Portrayal of Modern Women by Contemporary Women’s Magazines Introduction Women may often be at a loss as to their real role in society is. A working mother may play dual roles which are conflicting, that of being a nurturing home-maker to her family, ensuring that the husband and children are well-taken care of while the house is kept spic and span and running smoothly…
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Because of the many roles women play, they often seek advise from various sources. One source that they may find consistently reliable are women’s magazines because these depict articles set in the modern times, and assumed to promote modern values. At a time when information is so much easier to acquire from various media sources including television, radio and the internet, concrete reading materials are still conveniently available and preferred by many readers (Stevens, Maclaran & Catteral, 2007). It would be interesting to explore how contemporary magazines depict women and what priorities they should have in life. Although contemporary women’s magazines such as Glamour and Cosmopolitan claim to empower modern women to be more assertive and independent in achieving gender equality, the message sent out from their content (emphasis on the importance of women’s beauty and their success in relationships) seem to endorse traditional femininity ideologies, which put women in a role subservient to men in a patriarchal society. Since magazines may have a great influence on how women think, it is crucial to understand the subliminal and overt messages such media format feeds them. The research question that will be explored in this paper is: “How are women portrayed in contemporary women’s magazines and what messages are conveyed to them?” The significance of finding answers to this question will provide enlightenment on how society views women, how women view themselves and how such views guide their value formation, attitude and behaviors. Theoretical Framework This paper is guided by the Sexual Script Theory by Gagnon & Simon (1973) and the Objectification Theory by Frederickson & Roberts (1997). Scripting theory is premised on the concept that individuals have subjective understandings that determine their choices and qualitative experiences. Sexual Script Theory, specifically focus on the subjective understanding of a person about his or her sexuality that determine his or her sexual actions and experiences related to sex. Scripts are cognitive devices used to guide people in their behaviors. Sometimes, such behaviors are “self-fulfilling prophecies” to support the scripts upheld by the person. For example, if one’s sexual script is to be desirable in order to be liked as a person, then that individual will exert all efforts to look attractive and behave in a seductive manner. Similarly, and to more specifically illustrate the Sexual Scripting theory, the Objectification theory explains how females internalize an observer’s view to be the primary view of her physical self. This means that if a woman gets accustomed to being seen as an object of desire, she becomes socialized to treat herself as such and behaves accordingly (Frederickson & Roberts, 1997). Vulnerable to judgment of society, women vigilantly monitor themselves with the knowledge that being positively viewed by others means more opportunities. Studies have shown that how a woman’s body appears to others can determine her life experiences. Physical attractiveness seem to matter more to females than to males. Women deemed unattractive by their co workers are described more negatively and given less regard than comparatively unattractive men (Bar-Tar & Saxe, 1976; Cash, Gillen & Burns, 1977; Wallston & O’Leary, 1981). Physical attract
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