As many movies and TV shows have shown how they enforce stereotype gender roles, magazines and advertisements are other channels in which the media promote gender stereotypes. In particular, the popular magazines such as Cosmopolitan, which appeals to women, idealize both femininity and masculinity. Many of the women in these magazines appear to be thin, have the perfect bone structure and have flawless skin. On the other hand, men appear to be muscular and attractive. Having these pictures on almost every page of the magazine define and ultimately naturalizes the media’s meaning of what is beautiful and attractive.
Something I thought was ironic was that according to the article, “Cosmopolitan Magazine and Gender Stereotypes:How Cosmo Influences Its Readers’ Self Image”, Cosmopolitan claims to provide relationship advice. However, much advice applies almost exclusively to heterosexual relationships. Titles for articles on advice include: “How to Get Him to…” or “Be a Man Magnet” clearly assumes that all women are attracted to men. The magazine rarely includes information for those in gay/lesbian or bisexual relationships. This focus on heterosexuality is perpetuated to young readers, leading them to think that homosexual relationships are non-existent or wrong.
Another interesting point that this article brings up is that many of the women featured in the magazines conform to media’s standards to beauty. Many of the models are thin with perfect bodies. Some of these advertisements have been condemned as creating an unrealistic image of beauty. As a result, female readers internalize these images and may buy the various cosmetics or even go through cosmetic surgery to correct certain ‘flaws’. An effort promoting healthy beauty is the Dove "Real Beauty" campaign. According to the article,
“The Dove "Real Beauty" campaign is a bold and refreshing attempt to promote a healthy body image for women by using average women in their advertisements instead of models.”
Already, this statement sets up the binary of models and average women. This effort was created in order to promote beauty for ‘average women’. It poses the question of whether ‘average women’ are beautiful to begin with. Ironically, Dove’s parent compant, Unilever, also markets products for losing weight such as Slim Fast.
Ultimately, by bombarding their readers with myriad body images that are deemed to be beautiful and attractive, magazines such as Cosmopolitan are creating gender ideals that their readers strive for. These ideals are representative of what is beautiful and what isn’t.
What do you think of Cosmopolitan’s focus on sexuality? Do you think that this a form of female empowerment?