The discourse on body and femininity in Romanian women´s magazines: an audience-oriented approach
Sociology and Social Work Babes-Bolyai University Cluj-Napoca, Romania
The paper employs an interdisciplinary approach, integrating perspectives from gender studies, media studies, and social sciences, in order to explore the symbolic constructions of femininity. The main focus of the research is on the media-related issues of the body, namely on the representation of the feminine body in women´s magazines. The analysis will concern not only how is the feminine body represented in visual culture, but also how these representations affect the feminine public and their relation with their own bodies. The paper combines survey research and media content analysis, in order to examine the associations between the frequency of girls´ exposure to women´s magazines and their perceptions of femininity and the body (the cultivation theory), as well as the associations between the girls´ motivation for reading women´s magazines and their perceptions regarding femininity and the body (the uses and gratifications theory). The survey was conducted on a sample of 200 Romanian college women aged 19-25 (M=20.13, SD=1.42, Me=20) and examined how the discourse of the Romanian women´s magazines alter their reader´s perceptions of femininity and the body. The main instruments used (Adolescent Femininity Ideology Scale, Socio-cultural Attitudes Towards Appearance Questionnaire, and the Body Shape Questionnaire) tested whether exposure to the media promoted messages has positive effects (authentic self in relationship, refusal of self-objectification), respectively negative effects (inauthentic self in relationship, self-objectification, eating disorders) on the female public. Also, the 2008 issues of the 5 most-read women´s magazines among the respondents were subject to content analysis, following 3 main dimensions: beauty, relationship, and career. The media discourse is often a contradictory one, both objectifying and empowering women, and appears to be thorn between advertiser´s interests and feminist ideology. The messages in women´s magazines have a significant influence on their readers´ attitudes and behaviours, no matter if the public is active or passive.