Monday, April 9, 2012

Magazines and Identity

Gill's chapter begins with an exploration of the multiple ideologies found in women's magazines. In preparation for this class, I went through my room's magazine collection only to find that we have almost every month of Cosmopolitan but no magazines of true "substance". Personally, I can say that I have no distinct reason for purchasing these types of magazines other than out of boredom but after reading Gill's chapter, I began thinking of what I was actually purchasing, in terms of ideology. As Gill mentioned on pg. 182, "magazine publishers sell the friendly and intimate relationship they have established with their readers"--I have most certainly been influenced by this trusting relationship with a magazine and the ideology it presents to me. There are constant suggestions on how to improve appearances, behaviors, how to portray yourself in a certain way, etc. What bothers me, however, is the sneaky tactics taken to convey those messages. I do not think of myself as a naive person or one who relies heavily on the media to control my looks/actions, but as this class has done in the past, my eyes have been opened to the "subliminal" messages of media. The "sympathetic environment" of magazines helps to contour the content and advertisements to create a relationship of trust among readers and publications; we regard the magazines as somewhat of a friend who we can turn to for monthly advice. Additionally, the women's magazines come in multiple feminist discourses so, just as you can choose your friends based on personality integration, one may choose one's magazine based on her particular opinion and her ideas can be justified and "listened to" by the magazine.
The teen magazine section of the chapter presents images to vulnerable teenage girls who are in constant tension with their own bodies and minds. The magazines subtly express how these girls should look and act so that they may "win over" the males who are presented in the magazines. This is problematic for feminism because it places males as the socially superior which, as Gill mentions, is just as bad as the objectification of women in men's magazines. The content "tricks" teenagers into thinking that the changes they should make to their appearances are done so because they are "super fun!" This idea makes me question the integrity of the magazine publishers because it is almost like they are taking their trusting relationships with readers for granted. While I understand that magazines are in the market for profit, I feel that they manipulate readers to the point of almost brainwashing.
The messages of men's and women's magazines are extremely different and Gill's interpretation of each ideology is that the "representations are designed to naturalize gender difference and male power" (217). Because each magazine has such a niche audience, or at least a gendered audience (typically), these representations are accepted. The magazine publishers know their readers and know what they want/do not want to read about and that "insider knowledge" translates into extreme success, whether we like it or not. There will always be an audience who accept the message of male power but it is the messages within the claims of ideology that we must pick up on.

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