Gender and Sexuality Stereotypes
Within Cosmopolitan Magazine Advertisements
Understanding Popular Culture
December 15, 2010
Magazines have implicitly and explicitly been influencing humans for decades. They are continually more involved in the media, however the market is highly competitive. It is extremely important for magazines to maintain the readers’ interest and loyalty therefore they must excel in its appearance and content. Helen Brown created the Cosmopolitan magazine in 1965. It holds a spot as one of the most successful women’s magazines of all time, and proceeds to be the number one selling monthly magazine. (Ouellette, 360, 2005). According to Merriam-Websters’ online dictionary, Cosmopolitan means, “having wide international sophistication” and is also a popular cocktail (2010). Some synonyms include: multicultural; worldwide; sophisticated; urbane; glamourous. Therefore the word Cosmopolitan, it is unquestionably a suited title for a magazine that is geared towards young women looking for advice about sex, fashion, beauty and sophistication. The trends of its general content, glossy and seductive pictures, narrowed focused target audience, cross promotion and online magazine versions are key components to its ongoing successes; reinforcing hegemonic ideologies, gender and sexuality stereotypes. Cosmopolitan advances an unrealistic image and ideal, whereby women create identity through sexuality and through commodity exchange.
Cosmopolitan magazine, which offers 110 editions in an impressive 28 languages, reaches 36 million women worldwide with the slogan “for fun, fearless females” (Ouellette, 360, 2005). As such, it is the perfect venue to investigate representations of contemporary female stereotypes in the media around the world. To start off, David Machin and Theo van Leeuwen investigated the representation of female identity and practice in the U.K., Dutch, German, Spanish, Greek, Finnish, Indian and Taiwanese versions of Cosmopolitan magazine. However they are not interested in the magazine per se; the styles of writing, image-making and graphic design, the constructions of female identity and practice that the magazine disseminates are not unique to Cosmopolitan, but “form a part of a wider cultural and ideological trend within neo-capitalism” (Machin & Leeuwen, 2003, p. 494). Machin and Leeuwen identifies the ‘problem-solution’ discourse schema and while it is clearly global and occurs in all versions of the magazine, it allows for local variation in terms of the kinds of problems and solutions it can accommodate. (2003, p. 509). Also, the community of readers of the magazine is described as the “globally dispersed and linguistically heterogeneous speech community”(Machin & Leeuwen, 2003, p. 509). This created community, which is bound by its allegiance to the values and lifestyles portrayed in the magazine and similar discourses, signifying them by means of dress, fashion accessories and slender bodily form is often sufficient. (Machin & Leeuwen, 2003, p. 510). Machin and Leeuwen conclude their investigation by saying, “although the magazine constantly reminds them of their vulnerability, their loneliness and the restrictions imposed by their gender, they continue to strike the pose of the ‘fun, fearless female’.” (2003, p. 510).
Amy Hasinoff is the author of “Genetic gender determinism in Cosmopolitan magazine,” whereby she focuses on the sociobiological discourses that appear in Cosmopolitan. Haisnoff argues, “the use of scientific common sense consistently offers anti-feminist justifications for the practices and techniques of normative femininity” (2009, p. 269). Using a textual analysis, she examines the connections between Cosmopolitans’ sociobiological discourses and the popular press and academic versions of this scientific discipline. Hasinoff’s theory is that Cosmopolitan’s sociobiological...