Gender and Identity in Magazines

‘I think they should have a bit about sex in them but if there’s too much it does get boring.’ Angie 16

‘Sometimes it seems to be implying that what goes on in their stories etc is ‘normal’ and a positive thing to be encouraging and that those of us who aren’t doing it are missing out.’ Helenia 17

Extract from Amy Jankowicz and David Gauntlett in Conversation.

‘…rather than dismissing the magazines as offensive rubbish, it is more interesting to look at them in more detail to see the ways in which masculinities are constructed there….’

FHM tries to cultivate a man who is ‘Good in bed, happy in relationships, witty, considerate and skilled in all things.’

‘…men’s magazines use feminist values at one moment and then totally insult them in another.’

.’…they do (sometimes) encourage men to understand themselves and to understand women. This is cloaked in lots of jokiness and irony of course.’

‘…(some) articles were making men more aware of the anxieties that some women might have about sex…encouraging men to be more sensitive and not expect women to do just whatever they want or expect. This represents a change in how popular culture addresses men,’

‘…the important thing is that the magazines are addressing men in a new way…such as an article about having a sex life which isn’t running smoothly. Men aren’t supposed to admit to such things.’

‘Most of the sex advice in FHM and its ilk is about not being a selfish lover…’

‘But the idea that men won’t understand female sexuality unless it’s explained in reference to a motor engine is a self-conscious joke at the expense of men too!’

‘Couldn’t these magazines be just as funny / sexy/useful without extreme sexism?’

‘…it’s worse in magazines like Loaded and Front….(But) it is more interesting thing to focus on the ways in which the magazines reflect and encourage changes in masculinity.’

‘…men are experiencing this “crisis of masculinity”…magazines like these do commendably assume that its readers are ordinary, averagely attractive men and includes a lot of humour based on its readers’ own failing to be attractive to women….But in this world of FHM, beautiful women want to take off their clothes even for the most unattractive amongst them. So this magazine addresses the man that every reader hopes he is – dynamically, inexplicably attractive to impossibly beautiful women….the editor of GQ said that a magazine which aims to address men’s interests must include beautiful women…moreover we know that real-life men are attracted to women for their intelligence, talent, wit and success as well as beauty. But the magazines don’t feature this type of woman. With GQ‘s pretensions to intellectualism or ate least grown-upness, this could amount to the pretence that successful women who aren’t glamour models actresses or singers don’t exist or aren’t important to the GQ male – a pretty shallow and unrealistic view.’

‘Feminism has succeeded in expanding women’s roles into some traditionally male areas. It seems that the FHM man is feeling as though his territory is being trespassed- backlash theory- and to defend his territory he must retreat to his strongest base…this leads to the return of sexism…’

From an e-mail conversation between Derrick Cameron and David Gauntlett.

‘Imelda Whelehan’s book “Overloaded” calls Loaded a misogynists textbook and concludes that men are unable to change…she was one of the first to write about the “lad mag” and “ladette” phenomena.’

‘…in FHM there are a broad range of types of masculinity on offer.

‘…she wanted to cite these as evidence of men’s undying hostility to women…’

‘What Loaded et al did was to latch on to masculinity as a “commodity” and sell it back to its readers. And that the masculinity in the magazines isn’t necessarily the representation of the “id” of its readers.’

‘… “hegemonic masculinity” the magazines project…’

Kirsten Pullen and David Gauntlett in Conversation

”…in terms of gender roles, popular media today is relatively challenging of the traditional ideas: women are expected to be confident, sexually assertive, do what they want to do no matter what anybody says. And men’s roles as seen in the media haven’t changed so much, but have become somewhat more sensitive and self-reflexive and much more aware of their partner’s needs….in terms of sexuality the message is only a little less conservative except possibly in the young people’s media.’

‘…there are clear changes in the media in the last ten years or so which bring certain ides much more into the mainstream…the visibility of gays and lesbians…and in particular a less sexist attitude to sex…’

‘In the 1970s Soap had a gay character and high ratings.’

Maxim and others are about both an assertive masculinity and a vulnerability and concern with image traditionally associated with women’s magazines.’

‘Angela McRobbie dares to suggest that feminism failed to keep up…Cosmo and later Madonna, Spice Girls and Destiny’s Child popularised certain ideas – assertiveness for women…but didn’t carry forward all of feminism’s messages that you shouldn’t have to conform to a glamorous ideal for example seems to have been lost…it’s feminism’s image problem.’

‘…many young women and men are feminists in the sense that they identify with the images of women put forth by Destiny’s Child and Cosmo. The popularising of feminism allowed the idea that women are in charge of their bodies, their careers, their emotions and their intellect…’

‘…of course we should never confuse changes in the media with changes in real life…But popular media can take a role in this kind of social change. On its own the media can’t change people’s attitudes but it can chip away at people’s prejudices…’


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