Female Body Image: the Victim of Women’s Magazines

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Tracy Gibson
November 4, 2012

Female Body Image: The Victim of Women’s Magazines

            There are over twenty thousand magazines published every year in the United States, and the vast majority targets a female audience. Women who read magazines on a regular basis do so because they believe the information they find within will bolster them up and help them be better women. What they don’t realize is that they are inadvertently supporting an industry that purposely sets out to foster negative body images inside of them. These magazines are overloaded with images of ultra-thin models and strategically placed ads that claim to have an empowering purpose but actually deflate females’ self-esteem. America’s capitalistic nature gives these publications and their contributors a sense of entitlement to profit by any means necessary. “Despite powerful evidence that the media’s unrealistic depiction of females has negative effects on the way women view themselves, companies in television and advertising seem to be unyielding in their marketing approaches. This may come from the mindset that ‘thinness sells,’ while using heavier women would not be as profitable,” (Dittmar, & Howard as quoted by Serdar, 20). Thanks to these misplaced goals what these women are really subscribing to is being unremitting victims. This victimization of women through periodicals needs to stop, and even if the industry itself will not listen to reason, it is up to the people to insist that certain measures be taken to educate girls and women about the underhanded practices of these publications, thus negating the effect of their detrimental images, as well as hold the industry responsible for the misleading tactics they use to make a quick buck.             When magazines first appeared in the United States back in 1741 they earned their profits solely through subscriptions, so they made an effort to ensure that their content appealed to their readership. During the Great Depression many magazines lost subscribers and folded, and many others followed suit during WWII because of paper rations. These events taught those in the industry that solely relying on their readers for survival was unwise, so they began soliciting funds by offering advertisement space to companies who wanted to showcase their products to a possibly untapped audience. These new partnerships were a saving grace for many publications, but decades later we are finding that they have transformed from life savers to wolves shrouded in sheep’s clothes. In her dissertation, “Beauty & Women in Advertising: A Representation of Women in Cosmetics Advertising”, Lottie Mac discusses the unrealistic images cosmetic, and other beauty product, companies portray in popular women’s magazines and the effect these misconceptions have on women and young girls. Mac dissects several advertisements to show how companies meticulously plan every detail of an ad to ensure it attracts women, sends the message they aren’t as beautiful, desirable, successful, etc. as the models, and then directs them to be just as good by merely purchasing their product. She reveals how magazine editors then strategically place these toxic ads throughout their magazines so that they have the optimal effect. “Advertising companies use their female audience’s insecurities and fears about aging and looking ugly to sell their products… the beauty industry plays on the fear of looking ugly as much as the pleasure of looking beautiful… [and] the magazines themselves tread the fine line between reflecting women’s lives and the upholding of negative stereotypes about them” (Mac, 9, 11). To display and understand this notion let’s look at an ad for L’Oreal’s Infallible make-up from Glamour’s November 2006 edition. In addition to highlighting the suggestive language and imagery L’Oreal and their advertisers use, Mac points out how Glamour’s editors placed the ad in the middle of an article about a woman who’d...
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