific target audience usually


Analytical analysis:

  • Need to understand what the conventions are; can they be organised into genres and sub­genres? How is this related to the target audience?
  • Who owns the magazines and publishes them?
  • What is the relationship between editorial content and advertising in magazines?



  • In the early days the cover price covered the costs and made a profit.
  • Competition meant less sales therefore less profit and higher costs.
  • Advertisers then began to cover the costs.
  • ABC Audit Bureau of Circulation and the NRS National Readership Survey compiled figures which could then be used to enable advertisers to choose which magazine to use.

[NB magazines have a pack for advertisers which breaks down the figures into groups of people and makes claims for the importance of the title in the lives of the readers]


ETypes of Magazines:    Mass or Niche

  • Business
  • Trades
  • Work related
  • Hobbies
  • Interests
  • Consumer focused
  • Entertainment based
  • TV tie ins




Targeting an audience:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Occupation
  • Interests
  • Socio-economics groups
    • People’s occupations
    • Economic status
    • Education
    • Background

Socio-economic groups:


upper middle, administrative or


professional middle intermediate




lower­middle supervisory, clerical, junior


mgmt skilled working class, skilled manual


working class, semi­ and unskilled manual pensioners, widows, casual and lowest grade work


Segmentation: We are clustered into 7 groups:

  • Succeeders
  • Aspirers
  • Carers
  • Achievers
  • Radicals
  • Traditionalists
  • Underachievers

Categorised by opinions and values:

  • Traditionalist
  • Modernist
  • Hedonist
  • Post­materialist
  • Post­modernist

Not just aimed at the young either – as we grow older and live ;longer, we become more mobile, have more money and are healthier, ‘the young­minded older person’ has evolved.


Q    So do Magazines show us the real world?

Q    Do the people they feature represent us?

(Think of the meaning of the word re­present?)


Some argue that magazines cater for the insecure, hypochondriac, emotionally challenged, under­confident and poor! Therefore the well­balanced individual has no need for magazines!!

True – few of us look like those men and women featured in the magazines; the variety of shapes and colours of people are certainly not represented sufficiently.

Q    If magazines were not so keen to perpetuate old­fashioned sexist ideas about women would women have a stronger stake in society?


The Nature versus Nurture Debate:

Nurture    Nature


A Feminist Reading

Many argue that the battle of the sexes has been won and we can relax – but women are still underrepresented in parliament, managerial positions and there is still inequality of pay in many jobs.

Women feel threatened by a media culture in which great emphasis is placed on how they look. The rise in eating disorders reflects this.

So in looking at magazines we ask:

Q    What kinds of images are men and women given of themselves?

Q    Do these images reflect naturally or actually construct inequality in our society?


Although women’s magazines have moved on and offer visions of independence and confidence as well as beauty and domestic concerns yet women are still encouraged to look good.

Many modern men’s mags also do this but this doesn’t make it right!



Men’s magazines

‘Loaded’ and ‘Men’s Health’ just a couple of a new range specifically for men which arose from the mid 1990s

‘Loaded’ offered men a chance to rediscover their masculinity.

‘Men’s Health’ mad male chauvinism acceptable!


Analysing a magazine

In old fashioned mags three Rs reigned supreme:

  • Royalty
  • Romance
  • Recipes

There were no men’s mags in the same way for a very long time.



  • Newsagents
  • Supermarkets’ sales have increased and newsagent sales have decreased because of the decline in smoking and changes in shopping habits
  • Subscription by direct mailing
  • Bookstalls on stations
  • Increase now in give­aways where advertising entirely covers costs
  • Some publishers decline to supply mags to applicants who do not meet the specification regarding wealth, education or status.
  • Colour supplements in newspapers – Sunday Times added in 1962 – Fleet Street derided it but within a year readership was up 600,000!



  • Interviews
  • Profiles (deeper and more wide­ranging that interviews)
  • Multiple­interview features e.g. ask a number of high profile people to answer the same question


  • Descriptive features – places, holidays, events etc
  • Serialisations of stories
  • Service features about gardening, cooking etc
  • Consumer advice
  • Gossip columns
  • Reviews
  • Competitions
  • Readers’ offers
  • Letters



Politics of the office

Infighting between the advertising and the editorial departments is frequent – ads are seen as spoiling the run or look of a magazine or article, when a feature Is broken up by ads journalists get annoyed.

Titles are marketed; sales are independently audited so that prospective advertisers can be sure they are gearing towards the right market.


Launching a new magazine

Success depends on identifying a gap in the market by: Either hunch or market research

The Face from Nick Logan came about as a result of a hunch, but usually market research will identify potential readership size, age, income, education and therefore potential advertising support.


The Steps

  • Choose a format
    • usual = cheaper
    • Unusual = more expensive and sometimes unpopular
  • Choice of paper
    • low grade = cheaper
    • High quality = more expensive
  • %age of pictures
  • distribution
    • by post lightweight is cheaper
    • on stands it doesn’t matter
  • assess your costs
    • fixed costs
      • premises
      • staff
      • paper
      • type (print)
    • running
      • depends on how many were printed and distributed
      • binding
      • carriage
  • now produce a dummy – scamp (an artist’s impression), a mock­up or a proper dummy of several hundred copies
  • Next mount a campaign to impress the distribution trade and advertisers with the potential opportunities
  • Engage staff – do a dry run – lease premises, book TV advertising for the launch


Homework Jan 2004 ‘Nuts’ and Zoo were launched – find out what you can about them.


The Cover

  • Masthead
  • Photos of celebs / models will link with feature article
  • Colour photo bleeds to the edges i.e. no border
  • Cover lines – short phrases about the articles inside
  • Flash or colour panels
  • Straplines
  • Puff – a magazine’s ‘unique’ claims: the first, the only, best etc
  • A strong sense of both contents and outlook must be conveyed at a glance.


The Press Complaints Commission

  • Stereotyping or casual and careless offence to minority groups, unethical behaviour, violation of privacy etc can all be complained about.
  • Red analysis
  • Bold, short, punchy (like the reader), top left corner in box, white word RED on rich red background, stands out on shelves where space is limited.
  • Font distinctive like handwriting – a sense of individuality – yet an air of fun
  • Sell lines superimposed on model but being in different colours don’t block her out too much; they are teasers
  • Use of upper and lower case
  • Mid­shot of model therefore we can see all of what she’s wearing and thus the goods the magazine is dedicated to.
  • Colour, some red like title but mostly neutral to emphasise the classic elegance and fashion.


Mens Magazines


(All) Abbreviated titles like a club, often obscured by model’s head


Titles on cover – Quotations, alliteration, language, hooks – jokey, smutty, laddish, humour, colloquial, slang

Covers busy, usually a female, looking at you, bare neck, and breasts.

B list stars – less clothes

A list stars – more clothes, less provocative maybe

Note the colour palette used

Prizes, free gifts







Acceptance of what men are


Women’s Magazines


Original temptress, seductive scandalous, empathetic






First mag to give women credit for having a sexuality.

Titles used aspirational – what you can do…

Helpful hints

Empathy appealing


Prizes, free gifts

Recipes for food or health or sex!

Empowerment is intended but not delivered


Aspirational what women should want to be



Late 1990s baby glossies handbag sized


Mission statement – usually only in new mags and then there for advertisers rather than the readers.



  • Big Issue – social conscience
  • Tatler – none
  • Boom – the rich!

How does the content show who the intended reader is?


Feature articles in women’s mags often comment by interviewer, detailed description of clothing, surroundings etc; in men’s mags interview is often taped and transcribed with little or no comment from interviewer – men prefer this!


Women regard mags as a treat but most induce guilt as they’re about figure, fashion, life­style etc we can’t attain.


Esquire has led the way to putting men on the cover.


Sales 70% impulse buys, 30% subscriptions

Tighter focus on specific audience.

Life­style title comes from the purpose of relating to the consumers’ lifestyles interests.


Message and values

Female mags are dedicated to the ideal image of women who are: independent, sexy and appearance driven. Often depicted as tall, thin and blonde (a famous Body Shop ad once stated that there are only 8 women in the whole world like this and they are all top fashion models!)

Male mags are aimed at men who: enjoy being lads, ogle women, drink, watch football and listen to loud music. They aim to be wild, witty and include interviews with the stars.


Alternative mags

Sibyl – aimed at women who care about women’s issues and politics

Red Pepper – socialist drawn to government but who care about the shortfall in

Socialist practice.

Both are subscription only.



Q How do magazines vary and accordingly attract an audience?

  • Quality of paper
  • Size of print
  • Print type / font
  • Size of paper
  • Design and layout of image
  • Cover lines
  • Style of model image


Magazines variously inflect the image to convey their respective styles:

  • Domestic or girl about town
  • Cheeky or staid
  • Upmarket or down


  • Hairstyle
  • Neckline
  • Facial pose


Women’s magazines

The models’ gaze:

  • Looking at you – not just sexual
  • She is self­contained
  • She is in control
  • She can manage her life
  • You can trust her
  • Shows an intimacy of knowledge about being a woman

Therefore the focus on face and eyes suggest that inside is a world of personal life, emotions, and relationships involving men but shunned by men and invariably heterosexual, ‘This is all women’s territory’. From an article by Janice Winship.


Audience Attention

Reading a book is qualitatively different to a magazine or newspaper – with the latter we select, skim, scan, flip and skip in a leisurely fashion (even to reading from back to front)


Advertising facts

Magazines are joint 3rd after TV and local papers and with national newspapers in terms of money spent on advertising.





From AS Media Consumer and Lifestyle Magazines

Mode of address manner, tone and attitude of speaking to reader e.g. matey, friendly, informative, avuncular…

Baby glossies mags for the teens e.g. Cosmogirl.

National magazines Company’s research: 94% of teens buy a mag every month. Average girl spends £64 per month of fashion and beauty.

Audience profiles: market research has always enabled advertisers to know their target audience but now club cards ensure greatest accuracy of information about what consumers buy.

Aspirations it is part of society’s shared values to produce and consume more material goods and wealth. (Buddhist or Islamic societies prioritise spiritual growth and benefits.)


Criticism: consumerism: many people criticise our desperate consumerism and compare glossy mags images with the pictures of starving in Africa etc. How can we support this dichotomy or hypocrisy? What does this say about the values of our society? Do we just accept the status quo? The commonest value message in ads is, “If you have one of these you will be in with the in­crowd, or you will feel much better if you’ve got it.”

Production Values

The adverts are the high point in terms of gloss, colour, glamour and technical skills. Articles and ads compete for the readers’ eye.

Strap­lines in women’s mags have to offer some benefit, selfishness is the key.

Cover photographs

Marjorie Ferguson identified 4 types of facial expression:

  • Super­smiler – confident, assertive, big smile = the hard sell
  • Invitational – mouth may be shut, hint of a smile, eyes emphasised – more mysterious, maybe tilted or looking back over shoulder = the soft sell.
  • Chocolate box – smiling but only a glimpse of her teeth or may have mouth closed –
  • expression non­specific = the uniformity of feature and beauty (like a work of art)
  • Romantic or sexual – the overt come­on promises sex and is usually directed at the single male; or more sensual dreamy look which only hints at availability.


The magazine article

The intro – purpose is to capture attention – how?

The question – posed to readers…do you want to…lose a stone, drop a dress size… Anecdote

The quote

The action/ adventure­ always starts with the high point. The description

The summary intro

Shock horror intro – uses sensational info to get reader to read on.


Wolf: The relationship between the magazine and the reader is emotional, confiding, defensive, unequal.”

So the reader trusts the ads as much as the editorial.

“Adverts blur the line…” so that advertisers can demand particular placing of the ad in specific places.

“If a beauty columnist recommends a certain product the reader will feel more confident buying it”

“Promotions are hidden as editorial material.”

Tina Gaudoin: “Editors are not in charge of the magazine it is the men in grey suits (the money men.)”


Techniques of disguise:

Mislabelling – makeup and clothing as a promotion of the cover or financial advice offers news of particular investments.


Cosmopolitan and Spare Rib

Both founded in 1972

Cosmo’s values: individualistic pursuit of social freedom, independence in the work place, open discussion of straight sexuality.

Criticism: fails to carry far enough its critique of social inequities face by women; its version of feminism is articulated through the very things which keep women in their place; Winship: the imagery (appearance of ads and text) is at odds with the demands for equality.


Spare Rib: feminist, political.

Difficulties: in maintaining a ‘clear market position’; slow to assimilate issues raised by the readers.


“Cosmopolitan publishes articles which aim to raise female consciousness… yet the pictures seem to contradict it…who was the picture aimed at? Surely not women?” (this was said of a picture of 4 tousled girls outside some baths looking provocative.)


The Face

Launched in 1990, edited by Nick Logan and joined as designer by Neville Brody; Brody’s design stamp was seen on the text as well as the images.


Italian Vogue

Under art director Fabien Baron, it became noted for bold and effective use of image. Large single letters became design motifs in themselves.

Beach Culture designed by David Carson noted for his ‘postmodernist’ layering and random distribution of text.

Brody declared that radicals all too quickly become engulfed by the establishment. “If you are radical it is only a matter of time before you are automatically accepted.”

Anything brand new is pounced on, used, copied, imitated, parodied and ultimately assimilated into the norm!


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