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Fashion magazine advertising: the constructions of 'Femininity’ in Seventeen Budgeon, Shelley J. 1993

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FASHION MAGAZINE ADVERTISING:THE CONSTRUCTIONS OF 'FEMININITY' IN SEVENTEENbySHELLEY J. BUDGEONB.A., The University of Calgary, 1990A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OFTHE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OFMASTER OF ARTSinTHE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES(Department of Sociology)We accept this thesis as conformingto the required standardTHE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIAJuly, 1993© Shelley J. Budgeon, 1993In presenting this thesis in partial fulfilment of the requirements for an advanceddegree at the University of British Columbia, I agree that the Library shall make itfreely available for reference and study. I further agree that permission for extensivecopying of this thesis for scholarly purposes may be granted by the head of mydepartment or by his or her representatives. It is understood that copying orpublication of this thesis for financial gain shall not be allowed without my writtenpermission.(Signature)Department of SociologyThe University of British ColumbiaVancouver, CanadaDate August 19, 1993DE-6 (2/88)ABSTRACTExamining the ways in which 'femininity' is defined andreproduced via cultural representations has become an importantpart of feminist critical practice. By addressing the power thatimages of women have to define the feminine in specific ways, thiswork has contributed to our understanding of 'femininity' asascribed and not as an intrinsic female quality. Advertisements infashion magazines, however, seek to define and naturalize aparticular version of femininity while ideologically masking thefact that this definition is an arbitrary construction. Theseimages are one of the sources of information which organize theways in which the social category 'femininity' is understood in ourculture. Thus, advertising images directed to an adolescentaudience are particularly significant given that adolescence is apeak period of gender differentiation. While much research hasfocused upon the content of advertising images of women, this workhas not given insight into how the text works to construct themeaning of femininity. The purpose of this research is to examinecurrent definitions of femininity in Seventeen, an adolescentfashion magazine. Quantitative content analysis is used to obtaina systematic description of the manifest content of therepresentations of femininity. Through the development of asemiotic method further textual analysis addresses the ways inwhich the text works to construct the meaning of femininity. Itwas found that despite the incorporation of non-traditionalliberation themes into current constructions of femininity,advertisements operate to reproduce traditional definitions offemininity through ideological processes. These processes includedthe appropriation and reformulation of cultural knowledge, thenaturalization of constructed meanings, and the management ofcontradictions via the appearance of choice and difference. Theimplications that these constructions have for women's empowermentand struggle for equality are discussed.iiTABLE OF CONTENTSAbstractTable of ContentsList of TablesList of Figures^ viChapter One^Introduction^ 1Gender and Advertising^ 2Studying Advertising Images of Women^5Chapter Two Images of Women in Advertising:Advertising and Sex Role Stereotyping:Content Analysis Studies^ 9Occupational Roles^ 12Non - Occupational Roles 15Activities^ 16Relationships 19Women's Goals 20Women Minorities^ 22The 'New Woman' 23Thematic Analyses: Visual Imagery^24Conclusion^ 28Chapter Three Theoretical Perspectives:Sex Role Stereotyping^ 31The Liberal Feminist Critique^32The Rise of Cultural Studies 36Femininity as Discourse 38Textually Mediated Discourse 42Advertising as Ideology^ 46Conclusion^ 52Chapter Four Research Methodologies:Analysis of Texts: Quantitative ContentAnalysis^ 54Criticism of Content Analysis^55Studying Advertising as Signification^57Semiotics and Decoding Advertisements 58Principles of the Semiotic Method 60The Second Order of Signification^70Outline of Current Study^ 74Content and Textual Analysis 78iiiChapter Five Findings:Content Analysis^ 83Advertisement Decodings:Maybelline Illegal Lengths Mascara^95Soft n' Dri Antiperspirant^106Covergirl Marathon Mascara 114Chapter Six^Conclusion^ 121The Operation of Ideology in Advertising^123Affirmation of Dominant Codes^126Textually Mediated Discourse 130Commodified Social Relations 131Implications for Empowerment of Women^133Practical Struggles^ 134Limitations and Future Directions For Study 136Notes^ 139References 142ivLIST OF TABLESTable One:^Space Devoted to Advertising and Featuresin Seventeen Magazine, 1992^ 78Table Two:^Types of Products Advertised in SeventeenMagazine, 1992^ 83Table Three: Sex and Age of Models Shown in Advertisingin Seventeen Magazine, 1991^ 85Table Four: Representations of Ethnic/RacializedIdentities in Seventeen Magazine, 1992^86Table Five: Relationships Portrayed in Advertisementsin Seventeeen Magazine, 1992^ 87Table Six:^Comparison of Female and Male Activity Levelsin Advertisements, Seventeen Magazine, 1992^90Table Seven: Enviroments of Female Models in AdvertisementsSeventeen Magazine, 1992^ 91Table Eight: Characteristics of Femininity: RecurringThemes in Seventeen Magazine Ads, 1992^92LIST OF FIGURESFigure 1:^Maybelline Illegal Lengths Mascara^96Figure 2:^Soft n' Dri Antiperspirant^ 107Figure 3:^Covergirl Marathon Mascara 115viCHAPTER ONEINTRODUCTION:Advertising is no longer just a business expenditure assumedfor the purpose of moving products off the shelves. Rather, it hasbecome an inherent component of modern culture. In this centurynational product advertising has become less concerned with thecommunication of essential information about goods and services andmore involved in the manipulation of social values and attitudes.It has become one of the great vehicles of social communication(Dyer, 1982; Leiss et. al., 1986). Advertisements make up the mostconsistent body of material in the mass media today and many peopleclaim that advertisements are one of the most important influencesin our lives (ibid.). Advertising images and messages saturate thefabric of daily life to the extent that our encounters with themhave become routine. The pervasiveness of advertisements in modernconsumer culture breeds a familiarity within which we take forgranted the deep social assumptions which are(Goldman, 1992:1).When advertisingembedded in themannouncingunderwent the shift from merelythe availability of goods and merchandise to attempting to definewants and needs, it went from being a part of business enterpriseto becoming a social institution. It has become a central part ofthe culture of consumer society and by creating structures ofmeaning, advertising has in many ways replaced the functionstraditionally fulfilled by art or religion (Berger, 1972;Williamson, 1978). Today advertisements are involved in the1transmission and acquisition of cultural values. Like religion orformal education, advertisements provide a framework for society bydefining a set of roles and social identities. By serving as asource of authority, advertisements tell people not only who theyare, but where they fit in. Furthermore, advertisements circulatea set of social values, transmit a normative standard against whichbehaviour can be judged, and portray goals and ideals to be pursued(Vinikas, 1992:vii).Advertisements use the material of everyday life but they drawupon this material in a highly selective fashion. That which ischosen for inclusion is reintegrated into the signifying system ofadvertising where this material then provides the basis for thecreation of new meanings. The result is the production of meaningsand categories not found elsewhere (Leiss et. al., 1986:169).Advertisements do not therefore reflect the social world but re-create it, reconstitute it, and communicate this manipulatedversion to the audience.GENDER AND ADVERTISINGIn modern advertising gender is one of the social resourcesmost often used by advertisers (Jhally, 1987:134). Gender is partof advertising's social structure and psychology (Barthel, 1988:6).Indeed, we are daily surrounded by hundreds of advertising imageswhich address us along the lines of gender. Given thepervasiveness of advertisements in our culture and therepresentations of gender within them, it is not surprising thatadvertising has become a focus of analysis for feminist researchers2concerned with the ways in which advertisements, as a discourse,produce forms of knowledge about femininity.In the past decade feminist researchers have becomeincreasingly concerned with the ways in which the subject 'woman'has been constructed in the discursive formations of the popularmedia (Young, 1989). Media representations work to constitutegender difference, rather than simply reflect or represent thatdifference. While femininity and masculinity are constructed viamedia representations, these constructions often appear as thoughthey were direct knowledge of the social world - that is,representations of reality (Saco, 1992:25). As argued in Betterton(1987:7), "the visual is particularly important in the definitionof femininity, both because of the significance attached to imagesin modern culture and because a woman's character and status arefrequently judged by her appearance".The images of femininity, as they appear in advertisements,have the power to narrowly define and construct the 'feminine'.Therefore feminist engagement in the analysis of these massproduced and mass circulated images has been an engagement in astruggle over meaning. This struggle has been motivated by aconcern over the implications that definitions of 'femininity' havefor women's lives. The importance of understanding mediarepresentations of women is that these "visual images, along withother cultural texts and practices, help to organize the ways inwhich we understand gender relations" (Betterton, 1987:8).It has been claimed that advertising, as a central text of3popular culture, is one of the means by which dominant socialmeanings and relations are extended and maintained becauseadvertisements are a cultural product which "construct a closed andfixed story of social cohesion" (Pleasance, 1991:70-71). AsWilliamson (1986b) argues, "most of the ideologies manifested inmass cultural 'texts' are dominant or hegemonic ideologies".Advertisements therefore can be understood as bearers of a dominantideology of femininity which seeks to create closure and limitpossible meanings. Advertisements "...help to define what forms offemininity are acceptable and desirable. In doing so, they excludeand deny experiences which contradict or simply do not fit withprevailing values in society" and thereby reinforce existing valuesand meanings (Betterton, 1987:10).The importance of understanding the images of women inadvertising and the power these images have to define whatfemininity means is to be found in the connection between theseimages and the wider social context within which they exist.Cultural texts such as advertisements, their production,distribution and uses "are a highly significant dimension ofcontemporary social organization. 1Femininity'.., is adistinctively textual phenomenon" (Smith, 1988:38). Cultural textsare embedded in and organize social relations. 'Femininity',therefore, can be understood as "a social organization of relationsamong women and between women and men which is mediated by texts,that is, by the materially fixed forms of printed writing andimages" (Smith, 1988:39). Texts not only mediate and organize the4activities of individual women across local sites but alsocoordinate this activity with the market for clothing, cosmeticsand fashion accessories.STUDYING ADVERTISING IMAGES OF WOMENFeminist criticism of advertising images is based upon thebelief that the way in which advertising conveys images of womenworks to construct and reaffirm stereotyped and limiting views ofwomen's lives and capabilities (Betterton, 1987:19). Whileagreement exists on this fundamental point, there is often lessagreement upon how the representations of women work and on whatought to be done to change them.An extensive amount of research has addressed therepresentation of women in print advertising within women'smagazines. The conclusion of many such studies is that women aremisrepresented - that is - the depictions of women in ads do notaccurately reflect the roles and activities that women actuallyperform in society. In this view, supported by liberal feminists,advertising must be reformed via the depiction of more women innontraditional roles. It is felt that these nontraditionaldepictions will provide more positive role models for women andultimately allow women to fulfil their potential.More recently, developments in cultural studies have led someresearchers to posit that the representations of women withinpopular culture in general, and advertising more specifically, arenot oppressive and limiting forces in women's lives. Rather, it issuggested that these images and representations offer moments of5resistance to the dominant discourse. This position is based uponthe belief that the texts of popular culture lend themselves toevasive readings and meanings which are produced by people in theact of consuming them. These readings produce meanings that lieoutside the dominant culture and thereby escape social discipline(Fiske, 1989).The debates surrounding the role of mass culture in thereproduction of social relations has resulted in an increasedinterest in the investigation of the ways in which mass producedand mass consumed cultural texts work to produce meaning [1].Certainly the 1992 circulation figures of a number of women'smagazines attest to their popular appeal: Cosmopolitan enjoyed acirculation of 2,740,000; Glamour 2,130,148; Vogue 1,259,544;Mademoiselle 1,236,392; and Harper's Bazaar 720,863 (Katz andSternberg Katz, 1992). These levels of popularity are interestinggiven that the images of women within these magazines are oftencharged with perpetuating harmful stereotypes of women. Despitethese charges of sexism, women continue to consume these texts anda large consumer market for advertising endures.While a considerable amount of research has addressed thecontent of the advertising in these magazines, the question of whytheir appeal persists remains to be answered. This questioncentres more specifically upon why the constructions of femininityin women's magazines persevere despite charges that theseconstructions impose a beauty standard that is not onlyunrealistic, but damaging to the self-esteem of women.6To move beyond the debates surrounding these questions,research must shift from analysis of the content of these images ofwomen to an examination of the form these images take. In order tounderstand how fashion magazine advertisements present and work todefine femininity requires a refocusing upon the ways in which thetext constructs the meaning of femininity for readers and how thetextual representations of women in advertising engage the viewer.The purpose of this study is to explore the definitions offemininity contained within Seventeen, a fashion magazine directedtowards an adolescent female audience. It is important to researchthese particular textual constructions of femininity because theirintended audience, adolescent girls, are at the peak of gender roledifferentiation. At no other point in the life cycle are pressuresas strong for females to be feminine and males to be masculine(Mackie, 1987:147). The objective of this study is to develop asemiotic methodology which will provide insight into the ways inwhich advertisements, as one of the sources of definitions offemininity in our culture, work to construct femininity foradolescent readers. This research will focus both upon the contentof the definitions and the ways in which these definitions areconstructed within the text.In chapter two previous studies in the area of gender andadvertising will be summarized by reviewing studies that haveemployed content analysis, a predominant research methodology inthe sociological study of advertising images. The findings ofthese studies and their conclusions will be discussed. Chapter7three will focus upon theoretical principles that have guidedsociological studies of the communication of sex role stereotypesand then examine new perspectives which have developed in responseto the inadequacies of traditional perspectives. More specificallythe concept of 'textually mediated discourse' is discussed as analternative theoretical approach. In chapter four methods used foranalysis of texts will be examined through a discussion ofassumptions underlying content analysis. This research methodologywill then be compared with more recent methodologies which addressadvertisements as systems of significations. In this chapter asemiotic method for the study of how meaning is constructed in thetext will be outlined. Both content analysis and semiotic decodingwill be employed to answer the questions of how femininity isdefined within contemporary advertising and how advertising textswork to construct these definitions. The findings will besummarized in chapter five. Finally, the implications that thefindings have for the sociological study of representations ofwomen will be considered in chapter six.8CHAPTER TWO: IMAGES OF WOMEN IN ADVERTISINGADVERTISING AND SEX ROLE STEREOTYPING: CONTENT ANALYSIS STUDIESIn the early 1960's, Betty Friedan explored what she referredto as the "strange discrepancy between the reality of our lives aswomen and the image to which we were trying to conform, the imagethat I came to call the feminine mystique" (Friedan, 1963:9). InThe Feminine Mystique, Friedan explored many aspects of women'slives and the levels of dissatisfaction and disillusionment withthose lives. As part of her study, she researched women'smagazines from the 1940's and 1950's, looking specifically at theways in which women were portrayed along with their goals,aspirations and lifestyles. She found that through advertising,manufacturers had created an image of women as fulfilled and happyin their roles as housewives and mothers for the purpose of sellingthem products which would help them better perform these`rewarding' roles. Friedan argued, "properlymanipulated...American housewives can be given the sense ofidentity, purpose, creativity, the self-realization, even thesexual joy they lack - by buying things" (Friedan, 1963:208).Advertisements gave the impression that "today one accepts asfact that the great majority of American women have no ambitionother than to be housewives". The pervasiveness of imagessurrounding the feminine mystique, had been "seared into everywoman's mind, and into the minds of her husband, her children, herneighbours. They had been made a part of her everyday life,9taunting her because she is not a better housewife, does not loveher family enough, is growing old" (p. 228). Apart from offeringvaluable insight into the dissatisfaction many women were facing intheir daily lives, Friedan's work was significant because shelooked for the social definition of women's roles in the pages ofwomen's magazines (Courtney and Whipple, 1983:3). In thedepictions of women within advertisements, she saw a powerful forceof influence on the way in which women were viewed in society - aview which, by and large, limited their opportunities.Following Friedan's work, an interest in the depiction ofwomen within advertising grew and it soon became a central focus ofwomen's liberation organizations. The National Organization ForWomen, along with other women's groups, charged that advertisingharmed women by supporting and re-enforcing the "sexist status quo"(Grant, 1970). Researchers from the social sciences, as well asfrom marketing and communication studies, began to systematicallyexplore the ways in which women were depicted in print advertising.The images of women were studied primarily through the use ofcontent analysis.The first study of major importance was conducted by Courtneyand Lockeretz in 1970. In their examination of 8 general interestmagazines, they looked at the number of men and women appearing,the occupation and activities performed, and the types of productsadvertised. They concluded that four general stereotypes of womenexisted: Women's place is in the home, women do not make importantdecisions or do important things, women are dependent upon men and10need their protection, and men regard women primarily as sexualobjects. Looking specifically at working and nonworking roles,only 9% of women were depicted as working outside the home whereas90% were shown in nonworking roles. These nonworking rolesconsisted primarily of family roles, recreational roles anddecorative roles.The conclusions of Courtney and Lockeretz confirmed what wasalready suspected by many; namely, that advertisements did notpresent a full view of the wide variety of roles performed by womenin society or accurately reflect women's real potential. Threeyears later, this study was replicated by Wagner and Banos (1973)in an attempt to determine whether or not changes in the depictionsof women had occurred. The number of women shown in working roleshad increased to 21% and, in nonworking roles, women were shownless often in family settings although this decrease wasaccompanied by an increase in the portrayals of women in decorativeroles. Women were still depicted as dependent upon men in makingpurchases and were rarely shown interacting with each other.Despite evidence of a considerable level of negative stereotyping,these researchers were optimistic that some of their results wereindicative of a cautious response to social change.The studies that were to follow these initial investigationsaddressed many of the same themes, looking for changes and trendsin the ways in which women were depicted. The categories whichwere emphasized in analyses included: occupational roles,nonoccupational roles, relationships, activities, goals, the11representation of ethnic minorities and the presence of the 'newwoman'.OCCUPATIONAL ROLESIn the early 1970's researchers looked for changes in thedepictions of female occupations across time. It was hypothesizedthat when compared to those in the 1950's, advertisements from the1970's should reflect the social changes which had been brought bythe women's movement. A trend for an increasing portrayal of womenin work-related roles was found although the occupational rolesshown were primarily low status or traditional "women's work"(Sexton and Haberman, 1974; Belkaoui and Belkaoui, 1976). In acomparative study of general interest magazines from 1958, 1970 and1972 it was found that, for the most part, stereotypes from thepre-women's movement had carried through to 1972. The percentageof women shown as workers increased from 13% to 21% but not asingle woman in any of the three years was shown in a high levelbusiness executive position. It was not until 1972 that women wereshown in professional occupations. The highest percentage ofworking women were found in nonprofessional white collar roles -that is - secretarial/clerical roles (Belkaoui and Belkaoui, 1976).Findings from numerous studies indicated that, in general,women were rarely depicted in nontraditional roles or situations.For example, from 1950 through 1970, the number of ads showingwomen in nontraditional situations was only 16% (Sexton andHaberman, 1974). Similarly, during this same time period, women12were rarely depicted in leadership roles or roles that involvedimportant decisions (ibid).Despite the prevalence of traditional roles for women inadvertising some studies have concluded that women have madecertain gains in occupational representations (Belkauoi andBelkaoui, 1976; Cully and Bennett, 1976; Kerin et. al., 1978;O'Connor and Sullivan, 1988; Saunders and Stead, 1986; Weinbergeret. al., 1979; Wagner and Banos, 1973). The proportion of womenshown working outside the home has increased over time and gainshave been made in the representation of women in middle level andhigh level managerial positions. While Weinberger et. al. (1979)found a downturn in the actual number of occupational rolesportrayed by women, the working roles that were depicted indicatedsignificant increases in portrayals of professional and middlelevel business positions. This gain came at the expense ofportrayals of traditional occupations such as clerical andsecretarial roles.In a study of ads from the 1950's to the 1970's, Kerin et. al.(1979) found an increasing proportion of ads featuring women inroles other than that of housewife. It was projected that thistrend of increasing role diversity could be expected to continueinto the 1980's. There has been some evidence to support thisprediction. For example, by examining the type of clothing womenwere shown wearing in work roles, Saunders and Stead (1986)concluded that, from 1963 to 1983, women were increasinglyportrayed in managerial and professional roles and like their male13counterparts were attired in business suits. O'Connor and Sullivan(1988) compared the data of previous studies from 1958 and 1970with 1983 data and found many changes in the depiction of women'soccupational roles. Their findings included a marked increase inthe employment status of women as compared to nonworkingportrayals, with increasing portrayals of women as businessexecutives, professionals, salespersons, and middle level managers.They concluded that the previously dominant stereotypes of women'splace as being in the home and of women as unable to make importantdecisions were no longer prevalent.In general, the conclusion was drawn in many studies thatthose responsible for creating advertisements were becoming moresensitive to the actual social and economic status of women andthat, increasingly, advertisements were better capturing thediversity of women's actual social roles. On the other hand,sexist and stereotypical depictions were the predominant norm.Thus, while limited evidence of improvement was found, depictionsof women in traditional roles, in particular the roles of housewifeand mother, were prevalent (Courtney and Lockeretz, 1971; Fox,1990). For example, women were more likely to be portrayed in therole of mother or housewife than employed outside of the home(Cully and Bennett, 1976). Advertisements from women's, men's, andgeneral interest magazines in 1973 revealed that the number ofadvertisements in which women were associated with housework waseleven times greater than the number associating housework with men(Andrew et. al., 1978). In addition women were still less likely14to be shown in working roles when compared to men (Cully andBennett, 1976). For instance, men in 1973 were three times as oftenas women associated with work outside the home (Andrew et. al.,1978).NON-OCCUPATIONAL ROLESAlthough more progressive depictions of women's occupationalroles have appeared, the majority of depictions of women's rolesfall under the category of non-working roles (Courtney andLockeretz, 1971; Belkauoi and Belkaoui, 1973). In 1973, 69% ofwomen shown in ads were depicted in nonworking roles (Cully andBennett, 1976). The most prevalent role that women have been shownin has been that of sex object (Ferguson et. al., 1990; Pingree et.al., 1976; Sexton and Haberman, 1974; Sullivan and O'Connor, 1988;Venkatesan and Losco, 1975 ). Not only has this stereotype beenprevalent, it has tended to increase over time (Sexton andHaberman, 1974). This increase often accompanies and counteractsdeclining representations of women in other stereotypical rolessuch as mother or housewife (Belkaoui and Belkaoui, 1976; Wagnerand Banos, 1973). It seems that while women have been portrayedless traditionally, they have increasingly assumed the role of asex object rather than a more positive or realistic role.Kerin et. al. (1979) predicted that due to increasing sexualpermissiveness in societal attitudes, this trend of sexualobjectification could be expected to continue into the 1980's.This anticipated trend was qualified, however, by predicting thatwomen would be used as sex objects in a narrower range of product15advertisements. Since this prediction was made researchers havenoted that sexually explicit themes in advertisements have indeedincreased. Soley and Reid (1988) tested the above prediction andconcluded that nudity was more prevalent in magazines during 1984than 1964. In addition, females were found wearing less clothingmore often than their male counterparts. Duquin (1989) exploredgender ideology surrounding images of women in sports relatedadvertisements and found that when women were shown participatingin sports, the images emphasized sexuality rather than athleticskills.Posner (1982) explored the evolution of trends in advertisingover time and noted the increase in sado masochistic images inadvertisements apparent in the pervasiveness of aggressive facialexpressions, body language, and S&M props. This led her toconclude that not only are sexually explicit themes increasing inadvertising, there has been a transformation in the type ofimagery. Seemingly innocuous displays of sex role stereotyping,characteristic of much magazine advertising, has increasinglytransformed into depictions of sexually violent images againstwomen.ACTIVITIESA number of studies have addressed the stereotype of women aspassive by examining the kinds of activities in which women areportrayed as participants. Duquin (1989) studied ads in women'smagazines containing images of women participating in sportingactivities in both 1985 and 1988. The ads were coded according to16four levels of activity. It was found that the majority of women(72%) were shown as non-active compared to about half of men asnon-active. While 36% of men were shown in relatively activeroles, only 14% of women were depicted in this way. Posing insport attire, as though anticipating activity, averaged 10% forboth genders. The percentage of women shown in vigourousactivities dropped from 8% in 1985 to 5% in 1988, while this levelfor men rose from 6% in 1985 to 11% in 1988. Overall, the findingsshow that men are more than twice as likely as women to be depictedas vigorously or relatively active.The declining levels of activity associated with women in adshave also been noted by Bolla (1990). Her study of women'smagazines indicates that 1974-1978 marked a high point indepictions of physical activity for women, declining thereafter.The dominant message communicated across 1964-1987 was that women'sleisure is sedentary and usually involves the presence of a man.Similarly, in a study of ads in general interest as well as women'smagazines, Poe (1976) enumerated the portrayal of women in activeand non-active roles for the years 1928, 1956, and 1972. Resultsindicate that the highest levels of activity occurred in 1928,after which levels dropped with no significant difference in levelsbetween 1956 and 1972. Once again, when women were shown insporting roles, the imagery was of a sexual rather than athleticnature. When women were shown in ads with a sports motif, it wasmore often in a co-ed, recreational activity rather than in a same-17sex competitive sport. Ironically, the ads in 1928 contained themost favourable images, both quantitatively and qualitatively.When shown as passive, women are often portrayed as alluringor decorative in relation to the product advertised and unengagedin activity. Women are often posed standing, lying or sitting nextto the advertised product, while men are more often portrayedengaged in work or leisure activities (Duquin, 1989). As anonworking role, the decorative role increased from 74.5% ofnonworking women in 1958 to 94% in 1972 (Belkaoui and Belkaoui,1976). During 1970-1971, in magazines from five different genres,over 30% of cigarette, beverage, automobile, and airline travel adsportrayed women as decorative and alluring (Sexton and Haberman,1974).From their comparative study of women's role portrayals forthe years 1958, 1970 and 1983, Sullivan and O'Connor (1988)concluded that there had been a resurgence of women in decorativeroles. However, they note that this is primarily characteristic ofads promoting women's products and that the use of alluring femalemodels to sell men's products had decreased to a low level. Morerecent studies indicate that the passive/decorative stereotype maybe decreasing, but in a somewhat contradictory fashion. Fergusonet. al. (1990) found that portrayals of women as subordinate to menor as merely passive/decorative decreased from 1973-1987. Howeverduring the same time period, ads increasingly portrayed women asoutwardly alluring sex objects.18RELATIONSHIPSIn their relationships with men, women have characteristicallybeen depicted as dependant. Women are more likely than men to beshown in the company of the other sex and are unlikely to be shownoperating independently when making expensive purchases (Courtneyand Lockeretz, 1971:94, Wagner and Banos, 1973). Between the years1959-1971, a study of women's, men's and general interest magazinesfound that the highest percentage of ads in both men's and generalinterest magazines portrayed women as sexual objects dependent onmen. Furthermore, in all magazines this depiction increased overtime and has been found in almost one out of every four magazineadvertisements containing at least one woman (Venkatesan and Losco,1975). Similarly, depictions of women's leisure activities usuallyinvolve the presence of men re-enforcing the appearance ofdependence (Bolla, 1990). In general, the depictions of women inadvertisements have suggested that there are certain business andsocial activities which are inappropriate for women to perform ontheir own (Courtney and Lockeretz, 1971; Culley and Bennett, 1976).The impression given by many ads that women are dependant isfurther implied by the isolation of women from their own sex. Ithas been found that women are rarely shown interacting with eachother. For instance, in one study of ads in which women appeared,only 11% showed more than one woman (Courtney and Lockertetz,1971). Similarly, in work situations, women were rarely seeninteracting with their female co-workers (Wagner and Banos, 1973).Women have rarely been shown venturing out of the home either on19their own or with other women. They do smoke, drink, travel, drivein cars and use banks but usually do so in the company of men(Culley and Bennett, 1976). Despite its emphasis on women'scollectivity, 52% of ads in MS magazine showed women alone(Ferguson, et. al., 1990).In general, advertisements tend to offer the audience a worldin which individuals are detached from others (Masse and Rosenblum,1988). More recently however, Sullivan and O'Connor (1988) havenoted that when compared with advertisements from earlier times,many ads in 1983 depicted images of independence for women.Although most ads in which women appeared tend to contain men,these men were not shown overseeing the activities of women.Instead, men and women were depicted as sharing lifestyles on anequal basis. Finally, although the presence of children inadvertisements is rare, it has been found that their presenceappears to be strongly related to the presence of women therebyemphasizing women's roles as mothers (Sexton and Haberman, 1974).WOMEN'S GOALSThe two goals most emphasized in women's magazinesadvertisements have been attending to personal beauty andperforming household tasks well (Andrew, 1978; Belkaoui andBelkaoui, 1976; Courtney and Lockeretz, 1971). Venkatesan andLosco (1975) found that in women's magazines, 61% of advertisementsstressed women as being physically beautiful. This portrayal wasmore frequent in women's magazines than it was in either men'smagazines or general interest magazines. Likewise women's20magazines depicted women as overachieving housewives more oftenthan other types of magazines.Achieving physical beauty and domestic mastery have beenpresented as priorities in both American and British women'smagazines. The dominant product categories in these magazines arefor personal beauty products and housewares/food items respectively(Monk-Turner, 1990). The dominance of advertisements for personalbeauty products in women's magazines has also been found inmagazines oriented toward adolescent girls where beauty ads accountfor 21% of all advertising (Evans et. al., 1991). This findingreflects the message that women are to pursue 'eternal youth andbeauty' in ads that hint at sexual inadequacy (Duquin, 1989).These types of hints in ads equate the failure to achieve physicalbeauty and domestic mastery with sexual inadequacy. By using theadvertised products to become beautiful objects or betterhousewives, ads suggest that women can attain love and admiration(Warren, 1978).In a study of advertisements for household goods over a periodof seventy years, Fox (1990) found that despite householdmechanization, advertisements continued to stress housework, workperformance, and service to the family. These themes prevailedover the theme of liberation from housework which mechanization hadmade possible. Fox suggests that advertisers maintained anemphasis on the ideology of housework and women's dedication to itso as to ensure a continued market for their products at theexpense of women's liberation. These findings become particularly21relevant in conjunction with findings which suggest that over thepast 100 years print advertising in female-oriented magazines hasincreasingly emphasized social conformity by instilling sensitivityto the expectations and preferences of others (Zinkhan and Hayes,1988).WOMEN MINORITIESAdvertising has been criticized for the ways in which womenminorities are presented. Minority women are vastlyunderrepresented in magazine advertising and, when they are shown,it is often in a negatively stereotypical fashion (Culley andBennett, 1976). In a study of thirteen women's magazines, minorityrepresentation in advertisements was found to average only 3% ofall ads (Duquin, 1989). Longitudinal change in suchrepresentations has been small. MacGregor (1989) evaluated imagesof women in ads from a general interest news magazine to see ifchanges in representations had occurred over time. In a periodcovering 1954 to 1984, visible minority women as a percentage oftotal persons pictured rose from 0.2% to only 1.5%, but the threeroles held by minority women were reflective of negativestereotypes. Minority women were most likely to be shown asdecorative/idle, as dancers, and as poor/idle. MacGregor concludedthat over a 30 year period, minority women have been shown inextremely limited roles and associated with a very narrow range ofgoods and services. Roles depicted have not kept pace with theroles actually played by minority women in Canadian society.22THE `NEW WOMAN'One of the most common conclusions of studies done on thedepictions of women in advertising is that advertising has beenslow to make significant adjustments in the portrayal of women(Belkaoui and Belkaoui, 1976; MacGregor, 1989; Sexton and Haberman,1974; Venkatesan and Losco, 1975). Even contemporary magazinesthat are geared towards the `modern woman' lack positiveportrayals. Despite efforts by publishers and editors to createmagazines that meet the needs of contemporary women, the majorityof ads in these magazines have shown women in stereotypical andsexist roles (Ortiz and Ortiz, 1989). When MS magazine was firstpublished it espoused a strict policy regarding sexist or harmfulproduct advertising. Despite this policy it was found that asubstantial proportion of advertising in MS in the period of 1973to 1987 promoted harmful products. For instance, cigarette andalcohol ads accounted for 30% of all advertising. In addition,women were found to be increasingly depicted as alluring sexobjects (Ferguson, et.al ., 1990).Findings such as these support the charge that advertising hasbeen rather successful in undermining feminist objections to sexiststereotyping through co-optation of liberation themes (Andrew,1978; Fox, 1990:33). As argued by Masse and Rosenblum (1988:142),"an analysis of the `new woman' advertisements, that most seem toanswer our objections to earlier stereotypes, show that little haschanged". Exploiting feminist concerns in order to sell a newversion of the traditional American success ethic has arisen as a23new marketing strategy.^These ads emphasize women'saccomplishments and suggest that all women have scored an economicand emotional victory. The implication is that now women can relaxin their collective struggle and concentrate on career advancement.Not surprisingly, this career advancement is linked to theconsumption of wide array of products. It is argued that this kindof advertising exploits women as a consumer audience anddiscourages collective action to improve women's working lives(Gordon, 1980). Furthermore, this marketing strategy underminesthe original goals of the women's movement by emphasizing socialadaptation instead of social change. Advertising's liberated womanincorporates everything the women's movement has fought against....these 'updated' models of women, while representingsurface changes in appearance or activity, continue tooperate within the same economic context and therelations of power remain intact. In fact, the idea ofliberation has itself become one of the most effectiveadvertising motifs." (Warren, 1978).THEMATIC ANALYSES: VISUAL IMAGERYIn addition to studies which examine the depiction of women inadvertisements through traditional content analysis, a number ofstudies examine stereotyping primarily from the analysis of visualimagery (Courtney and Whipple, 1983:11). Rather than draw asystematic sample of advertisements, these studies explore many adsfor the purpose of summarizing the recurring themes in visualimagery. After studying the images of women in British magazineadvertising, Trevor Millum (1975), developed an analytical schemefor the examination of visual imagery used to portray women in the24advertisements. He concluded that the most frequent images ofwomen were: mannequin, narcissist, hostess, and wife/mother.In another study of visual imagery, Dispenza (1975) arguedthat not only are advertisements one of the most accessible sourcesof cultural information regarding sex roles in our society, butthat they work to reinforce sex role images. In order to discoverwhich images were predominantly reinforced by ads, he conducted athematic analysis of ads from more than 2000 copies of periodicalsdating from 1900 up to 1975. He found six major themes: facialbeauty; domesticity and women's relationship to the home ashousewife; the progression from romance to courtship to marriage;women's body shape and fashion; 'spare parts' or focus on parts ofwomen's bodies in isolation; and, finally, health and healthproducts.Perhaps the most complete and well known study of visualimagery in advertising is Erving Goffman's Gender Advertisements (1979). After an extensive examination of visual imagery inapproximately five-hundred American print advertisements Goffmanisolated several prevalent gender stereotypes which weretransmitted through the physical positioning and bodily poses ofthe models. From examining the fine details of posture andpositioning exhibited by male and female models he concluded thatthe stereotypes fell into six major categories. These six majorareas of analysis were: relative size, the feminine touch, functionranking, the family, the ritualization of subordination, andlicensed withdrawal.25Goffman found that women were most often shown in positionswhich relay sex stereotyped messages. For example, women wererarely shown as being taller than men and, more often than men,they were shown using their fingers and hands to cradle or caressobjects. Women were depicted in subordinate occupational roles andwere often shown in recumbent positions. In addition, women wereoften shown in childish poses and poses that suggested they wereremoved psychologically from the social situation at hand.In order to interpret the images of woman in advertisements,Goffman used the parent/child relationship as an analogy for therelationship depicted between men and women within the ads, menbeing pictured in the role of parent and women pictured in the roleof the child. He then asked why these ads, in which grown womenwere treated as children, do not look strange to us? To addressthis question, Goffman referred to the depictions of gender in theads as representations of `gender displays'. He explained genderdisplays as the culturally established correlates of biologicalsex. Drawing from social anthropology, Goffman interpreted genderdisplays as rituals: that is, actions or events which seek to givestructure and stability to shared social life and communicatemeaning. Gender displays function socially by communicating toparticipants how a person wishes to be identified. As rituals theyare understood and read by members, thereby providing informationabout human beings as subjects.Goffman's basic premise is that the performance of gender insocial situations is analogous to the display of gender in media26texts. Advertisements are representations or reflections of thegender displays which are used in everyday life to guide perceptionand make sense of the world. Advertisements do not look strange tous because they draw on the same body of gender displays that areused to make sense of social life. While advertisements appear tocontain photographs of male and female human beings, thesephotographs are actually depictions of masculinity and femininitywhich are fitted in such a way as to function socially (Gornick inGoffman, 1979:viii). As such, these depictions of gender displayare part of the context and process within which we attempt tounderstand and define femininity and masculinity. Goffman notedhowever, that advertisements are often hyper-ritualizations becausethey emphasize certain aspects of gender over others.Goffman himself did not apply these categories of genderdisplays systematically to a sample of advertisements. However anumber of studies have incorporated Goffman's gender displaycategories in systematic content analyses to measure the extent towhich they appear in advertising. The categories most often foundhave been the ritualization of subordination and feminine touch(Belknap and Leonard, 1991). Females are more likely than males tobe shown as stance-subordinated and as displaying connectionthrough smile, touch, and gaze (Masse and Rosenblum, 1988).Goffman's work is significant because it concentrates onbehaviours and postures which are perceived as natural for one ofthe sexes. Indeed, gender is held to be one of the most deeplyseated traits of humans. Masculinity and femininity, therefore,27are believed to be, in a sense, prototypes of essential expression(Goffman, 1979:7). In this "doctrine of natural expression" thereexists the tendency to account for what occurs in society by anappeal to our `natures' - that is - a deep belief in our societythat an object produces signs that are informing about itself(Goffman, 1979:6). In his study of advertisements, Goffmanundermines the taken for granted `naturalness' of behaviourassociated with gender. By viewing these behaviours andexpressions as cultural rather than essential, his work points tothe need to place these portrayals in the context of a social andhistorical analysis (Goffman, 1979:3).CONCLUSIONTwenty years of research into the depiction of women in printadvertising reveals several dominant trends. Women have primarilybeen shown in traditional, low status occupational roles. Whilesome evidence exists that a greater diversity of occupational roleshas taken place, few women have been shown in high levelprofessional occupations. In addition, women have been more likelyto be shown working in the home than outside the home and, withinthe home, women are more likely to be shown engaged in houseworkthan men. The dominant trend for women to be shown in non-occupational roles is most evident in the depiction of women as sexobjects. The sexual objectification of women has increased asdepictions of housewives/mothers has decreased. This sexualobjectification and sexual imagery has also increasingly violentovertones. Advertising has consistently perpetuated the stereotype28of women as passive, non-instrumental objects through thedepictions of women as decorative sex objects.Within advertising the relationships that women have with menhave been stressed over other relations and, within theserelationships, women are shown as dependant upon men. Despiteevidence that suggests depictions of female independence haveincreased women are rarely shown together thus emphasizing thecentrality of male-female relationships The primary goals forwomen emphasized in advertising are the achievement of beauty anddomestic mastery. These goals tend to be presented in the contextof women's relationships by linking their attainment to socialapproval. Although advertising has perpetuated and re-enforcedsexual stereotypes at a general level, stereotyping has been mostextreme in the representation of minority women. Minority womenare underrepresented in all categories and, when they do appear,their roles are extremely limited and reflect not only sexist butracist stereotypes.Many of the findings of content analysis studies have beenconfirmed by thematic analyses of visual imagery. Beauty,domesticity, sexual objectification and heterosexual romance havebeen found as recurring advertising themes. Additionally, womenare more often than men depicted in ways that relay sex stereotypedmessages. As the stereotypes present in advertising have beenchallenged advertisers have responded by co-opting women'sliberation themes thereby making advertising resilient to criticismand demands for change. This has contributed to an ongoing29challenge to the ways in which women are represented in advertisingand to an ongoing concern with the ways in which these images anddefinitions of femininity effect the lives of women. The nextchapter will discuss how sex-role stereotypes contribute to women'sinequality from the theoretical standpoint of liberal feminism.The discussion will then shift to an examination of more recenttheoretical work in the area of cultural representations lookingspecifically at femininity as a textually mediated discourse andadvertising as ideology.30CHAPTER THREE: THEORETICAL PERSPECTIVESSEX ROLE STEREOTYPINGIn the past, sociologists have analyzed representations ofwomen in advertising by examining the communication of sexualstereotypes. From this perspective advertisements are one of thesources from within the mass media that provide and generate ideasabout women. It is thought that advertisements not only sell theproducts that we consume, but that they also convey imagesregarding how we are to define ourselves, our relationships and ourneeds. In doing so, advertising communicates both implicit andexplicit suggestions regarding the appropriate roles for women andmen (Anderson, 1988:23-24).The notion of "sex roles" refers to the behaviours, values,and attitudes which a culture defines as appropriate for males andfemales (Andersen, 1988:76; Weinreich, 1977:21). Through sex rolesocialization, different behaviours and attitudes are encouragedand discouraged in women and men. Social expectations regardingthe appropriate fulfilment of one's sex role are transmitted in thesocialization process by a complex and subtle set of socializingagents which includes parents, peers, teachers, the media, andadvertising. These agents transmit sex appropriate behaviours,attitudes, roles and beliefs through direct proscription, byexample, and by implicit expectation (Weinreich, 1977:18). It isassumed that the child internalizes the sex roles taught and thatgender identity is established in the early years of life. Once31acquired, this identity is relatively resistant to substantialchange.It is often argued, however, that socializing agents holdstereotypical beliefs about what constitutes appropriate sex roles.Sex roles and sex role socialization are thus reflections of oftenunfounded beliefs regarding differences between the sexes (ibid.).Furthermore, these stereotypes reflect the assumptions of a male-dominant society (Stockard and Johnson, 1980:8). So, for example,the traditional female stereotype is characterized as passive,expressive, decorative, manipulative, non-combatant and non-competent outside domestic and nurturing situations (Weinreich,1977:20).The representations of women in advertising are thought todraw upon and mobilise existing social knowledge and culturalassumptions about women's sexuality, intellect, and abilities butin particular - that is - stereotypical ways. Sex role theoryhypothesizes that sex stereotyped depictions of women inadvertisements encourage role-modelling. Sexist stereotypes areproblematic because they contribute to the socialization of womeninto narrowly defined roles which limit the fulfilment of theirtrue potential.THE LIBERAL FEMINIST CRITIQUEThe analysis of depictions of women in advertising using a sexrole perspective has been closely bound up with the guidingassumptions of liberal feminism. The liberal feminist perspectiveaddresses gender by focusing upon the acquisition and reinforcement32of sex roles through socialization (Peirce, 1990:492).^Sexualstereotyping in advertising is problematic to liberal feministsbecause they feel that these depictions of women aremisrepresentations. The stereotypical roles within which women aredepicted do not accurately reflect changes which have taken placein modern society and print advertising has been slow in changingthe traditional, demeaning roles of women (Belknap and Leonard II,1991:104; Betterton, 1987:20; Venkatesan and Losco, 1971:49).The central assumptions of liberal feminism revolve around aliberal philosophy that extends full civil rights to everyindividual. Liberal feminists stress the dysfunctional aspects ofsexual inequality and feel that no particular segment of societybenefits from its existence. Men are not seen as the originatorsor perpetrators of sexism. Rather, it is believed that most menwould welcome and benefit from a nonsexist society. The problem ofsexual inequality is perceived in terms of the need for attitudinalchange. It is assumed that with proper education and nonsexistpractices, sexual inequality will diminish. The strategy adoptedby liberal feminists in their fight against sexism rests upon theirassumption that political power is distributed throughout societyin such a way that many different groups compete for the power toinfluence social policy. Women's organizations can compete for andgain the power needed to change sexual inequality (Nielsen,1978:151). This approach takes on a reformist nature in whichwomen are encouraged to bring about change by working collectivelywithin the existing political structure.33Given this political philosophy, liberal feminists haveadvocated the reform of advertising content. These reforms involvereplacing stereotypical portrayals of women with morerepresentations of women in nontraditional roles. The presumptionis that if sexist portrayals are removed and women are depicted inmore realistic roles in advertisements, then women will be providedwith role models that are not only more accurate, but more positive(Steeves, 1987).However, an opposing viewpoint holds that advertisements arenot transparent communicators of meaning, nor are they reflectionsof social reality. Against the position taken by liberal feministsthis view holds that "simply to attack advertising imagery asmisrepresentative and sexist does not adequately explain its powerto shape our perceptions of social reality" (Betterton, 1987:21).The position of liberal feminists is fundamentally problematicbecause their criticism of images of women in advertising revolvesaround the extent to which these images are false when measuredagainst reality. The liberal feminist position relies on thebelief that there is a simple and better reality with which toreplace stereotypes. Dyer (1982:114) points out that this kind ofargument gets "bogged down in arguments about the extent to whichsuch images are true or false and seeks to replace distorted imageswith representations of people and situations as they really are".In doing so, this position ignores the more important issue thatadvertisements are themselves a kind of reality which have theirown effect.34The images of women in advertising influence how we see thefemale body and what it means to us (Betterton,1987:8).Advertisements do not represent (or misrepresent) an externalreality but instead, work to constitute a version of reality. Theyare ideological (Dyer, 1982; Wernick, 1991; Williamson, 1978).Challenging the ideological effect of advertising is not simply amatter of removing stereotypical sex role portrayals of women.Even if women are shown more realistically, it is not certain thatthis ensures a feminist transformation of imagery given that womenremain restricted in the real world (Betterton, 1987:20).Despite protests throughout the 1960's and 1970's against thecommunication of traditional stereotypes of women, it often seemstoday as though nothing has ever changed (Barthel, 1988:11). As wehave seen in chapter one, over the past decade women inadvertisements have more frequently been shown in a wider range ofroles which more accurately reflect their actual activities. Yet,these depictions rarely break from traditional definitions of whatit means to be feminine, nor do they offer alternativeconstructions of femininity. The `liberated' female executive, forexample, is still one who not only conforms to, but embraces,specific standards of `beauty' and is shown as physicallyattractive and desirable.In the post-women's movement era, traditional definitions offemininity have been incredibly resilient to change. Therecuperation of feminism, the subversion of feminist challenges tosexist ideology and the rise of outright anti-feminism make the35study of advertisements particularly timely (Goldman, et. al.,1991). The mass media in general and the advertising industry morespecifically have been rather successful in co-opting thechallenges put forth by the women's movement (Andersen, 1988:28).For example, "femininity' is often presented within advertisementsin such a way that it acquires meaning not in its difference frommasculinity, but in its opposition to the category of 'feminist'.Furthermore, the message is conveyed that today it is somehow adefiant choice to be 'feminine' (Williamson, 1986:21).To address the way in which femininity is presented inadvertising, feminists have questioned not just the content ofadvertising, but the way in which this content operatesideologically to create and reproduce traditional imagery. Tobetter understand the part that advertising plays in defining andultimately naturalizing a particular version of femininity requiresan approach which is more sophisticated than the sex-roles focus ofliberal feminism. Rather than view advertisements asmisrepresentations of reality, what is required is an approach thatcan interpret the ways in which advertisements constitute socialreality by constructing both meaning and the individual who isaddressed by them.THE RISE OF CULTURAL STUDIESRecent approaches to the study of representations of women inthe mass media have been influenced by theoretical andmethodological developments within cultural studies. In the pastdecade, researchers have questioned traditional approaches to the36study of mass communication and have refocused attention on theways in which ideological meanings are produced and reproduced.The development of new approaches has been motivated bydissatisfaction with the established approaches, particularly thosethat conceptualize various forms of mass communication as vehiclesfor dominant ideologies which are "swallowed whole by a passiveaudience of cultural dupes" (Brown and Schulze, 1990:89).As a result, the focus has now shifted towards questionsconcerning how the text works to construct meaning and how thismeaning is produced by the reader and text in interaction. Thesequestions rest on the implicit assumption that the reader is anactive agent, and not a passive victim exhibiting falseconsciousness. Similarly, the text itself is perceived as multi-levelled and not as a monolithic structure of meaning which isimposed upon the helpless reader.The study of advertising, traditionally guided by sex-roletheory, has assumed a passive role for the reader. In thisperspective, the reader passively adopts the roles provided by theadvertisement. However, if the texts of advertising can beunderstood as unstable rather than monolithic and the reader as anactive agent, we begin to see that both the construction offemininity as well as the feminine subject is an ongoing process.Studying the representations of women in advertising then becomesa study of how the advertisements work to produce a particularversion of what it means to be feminine.37FEMININITY AS DISCOURSEThe idea of discourse has been helpful in explaining howvarious cultural and social practices intersect to definefemininity (Betterton, 1987:9). The term 'femininity' is used hereto refer to a social construction rather than a natural and innatequality of the female sex. As such it implies a social process inwhich the female sex is attributed with specific qualities andcharacteristics. Similarly, femininity refers to the whole processthrough which an individual acquires a gendered identity(Betterton, 1987:7). In order to understand how femininity isproduced and acquired it is useful to incorporate the concepts ofdiscourse, discursive practices, and subject position.Borrowing from the work of Foucault, femininity can be thoughtof as a discourse - that is - as a way of constituting knowledgeabout the female sex. The term 'discourse' has been definedvariously as "...a domain of language-use, a particular way oftalking (and writing and thinking)", involving "certain sharedassumptions which appear in the formulations that characterise it"(Belsey, 1980:5). Discourse can be understood as aninstitutionalized use of language and language-like sign systems(Davies and Harre, 1990:45). Discourses exist in written as well asoral forms and in the social practices of everyday life (Weedon,1987).The concept of discourse is particularly useful because itcarries with it an implicit relationship between power andknowledge. The dominant discourse has the power to constitute38knowledge in specific ways. This has implications for the subjectwho is produced through the discourses of 'self-knowledge'. Thesediscourses are developed through the construction of socialcategories such as gender, so that discourses provide the basis foridentity. As Frazer (1990) argues, " actors' understanding andexperience of their social identity, the social world and theirplace in it, is discursively constructed. By this I mean thatthe...experience of gender, race, class,...personal-socialidentity, can only be expressed and understood through thecategories available to them in discourse".Discursive practices refer to the all of the ways in whichpeople actively produce their social reality once positioned withina discourse. It is the learning and use of particular practicesthat generate an individual's subjectivity. Through participatingin various discursive practices, individuals are constituted andreconstituted. Social identity is always an open question thatdepends upon the positions made available within one's own as wellas other's discursive practices (Davies and Harre, 1990).Understanding gendered identity as the product of discursivepositioning requires that the concept of subject position replacethe traditional concept of role. Roles are thought to be learnedthrough the observation of others, then adopted by the socialactor. This approach suggests that social action is a type of pre-determined, pre-structured play in which roles exist prior to thespeaking and acting subject. The use of the concept subjectposition avoids such overdeterminism because it rests upon an39understanding of the subject as a choosing subject. The activesubject can choose her location within a discourse according to hersubjective lived history (Davies and Harre, 1990). One's identityis composed of the multiplicity of subjectivities which arise outof particular discourses. Identity, therefore, is never a fixed orunified whole but is constantly negotiated and renegotiated as theactive subject participates in a range of different discursivepractices (Saco, 1992). Femininity may be represented andexperienced in contradictory ways because definitions of femininitycan be found across various cultural discourses (Betterton,1987:9).At any given moment in time, an individual may be found at theintersection of competing and conflicting discourses."Persons as speakers acquire beliefs about themselveswhich do not necessarily form a unified, coherent whole.They shift from one to another way of thinking aboutthemselves as the discourse shifts and as their positionswithin varying storylines are taken up. Each of thesepossible selves can be internally contradictory withother possible selves located in different storylines.. .The possibility of choice in a situation in whichthere are contradictory requirements provides people thepossibility of acting agentically" (Davies and Harre,1990:58-59).Although the subject is socially constructed throughdiscursive practices, the subject is always a thinking and actingagent and the existence of conflicting and competing subjectpositions and practices provide options for the subject. However,feminists have argued that "these options exist in a hierarchicalnetwork of antagonistic relations in which certain versions offemininity...have more social and institutional power than others"40(Weedon, 1987). The ways in which discourses seek to constituteindividuals is always located within a wider network of powerrelations. While in principal the individual subject is open toall forms of subjectivity, in reality this access is limited byhistorically specific social factors and the various forces ofpower operating within a particular society. Discourses locatedwithin different social institutions and practices compete witheach other for the allegiance of individual subjects. In order tobe effective, a discourse requires a material base in establishedsocial institutions and practices (ibid.). Therefore the mostpowerful discourses in our society have firm institutional bases.The dominant subject position places the reader in a positionwhich implicitly endorses the meanings and values found in the textas simply being common sense. If we look at the meanings offemininity offered in cultural representations we soon see thatthey have specific implications for social power. To resist thedominant discourse is to resist a form of power that producesindividual subjects and causes individuals to conceive ofthemselves in a limited and limiting way (Young, 1989:183).Discourses work to privilege particular social values andmeanings while excluding others. Advertisements are an example ofone set of cultural texts which seek to inscribe the reader inparticular ways. The structure of an advertisement works toconstruct a certain subject position for the reader. More oftenthan not, advertisements address the reader as a gendered subject.In doing so, ads do not just create images of women, for example,41but seek to construct differences between men and women. Thesedifferences are not presented as constructions but are offered upas though they are real and natural (Betterton, 1987:23).As Dyer (1982) points out, in order to understand the image ofa woman in an advertisement, it is important to identify how she issignified and positioned within the advertisement as a femaleperson, and to remember that any representation is also partiallydefined in relation to the economic, political and ideologicalposition of women outside the advertisement within patriarchalsocial relations. This point highlights the need to placeadvertisements and their reading by individuals within a largersocial context.TEXTUALLY MEDIATED DISCOURSEThe work of Dorothy Smith (1990) provides a link between theactivities of particular individuals in local sites and the socialrelations within the wider social organization. Rather than viewfemininity as a normative order, reproduced through socializationto which women are somehow subordinated, Smith proposes thatfemininity be explored as discourse (1990:163). In thisconceptualization, discourse refers to actual social relationswhich are organized in and by the activities of actual people.Social relations are not fixed relations between statuses but arean organization of actual sequences of action in time. Materialtexts, such as magazine advertisements are significant in thisprocess of social organization because as Smith argues, "...we arepart of a world a major segment of the organization of which is42mediated by texts.." (1990:160). Advertising is one of many textswhich provides the direct material organization of the discourse offemininity.Femininity can be explored as the actual social relations ofa discourse mediated by texts in which women are active as subjectsand agents. This perspective draws attention to the organizationof ongoing actual practices of actual women. In the discourse offemininity, for example, one such practice involves "the deploymentof skills in producing personal appearance" (1990:164). To examinefemininity, texts of or about femininity are important objects foranalysis because these texts provide points of entry into theorganization of the social relations of femininity.It is important to remember that the texts which enter intoand organize the practices of individuals at the local level havea material presence and are produced in an economic and socialprocess which is part of a political economy. In the discourse offemininity, the activities of women are co-ordinated with theoperation of very powerful cosmetics and fashion industries."Women are not just passive products of socialization;they are active; they create themselves. At the sametime, their self-creation, their work, the uses of theirskills, are co-ordinated with the market for clothes,makeup, shoes, accessories, etc., through print, filmetc. The relations organizing this dialectic between theactive and creative subject and the market and productiveorganization of capital are those of a textually mediateddiscourse." (1990:161).Textually mediated discourse is a distinctively new type ofsocial relation which arose with the development of movable typeand the emergence of a mass market for books and magazines.43Whereas meaning had once been the product of particular livedprocesses at the local level, meaning came to appear in thematerial form of a text. Not only did meaning then become detachedfrom lived processes but, in the form of material texts, itappeared uniform across a diverse spectrum of local settings withspecific social processes. This was the advent of "a new kind ofpublic arena...in which relations are mediated by objectifiedextra-local forms.. .It sets up simultaneous relations among actuallocal settings so that their local historical processes aremediated and transcended by impersonal and objectified forms"(Smith, 1990:168).In the discourse of femininity, texts such as books on properfemale conduct, popular magazines and novels came to provide astandpoint for the individual reader from which her own conduct andthe conduct of others could be examined. As points of reference,texts not only organize the activities and relations of peoplescattered across diverse local settings, but co-ordinate them. Thetexts of femininity provide standardized images which women indiverse settings are to reproduce on their own bodies.The text as a mediator of social relations is ideologicallydetermined. The images of women in texts are inscribed by anddetermined by such ideology. The ideology of femininity acts as aninterpretive schema for images of women as well as for theappearance of actual women. As such the text provides a powerfulsource of social organization."Ideologies and doctrines of femininity are explicit,publicly spoken and written.^They enunciate44interpretations of the image and its embodied correlatein women's appearances. The discourse is a matrix oftextually mediated relations linking ideologies ofwomen's sexual passivity and subordination to men withthe images and icons of the texts, and entered into theorganization of the everyday world and its relationsthrough the artful work of women in producing on theirbodies the local expressions of the text" (Smith,1990:171).Advertisements in women's magazines provide a model or astandard against which to define femininity. These texts structurethe actual activities of women as they work to create their ownappearance in accordance with this definition but they alsostructure interpretation of the appearance of and by others. Whenwomen create themselves as expressions of the textual image theymake themselves interpretable by the ideology of femininity whichis inscribed in the textual image. Therefore, while women cancontrol and create their appearance, "its intended meaning isestablished by discursive texts outside her control" (Smith,1990:182).The ideality of the textual image with its power to form thestandards under which we are judged and read, and with which wejudge and read others, also structures desire. When the ideal,standardized image exists across a gap from the actual bodies ofreal women in local settings, desire for that ideal is generatedand then coordinated with the production of clothing, cosmetics,etc., so that "women are returned again and again as consumers tothe retail outlets that will remedy their ever-renewed textuallyreflected imperfections" (Smith, 1990:208).45In the work of Dorothy Smith we begin to see how theactivities that women undertake in creating themselves as feminineare part of social relations which are mediated by texts such asadvertising. Advertising not only organizes the work of individualwomen but standardizes a definition of what it means to be feminineacross multiple sites. On the basis of this process, the socialrelations of femininity are organized according to an ideologicallygrounded definition of what it means to be a woman. Women definethemselves and are defined by others according to the ideality ofthe textual image. In an even wider context, Smith's work ties thetextually mediated discourse of femininity to the operation ofindustries which have a vested interest in co-ordinating theactivities of women with the consumption of commodities theseindustries produce.ADVERTISING AS IDEOLOGYAdvertising is fundamentally ideological because it works toproduce meanings and ideas. Borrowing from Stuart Hall's (1977)analysis of the ideological effect of the mass media in general, wecan argue that advertising functions ideologically in three ways.Firstly, advertising works to provide and selectively constructsocial knowledge and social imagery "through which we perceive the`worlds', the `lived realities' of others, and imaginarilyreconstruct their lives and ours into some intelligible 'world-of-the-whole', some `lived totality'" (p.340-341). Secondly,advertising operates to classify and rank order different types of`social knowledge' according to preferred meanings and46interpretations. In terms of constructing femininity, theideological labour of advertising is to establish the rules anddefinitions of what femininity means and to further provide the'maps and codes' which help us not simply to know more about whatbeing a woman means, but to make sense of it. As Dorothy Smith hasargued, the ideality of the textual image not only provides initialinformation but also a point of reference for future and furtherinterpretation. Thirdly, the ideological functioning ofadvertising works to "organize, orchestrate and bring together thatwhich it has selectively represented and selectively classified" insuch a way that, despite fragmentation and plurality of meanings,imaginary coherence and unities are produced. Through thisnegotiation, consensus and consent seemingly emerge (p.342). TUEthree operations describe the general ideological functioning ofadvertising. The more specific ideological processes by whichadvertising works to create meaning include the appropriation andreformulation of cultural knowledge, the naturalization ofconstructed meanings, and the management of contradictions via theappearance of choice and difference. These processes will each bediscussed in turn.The meanings and ideas we find within advertisements are notgenerated in isolation but are the end products of a process inwhich meanings and ideas already existing within a given cultureare drawn upon. Within an advertisement cultural knowledge isrearranged and recombined in such a way that new meanings arecreated, but because these new meanings rely on pre-existing47meanings, they appear as natural. This process of appropriationand reformulation is motivated by the desire to sell products. AsJudith Williamson (1978:12) argues, "Advertisements must take intoaccount not only the inherent qualities and attributes of theproducts they are trying to sell, but also the way in which theycan make those properties mean something to us". For this reason,"Advertising, more than any other form of culturalendeavour perhaps, represents the logic of colonization.Cultural material is taken from a plethora of sources,and is reorganized for the purposes of selling products.The original, or previous meanings are recruited for aspecific purpose: the buying (and consumption) of aproduct" (Pleasance, 1991:73).Within this process of appropriation, objects - that ismaterial products - are made meaningful in terms of ourselves associal beings in our different social relationships (Dyer,1982:116). Advertisements seek to create a structure in whichstatements about objects are transformed into statements abouthuman relationships. In the process, objects and people becomeinterchangeable and in doing so, "advertisements are selling ussomething besides consumer goods: in providing us with a structurein which we, and those goods, are interchangeable, they are sellingus ourselves" (Williamson, 1978:12-13).It is because advertisements are able to selectively extractexisting meanings from their historical context and use them tocreate new meanings that critics often talk of images inadvertisements as re-presentations (Saco, 1992:25; Williamson,1978:177.) To speak of images of women in advertisements as re-presentations draws attention to the way in which advertisements48actively work to constitute gender difference and constructfemininity. However, this construction is presented as if it wereconstituted through direct knowledge of real objects - as if itwere a representation of the way women really are (Saco, 1992:25).This naturalization of femininity demonstrates the insidiousideological processes of advertising in which a phenomenon istreated "...as so self-evident and natural as to exempt itcompletely from critical inspection and to render it inevitable"(Vestergaard and Schroder, 1985:145). Beliefs about what it meansto be feminine - a woman - remain unquestioned because they arepresented as unquestionable; as natural and by implication, normal.These re-presentations take on the form of common sense and indoing so "...do not simply try to arrest or reverse on-going socialchange, but presuppose that such change is impossible".Advertising, through its ideological functioning, works to retardor prevent the revision of the basic principles of the social orderboth at the macro and micro levels (ibid).As Stuart Hall points out, ideology must be understood not asthat which is hidden and concealed, but that which is most open,apparent, and manifest, taking place on the surface and in fullview."It is precisely its 'spontaneous' quality, itstransparency, its 'naturalness', its refusal to be madeto examine the premises on which it is founded, itsresistance to change or to correction, its effect ofinstant recognition, and the closed circle in which itmoves which makes common sense, at one and the same time,'spontaneous', ideological and unconscious. You cannotlearn, through common sense, how things are: you can onlydiscover where they fit into the existing scheme ofthings." (Hall, 1977:325).49The taken-for-grantedness of the narrow definition offemininity within advertising is augmented by the appearance thatthis narrow version is really one in which women have a widevariety of choices. Advertisements contain a seemingly endlessarray of choices - that is - ways to be different, but thisappearance of difference masks the real differences between thegoals of feminism and an objectified, sexualized femininity. AsJudith Williamson (1986b:100) points out, hegemonic ideologiesfunction to contain differences or antagonism. She argues that"the whole drive of society is toward displaying as much differenceas possible within it while eliminating where at all possible whatis different from it: the supreme trick of bourgeois ideology is tobe able to produce its opposite out of its own hat".In advertisements feminine identity is presented as an endlessseries of choices in which women can differentiate themselves bothas a group and as individuals. On the surface these choices appearto about self-definition and personal freedom (Pleasance, 1991:77).Products are offered as a way for women to transform theiridentities and appearances, but the possibilities of such self-transformation and self-creation are channelled and ultimatelylimited by the structure of advertisements because advertisementssubstitute a series of products for a truly different self-image.Women are sold their images in the form of commodities (Betterton,1987:13). These images, while appearing as the products of choiceand self-differentiation, must be located within a dominant50ideology which seeks to constitute femininity in narrow and limitedways."The endless production of new and different femininitiesthrough increasing possibilities of consumption can thusbe read as a particularly powerful form ofclosure...Consumption is a form through which dominantpower relations have been articulated and maintained.For feminists, the particular incorporation of women andconstruction of femininity through these relations ofpower becomes an important point of closure" (Pleasance,1991:78-83).Raymond Williams (1973) argues that "in any particular periodthere is a central system of practices, meanings and values whichwe can properly call dominant and effective...which are organizedand lived" and exist not as a static structure, but as a process -aprocess of incorporation. The dominant ideology, which seeks toconstitute femininity in limited ways, must continually make andremake itself so as to contain meanings and values which lieoutside of the dominant version. Advertisements are one site inwhich the dominant ideology of femininity is produced, but thisproduction is also one in which the oppositional and excludedmeanings must be contained and managed. The goal of ideology is tomake the definitions of what it means to be feminine, in terms ofmeanings, values, practices and behaviours, come to constitute theprimary 'lived reality' of women across multiple sites.The success that advertising has had in creating closure isespecially reflected in its ability to subvert competingdiscourses. In the case of femininity as a construction, thisclosure has come at the expense of feminism and its challenge totraditional definitions of femininity. Advertising has been51resilient to this criticism and such challenges because its verystructure is one in which almost any meaning can be appropriatedand recuperated. By doing so, contradictions are contained andmanaged.The capacity to appropriate hostile counter ideologies andcontain antagonisms has made the advertising industry immune tomuch of the criticism directed at it for the ways in which itdepicts women (Dyer, 1982:185)."...advertisements will always escape any criticism ofthem which bases its argument on their deceitfulness oreven their harm in being 'capitalist', 'sexist', etc. Notthat these criticisms are invalid: but they by-pass theideology of the way in which ads work" (Williamson,1978:175).For these reasons, sociologist have become aware that it isnot just the content of advertising that needs to be studied, butthe structure of advertisements themselves. It is within thestructure of the advertisements that meanings are created in acomplex, interactive process. Critical analysis of this process ofsignification is necessary for the development of an understandingof how representations of women in advertisements work to definefemininity. By exposing such definitions as ideologicallyproduced, these representations can be critically challenged andtransformed (Betterton, 1987:24).CONCLUSIONRecent theoretical developments in cultural studies have ledsociologists to question traditional approaches to the study ofcultural representations. Within the study of advertisementsimages of women have been viewed as sexist stereotypes that52misrepresent women's actual roles. This approach has not addressedthe power that advertisements have to shape perceptions of socialreality, however, and does not adequately explain howadvertisements work to constitute a particular version of reality.As a result the approach of 'femininity as the passive adoption ofsex roles' needs to be replaced with the approach of femininity asthe actual relations of a discourse mediated by texts in whichwomen are active as subjects and agents. Advertisements, as textswhich mediate social relations, must be studied as ideology. Theideological processes through which femininity is defined are theappropriation and reformulation of cultural knowledge, thenaturalization of constructed meanings and the management ofcontradictions via the appearance of difference and choice. Toaddress these processes analysis must shift from the study ofcontent to a critical analysis of the processes of signification inadvertising. The next chapter will examine the assumptionsunderlying content analysis, a traditional research method and thenoutline semiotics, a more sophisticated method of textual analysiswhich enables one to uncover the ways in which advertising to worksto construct femininity.53CHAPTER FOUR: RESEARCH METHODOLOGIESTHE ANALYSIS OF TEXTS: QUANTITATIVE CONTENT ANALYSISSocial scientists have addressed the representation of womenin advertising primarily through the use of quantitative contentanalysis as a research methodology."Content analysis is a long and well establishedtradition in social science research. It relies uponcategories and counting, checks and doublechecks throughmultiple scorers. It has been viewed as our mostreliable method of obtaining the truth from documentsranging from works of fiction to newspapers, fromtelevision serials to advertisements" (Barthel, 1988:32-33).Content analysis allows for the "...objective, systematic andquantitative description of the manifest content ofcommunication..." (Berelson, 1952:18). Four major research claimsarise from this definition. The objective nature of contentanalysis implies that different readers or coders would agree uponthe interpretation of the material under analysis. Therefore, itis assumed that the method would be highly reliable. Secondly, the"systematic description" of content implies that the same set ofcriteria^would be applied to all of the material underexamination.^These criteria or descriptive categories aredeveloped and subsequently applied to all of the material within apreselected sample of advertisements. Thirdly, the measurement ofcategories of content is made in terms of numeric frequencies.This allows for precision of measurement as well as standardizationand meaningful comparison of data. Lastly, this method isexplicitly restricted to the measurement of manifest content and54excludes any interpretation of underlying meaning. Only that whichis evident at the surface level of the advertisement is analyzed(Leiss, et. al., 1986:169-170).CRITICISMS OF CONTENT ANALYSISRecently the sufficiency of content analysis as a researchtechnique for studying the production of meaning has beenquestioned and a number of criticisms have been raised. Forexample, frequency counts of surface content provide forreliability and objectivity, but often at the expense of validity.For the sake of the criterion of objectivity, one may inadvertentlymiss the more significant and important latent content. This isparticularly relevant in the study of advertising because theindividual advertisement signifies much more than is apparent onthe surface (Barthel, 1988:32).Similarly, in content analysis, a pretested schema is appliedby coders to all advertisements equally. This practice isproblematic because it rests upon the assumption that alladvertisements in the sample carry equal weight or significance.When this assumption is set aside, we can see that advertisementsvary in their qualitative complexity and impact (Barthel, 1988:32).Content analysis cannot address these types of differencesmeaningfully.A third criticism of content analysis is based upon its lackof a theory of signification. It is important to recognize thatthe meanings contained within an advertisement are products ofinteraction among parts of the whole. The sum of the parts of any55advertisement is of greater significance than the impact of theparts in isolation. When the advertisement is broken down intodiscrete categories of overt content, the meaning becomes lostbecause the meaning of any single element is dependant upon theposition of that element within an entire system of signs. Tosimply account for the frequency with which an element appearswithin a sample does not provide a meaningful context for thatelement. As a consequence, it becomes difficult to understand whatany one isolated fragment of content means."What an ad means depends on how it operates, how signsand its 'ideological' effect are organized internally(within the text) and externally (in relation to itsproduction, circulation and consumption and in relationto technological, economic, legal and socialrelations)...Iscientific'contentanalysis...assumesthatthe meaning of an ad is evident in its overt, manifestcontent and ignores the form that the content takes..."(Dyer, 1982:115).This criticism of content analysis as a research technique isimportant given that much of advertising today works at aconnotative level of communication via multiple levels of meaning.Furthermore, most advertisements have a latent meaning that thereader is expected to fill in and thereby complete the process ofsignification (Leiss, et. al., 1986:174). Thus, one significantproblem with content analysis is that as a methodology, it lacks atheory of signification. The assumptions are made that what existsat the denotative level is significant and, further, thatsignificance is measurable in terms of repetition. This notion of'significance as repetition' gives no knowledge of that which isbeing repeated.56"The absence of a theory of signs, signification andsignificance renders content analysis absurd because itskey concept [significance of repetition] is leftunsupported and that concept gives it no knowledge of itsavowed object, the content! The concept that holdscontent analysis together, the significance ofrepetition, is in itself a nonsense. In fact, therefore,content analysis is an incorrect label: 'repetitionspeculation' would be more accurate, since itspractitioners are merely speculating about thesignificance of repetition" (Sumner, 1979:69).In short, content analysis is limited not only because itlacks a theory of significance, but also because it fails toexamine how meaning is constituted or to address the socialrelations of signification which give signifying units theirsignified, social meanings (Sumner, 1979:98).The study of how advertisements work ideologically to definefemininity requires a shift in focus from the manifest content ofadvertisements, to analysis of the form content takes and to theprocesses of signification. As such, research methodology mustshift away from quantitative content analysis to a moresophisticated textual analysis.STUDYING ADVERTISING AS SIGNIFICATIONMeaning is not located in the text itself but is produced inthe space of interaction between reader and text. Reading is notan act in which the reader receives meaning from the text in astatic and straightforward manner. Instead, the reader activelyfills in the spaces of a text in a dynamic process. It isimportant to recognize this in order to understand how the textoperates ideologically. As Fiske (1982:144) points out, "thereader and text together produce the preferred meaning, and in so57doing the reader is constituted as someone with a particular set ofrelationships to the dominant value-system and to the rest ofsociety. This is ideology at work".Ideology is not a static set of values or ways of seeing theworld but a practice. By participating in the signifying practicesof a particular culture, the participant becomes the means by whichideology maintains itself. The meanings found by a reader in asign derive from the ideology within which both the sign and thereader exist. By finding these meanings the reader definesher/himself in relation to the ideology and in relation to her/hissociety (Fiske, 1982:151).The ideology of advertising is particularly insidious because,as Judith Williamson (1978:41) points out, ideology works throughus, not at us. It is kept hidden from us because we are active init, we do not receive it from above; we constantly re-create it.We must understand that when we speak of ideology, we are alsoreferring to the creation of the subject."We are not participants in an ideology until we areactive within its very creation; paradoxically, ideologymeans that we are participants, subjects, i.e.`initiators of action' in accordance with `freely heldideas'. But as these values which we hold only emerge intheir being assumed as already existing, so similarly weonly function as subjects in being addressed by the ad asalready subjects: `appellated" (Williamson, 1978:44).SEMIOTICS AND DECODING ADVERTISEMENTSTo read advertisements as ideology and ultimately understandthe role that they play in our society requires a methodology whichwill allow the researcher to address several questions. Forinstance, how do advertisements organize and construct reality?58How do advertisements produce ideology and meaning? Why arecertain images used in advertisements while others are not, and whydo advertising images appear as they do as opposed to alternativeconstructions? (Dyer, 1982:114). Many researchers have turned tosemiotics for answers to these questions (Barthes, 1977; Chapmanand Egger, 1983; Dyer, 1982; Jamieson, 1985; Noth, 1990;Williamson, 1978) [2].Despite considerable usage in research, the field of semioticslacks coherent and universal agreement on how it is to be used andapplied to the study of advertising. Rather, the term 'semiotics'tends to refer to a body of work that is concerned with the studyof signs. As such, this body of work is comprised of numerousconceptual tools and devices which are not necessarily used in anysystematic method or in any standardized fashion. This researchproject will rely primarily upon developments made in the field ofsemiotics through the work of Ferdinand de Saussure and RolandBarthes.Saussure's work in structural linguistics provides a frameworkfor the analysis of advertisements because "...semiologists havetaken 'language' as a model for all forms of cultural 'discourse',that is coded meaning systems in culture, such as advertising"(Sinclair, 1987:44). The analytical principles developed bySaussure in his study of language have been extended to othercultural systems of signs including speech, myth, folktales,novels, drama, comedy, mime, paintings, cinema, news items, andcomics (Dyer, 1982:115). Using language as a basic model,59advertisements can be analyzed similarly as signifying systems andstructures of signs.PRINCIPLES OF THE SEMIOTIC METHODFrom the semiotic perspective, meaning is a relationalphenomenon, resulting from the play of difference among signs in agiven field. Signs are not positively defined by their content butnegatively by their relations with other terms in the system. Asign means what it does because of what it does not mean. To thinkof meaning as relational contrasts with thinking of meaning asreferential - that is - produced by reference to objects existingin the 'real world'. With this idea Saussure undermined thecorrespondence theory of language which maintained that every signrefers to a particular object or external referent. Similarly, thedevelopment of this approach marked a significant departure frompositivist and empiricist traditions which had limited earlierstudies of culture (Franklin et. al., 1991:179).As Williamson (1978:17) argues, "We can only understand whatadvertisements mean by finding out how they mean, and analyzing theway in which they work". In the study of advertisements as systemsof signs, the relationships among the signs present become thecentral focus, for it is in the interaction between signs thatmeaning is produced. To study these structural relationships, thesystem - that is the individual advertisement - must be broken downinto smaller units of analysis. This step in decoding works toreveal the significance of what is included within the60advertisement's structure and helps one to understand why anadvertisement contains the signs that it does.Signs:Each element present within an advertisement can be thought ofas a sign. This includes the objects shown, the models present,the written text, etc. In effect, a sign is anything which standsin for something else. Once the advertisement is broken down intocomponent signs, these signs can be further broken down intosignifiers and signifieds. The signifier refers to the image, thematerial vehicle. The signified is the mental concept to which thesignifier refers. This will be a broad concept common to allmembers of the same culture who share the same language. The signis the associative total of the signifier and signified. Althoughthe signifier and signified are materially inseparable, it isuseful to distinguish between them for the purpose of analysis.Doing so enables one to better examine how the sign works.Signifier and Signified Relationships:Signs can vary in both nature and form depending upon therelationships between signifier and signified. This relationshipcan be any one of three types (Peirce, 1940).^In an iconicrelationship the sign actually looks like its object.^Thesignifier and signified relationship is one of resemblance orlikeness. An example would be a photograph of the product in anadvertisement. The photograph, as a sign, stands in for the actualproduct and resembles the actual product very closely.61Some signs go beyond this level of straightforward depictionand indicate a further or additional meaning. These signs are saidto be indexical. The relationship between signifier and signifiedis one of causality. Smoke for instance, is an indexical sign whenused to indicate fire. In advertising, a woman is oftenrepresented indexically by body parts - hips, eyes, head, hands, orlegs - all signify not only the actual body parts (iconic signs)but also signify her whole being and 'femininity' in general (Dyer,1982:124).The third type of sign is a symbol. The relationship betweensignifier and signified is not due to resemblance or causality butis a matter of convention. The relationship is purely arbitrarybut is culturally determined and used on the basis of sharedunderstandings. Basic examples include words and numbers. Anexample from an advertisement for perfume could be roses which areused as symbols of romantic love. In this instance roses do notresemble love (iconic) nor do they cause love (indexical) (Dyer,1982:125). However when used to signify love, the relationship isunderstood to make sense by members of our culture even though theconnection is arbitrary.It is important to recognize that in most advertisementsiconic, indexical, and symbolic signs coincide and invariablyoverlap. Understanding that the signifier/signified relationshipvaries in form and nature in the ways discussed above allows one tobegin to see how signs can be used to produce meaning in ways thatare not always straightforward and obvious. Furthermore, by using62a method which deconstructs the signifier/signified relationship,the transparency that advertisements work to display in theirpresentation of a one-to-one relationships between signifier andsignified is undermined. It is "demystified". When advertisementspresent the signifier/signified relationship as one of directcorrespondence, they seem to be simply representing what is alreadytrue and this is essential to their ideological functioning(Williamson, 1978:73-74).The Organization of Signs:Once the individual elements of an advertisement have beenexamined in isolation, it is important to look at how they areorganized within the structure of the advertisement. Signs acquiretheir meaning only in relation to the other signs present withinthe advertisement. The structural relationships in advertisementsare not arbitrary. There is a logic to their structure thatreflects conventions within language in general and within printadvertising more specifically. Obvious conventions ofcommunication must be followed if the reader is going to interpretthe advertising message, for example, structuring the ad so that itreads left to right and top to bottom. It is important torecognize that advertising messages are 'motivated' messages andthe message can be structured in certain ways so as to encouragecertain readings. In an attempt to create preferred readings,advertisers rely on a number of structural conventions. Forexample, text and image are often structured so that the reader is'drawn' towards a picture of the product (see Goldman, 1992).63Signs are combined in within advertisements in ways such that ininteraction, certain meanings are produced. For this reason, it isnecessary to examine how the signs are organized. To do this, anumber of conceptual devices can be employed. For Saussure andmany other linguists, the key to understanding signs was tounderstand their structural relationships. There are two types ofstructural relationships - paradigmatic and syntagmatic (Fiske,1982:63). Paradigmatic relations are relations of choice whilesyntagmatic relations are a matter of combination. Alladvertisements involve the selection of particular elements fromparadigms and combination of these elements into syntagms.Paradigms refer to a set of signs in which all individualunits or signs have something in common, share certaincharacteristics, or are functionally similar. Although membershipis dependent upon similarity, each sign is distinguishable fromothers in the same set. Every time we communicate, we must selectunits from a paradigm. Within the paradigm, meaning is relationalsuch that the meaning of a sign we chose to use in communicating aparticular meaning is determined by the meanings of the signs notchosen. For example, in an advertisement for Marlboro cigarettes,a stallion may be one of the signs which can be isolated foranalysis. The stallion can be classified according to itsparadigmatic relations with similar objects including ponies,donkeys, mules, horses, foals, mares, and so on. The significanceof choosing a stallion to appear in the advertisement is because,as a sign, the stallion recalls meanings beyond the way it appears64within the advertisement (Dyer, 1982:127). If the stallion wasreplaced with a functionally similar object from the same paradigm,such as a donkey, the meanings within the advertisement would besignificantly altered.Syntagmatic relations refer to the ways in which elementschosen from paradigms may permissibly combine together in a chainof discourse (ie. a syntagm). These are horizontal relations,whereas paradigmatic relations can be conceptualized in verticalterms. The individual advertisement can be thought of as asyntagm. Once combined into a syntagm, the meanings of theparadigmatic units are determined in part by the relationships withother signs in that syntagm. Within the Marlboro advertisement,the ad itself is a syntagm composed of a chain of signifiers thatmight include a stallion, a rough looking cowboy, and a wide openlandscape. Combined together, these signifiers work to signifyvirile masculinity, rugged individuality, and freedom.Syntagms are not arbitrary combinations of paradigmatic unitsbut are combined according to rules and conventions. These rulesand conventions follow cultural codes. Cultural codes not onlyallow signs to combine in a meaningful way within an advertisement,they allow members of a particular culture to read and understandthese structures of meaning.Codes:If the relationship between signifier and signified isarbitrary then we cannot know what a sign means naturally. We mustlearn what it means. Codes are forms of social knowledge derived65from social practices and beliefs which organize our understandingof the world in terms of dominant meaning patterns (Dyer, 192:135).More specifically, codes are systems into which signs areorganized. These systems are governed by rules that are shared bymembers of a particular community. The assumption is made thatagreement exists between members of a culture on what meanings canbe assigned to a certain sign. The communication of meaning in anadvertising text depends upon the knowledge of denoted codes andconnoted associations which readers brings with them from theircultural world outside the advertisement. The reader must supplythis cultural knowledge in order to achieve an interpretation ofthe text's meaning (Sinclair, 1987:46). Communication relies uponthis kind of shared cultural background. Codes therefore may beconceptualized as the social dimension of communication. It isthrough the application of cultural codes that the correlationbetween signifier and signified is established and utilised(Jamieson, 1985:54). Codes are used as interpretive devices.Codes are especially relevant to the interpretation ofarbitrary signs where the relationship between signifier andsignified is due entirely to convention. Membership in aparticular culture or community allows an individual to interpretthese arbitrary signs and respond correctly. These abilitiesdepend upon past experience of cultural conventions. Conversely,interpretation of signs which are highly iconic - they closelyresemble the object which they signify - rely less on the use ofcultural codes. Finally, "aberrant decoding" may take place when66the code of a message does not fit the forms of knowledge that havegrown out of the audience members' own experience of their socialreality (Sinclair, 1987:38). Different cultural backgrounds maytherefore result in the modification of the preferred meaningaccording to the reader's own experience.Despite the potential for aberrant decoding and the productionof oppositional or modified readings, advertisements, perhaps morethan any other media form, are structured via rationalized formatsto achieve "preferred readings" (Goldman, 1992:79). As Barthes(1977:193) explains, the signs in advertisements are "formed witha view to the optimum reading: the advertising image is frank, orat least emphatic". Advertisements are structured so as to directthe reader towards preferred readings while shutting out otherpossible interpretations. When considered in isolation, thesignifiers of an advertisement are `polysemic' - that is, theyimply a "floating chain of signifieds"; however, the formalarrangement of signs within the advertisement works to limitpossible interpretations. One such structuring device is thelinguistic message which "fixes the floating chain of signifieds"and "limits the projective power of the image". By anchoringimages, the linguistic message "holds the connoted meanings fromproliferating" and performs an essentially ideological function bydirecting "the reader through the signifieds of the image, causinghim to avoid some and receive others; by means of an often subtledispatching, it remote-controls him towards a meaning chosen inadvance" (Barthes, 1977:197-98). Given that advertisements are67largely determined by a motivation to sell products, the contentcontained within the ad as well as the values and orientationsappealed to by the ad will be biased towards the conventional andthe most widely defused (Wernick, 1991:42). Advertisements aremass produced for mass consumption and therefore rely upon dominantcodes of the mainstream culture [3].Advertising relies on many different cultural codes, however,because it draws its material from many areas. Examining howfemininity is constructed within advertisements requires that theadvertisements be read via the cultural code of gender. This codeconsists of the cultural understandings regarding what it means tobe feminine as opposed to masculine [4]. In order to read andunderstand an advertisement, the reader must be familiar with theconventions of the culture which provides the larger context formeaning within the advertisement. For example, in an advertisementfor shampoo, a photograph of long blonde hair appears. Readthrough the code of femininity, the reader can interpret this as asign of femininity but, even further, this sign can be read as aparticular type of femininity - sexually attractive. Long blondehair is not only associated with women in our culture but we havea cultural convention in which long blonde hair is commonlyassociated with a sexually attractive woman. The operation of thecode is apparent if we take the same advertisement and replace thelong blonde hair with short, curly black hair. The product forsale is still shampoo but the meaning changes: short, curly black68hair does not mean the same thing as long, blonde hair in ourculture.The codes and conventions of a particular society constitutethe shared centre of any culture's experiences. As individuals weare located within a culture and its codes and conventions. Notonly do they allow us to understand our social existence but theyallow us to locate ourselves within our culture. Communicationrequires that people actively participate in the codes andconventions of a particular society. Without active participants,the meanings contained within an advertisement cannot exist. Thead requires an active reader to fill in the structures of signs andmake connections via cultural knowledge. Advertisements assume aknowing subject and are oriented to this subject.Appellation:A sign "...can only mean if it has someone to mean to.Therefore, all signs depend for their signifying process on theexistence of specific, concrete receivers, people for whom and inwhose systems of belief, they have a meaning" (Williamson,1978:40). The reader is not a passive receiver of meaning but theactive creator of meaning. Meanings are produced when the activesubject is drawn into the space between the signifier and thesignified and makes exchanges of meaning. In order to draw thereader into the structure of the advertisement to make transfers ofmeaning, advertisements must engage the reader. Part of thedecoding of an advertisement involves the examination of how the69reader is appellated and drawn into the structure of theadvertisement.In the exchange of meanings within an advertisement theproduct gains meaning, but in turn, the product is made to givemeaning back to the reader. The reader becomes one of the thingssignified and in the process is given the status of an object. Inthis same process the reader/subject is addressed as `you' and isthen constituted as a specific type of person defined through theproduct. `You' recognize yourself in the ad. Advertisementsassume and speak to an imaginary subject and the reader is requiredto exchange her/himself for this subject."Every ad necessarily assumes a particular spectator: itprojects into the space out in front of it an imaginaryperson composed in terms of the relationships between theelements within the ad" (Williamson, 1978:50).THE SECOND ORDER OF SIGNIFICATIONIn order to understand how an advertisement operatesideologically to produce meanings and values it is important torecognize that every advertisement operates at two different levelsof meanings - denotative and connotative. The work of RolandBarthes has been pivotal in showing how signification relies uponinteraction between these two levels of meaning. He argued thatalthough both of these levels are perceived simultaneously by thereader, analytically we can see that an advertisement both denotesa literal image and connotes an ideological meaning (Sinclair,1987:46).The first level of meaning is denotative and lies within themanifest content. This is the surface level where meaning is70literal, objective, and easily recognized. At the denotative levela signifier means or denotes a specific signified (Williamson,1978:99). The relationship described by denotation is between thesignifier and the signified within the sign, and of the sign withits referent in external reality. For example, a photograph of awoman denotes that specific woman.All advertisements denote a straightforward and directrelationship between signifier and signified. However, they almostalways allude to other meanings at the same time. This allusion isconnotation, the signification of further or secondary meanings inaddition to the obvious, denoted meanings. This second order ofsignification goes beyond the denotative level but is dependentupon it."Connotation, so to speak, uses the building blocksprovided by denotation, relying on already establishedrelationships or signs. In the context of society, suchbuilding blocks are given, in the same way that words ina dictionary have established meanings. From the storeof denoted or primary meanings, the persuader has at hiscommand a ready-made resource for 'triggering -off'connoted or secondary meanings" (Jamieson, 1985:57).This second order of signification is referred to by Barthesas 'myth' and is dependent upon the first order because thesignifiers of the second order are made up of signs of the first.Myth is constructed on the basis of a semiotic chain which existsbefore it. That which had the status of a sign (the associativetotal of signifier and signified) in the first system (denotation)becomes a mere signifier in the second (Barthes, 1972:123). Themechanism by which the first order of signification becomes one ofthe second order is "emptying". Myth operates by taking a71previously established sign which is full of signification, andthen "drains" it until this sign becomes an "empty" signifier,impoverished and void of its historical origins (Barthes,1972:127).Myth - that is - second order signification, operates tonaturalize what is in fact a distorted relationship betweensignifier and signified."Myth does not deny things, on the contrary, its functionis to talk about them: simply, it purifies them, itsmakes them innocent, it gives them a natural and eternaljustification, it gives them a clarity which is not thatof an explanation but that of a statement of fact...Inpassing from history to nature, myth acts economically:it abolishes the complexity of human acts, it gives themthe simplicity of essences, it does away with alldialectics, with any going back beyond what isimmediately visible, it organizes a world wide open andwallowing in the evident, it establishes a blissfulclarity: things appear to mean something by themselves"(Barthes, 1972:156).It is important to recognize that although denotation andconnotation exist simultaneously in advertising, it is the denotedimage that naturalizes the symbolic, connoted message. It"...innocents the semantic artifice of connotation, which isextremely dense, especially in advertising (Barthes, 1977:201).Advertisements seek to represent relationships between products,people and objects as though these relationships were natural. Theideology of advertising rests upon a false assumption "...namelythat because things are as they are (in this case, because certainthings are shown as connected in ads, placed together, etc.) thisstate of affairs is somehow natural, and must 'make sense' simplybecause it exists" (Williamson, 1978:29). The structure of72advertisements is not obvious and often goes unquestioned leadingthe reader take for granted the 'sense' of the message.Naturalization in advertising occurs regularly via the myth ofphotographic 'naturalness'. Photographic images are often read asrecords of that which already exists in the external world. Theyare read as denotation when in fact what lies underneath thisinnocent surface is connotation. As Barthes (1977:200-201)explains, "...Man's [sic] interventions in the photograph (framing,distance, lighting, focus, speed) all effectively belong to theplane of connotation...This is without doubt an importanthistorical paradox: the more technology develops the diffusion ofinformation (and notably images), the more it provides the means ofmasking the constructed meaning under the appearance of the givenmeaning".The activation of a connotative reading relies upon the readerwho brings to that reading social codes and conventions. Thesecodes and conventions allow the reader to understand the meaningswhich are implied by advertisements through that which appears atthe denoted, surface level. Because contemporary advertisementsmost often work at the connotative level, the reader is required tocross the gap between the first order of signification and thesecond. Advertisements assume a knowing subject. However, becauseconnotation works at the subjective level, the reader often is notconsciously aware of its operation and is led to believe that whatan advertisement connotes is in fact a depiction of reality.73Connotative values are mistaken for denotative facts because theconnotative hides beneath the denotative."...imagistic advertising may build on the values,desires and symbologies that are already out there, butby no means does it simply reflect them. It typifieswhat is diverse, filters out what is antagonistic ordepressing, and naturalizes the role and standpoint ofconsumption as such. The picture of the world itpresents, accordingly, is flat, one dimensional,incorporative and normalized" (Wernick, 1991:42).The aim of semiotic analysis is to provide an analytical toolthat will guard against misreading these messages as naturaldepictions of reality (Fiske, 1982:92). Semiotic analysis isparticularly useful because it works to make visible theideological meanings that lie unacknowledged and to expose thatwhich appears natural as arbitrary. For these reasons, "semioticanalysis is, must necessarily be, a political act" (Fiske,1982:153).OUTLINE OF THE CURRENT STUDYThe purpose of the current research is to examine howfemininity as a social construction - that is - as the culturalcorrelate of biological sex, is presented and defined in magazineadvertising. Within the larger context of gender, femininity isconstructed in opposition to masculinity. Based upon and builtaround biological differences, femininity and masculinity asnormative categories have come to encompass a whole system ofdifferences between men and women which are often perceived asnatural and essential. As a social construction, the termfemininity implies a social process in which the female sex isattributed with specific qualities and characteristics. Similarly,74femininity refers to the entire process through which an individualacquires a gendered identity (Betterton, 1987:7). This researchaims at examining how femininity, as a social construction ratherthan as something intrinsic to women, is presented as somethingnatural and to be taken for granted in magazine advertising.If we want to know what it means to be feminine within ourculture, we can look to cultural representations of women as asource of information. These images create meaning, circulateideologies and define femininity in specific ways. Central to thestudy of images of women is the belief that femininity, as definedin western culture, is bound up closely with the way in which thefemale body is perceived and represented (ibid.). Therefore,examining what femininity means in our culture involves looking atimages of women appearing in cultural texts which include film,television, paintings, and magazines [5].Dorothy Smith (1990) points out that femininity is alsosomething that women actively practice, for instance in thecreation of their appearance. This activity is organized andmediated by texts such as fashion magazines. Women's magazines area major source of information about changing images, new tools,material and instructions. These magazines contain variousarticles and advertisements which provide models of femininity tobe reproduced by the reader. Young women learn both the arts andpractices of a particular version of femininity from these texts.For these reasons, advertisements for fashion and beauty productscan be viewed as an important source of definitions for femininity.75The specific focus of this study is on the ways in which printadvertising, as a particular discourse within fashion magazines,currently works to construct femininity for adolescent readers - afemininity that can be reproduced on readers' own bodies. Althoughextensive research has addressed advertising in woman's magazines,no comparable level of work has analyzed magazines for a femaleadolescent audience (Evans et. al., 1991:100; Peirce, 1990:496).Research in this area is significant because adolescence is aperiod for young girls during which they begin to negotiate theiridentity as gendered subjects. The strain and difficultiesassociated with this process are reflected in the levels ofdissatisfaction expressed by young girls with regards to theirphysical appearance. A recent study of Canadian girls indicatedthat 47% of 11-year-olds and 55% of 15-year-olds reported that "ifthey could, they would change the way they looked". Similarly, 37%of 11-year-olds and 48% of 15-year-olds indicated that they wantedto lose weight (King and Coles, 1992). This study found thatCanadian girls experience a significant amount of strain in theirrelationships with their parents and with peers. The authorsconcluded that this strain may be related to adjustment problemsadolescent girls experience with career aspirations, body image,and dealing with the traditional values associated with marriageand family.Data on eating disorders further reflects the serious problemsthat young women face. The American Anorexia and BulimiaAssociation states that anorexia and bulimia strikes a million76American woman every year and that 150,000 women die each year fromanorexia (as quoted in Wolf, 1991:181). In one survey of 33,000women, respondents chose "losing ten to fifteen pounds" above"success in work or love" as their most desired goal. These sameresearchers concluded that concern with weight loss leads to "aritual collapse of self-esteem and sense of effectiveness" (Wooleyand Wooley, 1984). These figures and findings are even morealarming in light of the fact that a generation ago the averagefashion model weighed 8% less than the average American woman,while today she weighs 23% less (Wolf, 1991:184).To address the lack of research on adolescents this study willfocus specifically on Seventeen magazine, a fashion magazineexplicitly produced for an adolescent female audience. Althoughthe definition of femininity is an historical, and thereforeshifting process, this research is concerned with currentconstructions. For this reason, analysis will be confined to 1992,the most current year of publication. First published in 1944,this magazine stands as the most firmly established teenage fashionmagazine and, with a circulation of 1.8 million, it is theundisputed leader amongst similarly marketed fashion magazines.According to the managing editor, in addition to a strong focusupon fashion and beauty, the general philosophy of Seventeen is toinform, entertain, and give teenage girls the information that theyneed to make sound choices in their lives. The fashion and beautysections purportedly help to make girls feel good about themselves(Peirce, 1990:496-497).77CONTENT AND TEXTUAL ANALYSISAlthough content analysis as a research methodology haslimitations, it is useful in the collection of systematicinformation. Thus content analysis was used in this study toobtain general descriptive data pertaining to the composition ofthe magazine itself. An enumeration of the amount of space devotedto advertising and feature content reveals the extent to whichadvertising comprises the total content of the magazine.TABLE ONE: SPACE DEVOTED TO ADVERTISING AND FEATURES IN SEVENTEENMAGAZINE, 1992TOTAL PAGES^% OF WHOLEADVERTISEMENTS:^853.25 47.4%FEATURES:^906.75^ 50.3%MISCELLANEOUS:^41.0 2.3%(covers table ofcontents, etc)TOTAL:^1801.0^ 100.0%NOTES: TOTAL NUMBER OF ADVERTISEMENTS = 725TOTAL NUMBER OF FEATURE ARTICLES = 456TOTAL NUMBER OF MAGAZINES = 12Pages with 5 or more advertisements were excluded from theanalysis. [6]The data in table one indicate that advertising comprises asignificant amount of the overall content of Seventeen. Nearlyhalf of the content in the 1992 issues was devoted to advertising.This substantial presence of advertising is important given thatadvertiser's often are able to influence the editorial content ofwomen's magazines (Earnshaw, 1984; Steinem, 1990). Indeed, in the781992 issues of Seventeen there is a blending of advertising andfeature articles such that, in many ways, these two categories ofcontent are somewhat indistinguishable. The above data also revealthe extensive amount of advertising a reader is exposed to byconsuming the magazine. The presence of advertising is so greatthat one would expect that it would be almost impossible for thereader to ignore it over the feature content. It is also evidentthat without advertisements there would be little content at all.Content analysis was further employed to obtain a systematicand quantitative description of the ways in which femininity ispresented and defined at the denotative level of meaning. Each ofthe twelve 1992 issues were coded for content pertaining to: typesof products advertised, sex and age groups of models shown,representation of racial/ethnic groups, types of relationshipsdepicted, levels of activity models are engaged in, and theenvironments within which female models are depicted. Finally, theadvertisements were analyzed in terms of the dominant themessurrounding the characteristics of femininity.In order to ensure that the categories used for coding theadvertisement content were reliable and that data would not be theresult of idiosyncratic readings, inter-rater reliability waschecked (Babble, 1986:109). The independent codings of a trainedundergraduate, research assistant were compared to my own codingsand it was found that there was a high level of agreement betweenour codings, thus indicating that the categories were clear andcomprehensive. The thematic categories were developed through the79compilation of lists of words used in all of the advertisements todescribe femininity. These words were then collapsed intocategories according to similar thematic content. Again, thisprocess was conducted in conjunction with another independent coderto ensure that the categories developed accurately reflected thethemes contained within the ads.This stage of data analysis established a quantitative basefor further qualitative analysis of the how femininity is givenmeaning within the structure of advertisements. Here the analysisshifted from the denotative level of meaning to the connotativelevel. An analysis of the signification practices ofadvertisements was achieved through a semiotic decoding of threeadvertisements [7]. The decoding of these advertisements focusedupon second order signification. Therefore these advertisementswere chosen for analysis on the basis of their 'richness', for someadvertisements rely more heavily than others on the manipulation ofsignification and contain more complex representations. Whilecontent analysis provided insight into how femininity overtlyappears, this stage of analysis provided a more detailedunderstanding of how 'femininity' is textually constructed in orderto convey specific meanings to readers of Seventeen.The systematic decoding of the advertisements was based upona series of stages which included: the isolation of primary signswithin the advertisement, the division of individual signs intosignifier and signified, identification of relationships betweensignifier and signified, analysis of structural relationships80between signs, identification of dominant interpretive culturalcodes elicited, examination of the means of appellation, andfinally, an analysis of the interaction between the denotative andconnotative levels of signification (first and second order signs).In general, the goal behind these steps is to sift through thelayers of meaning in order to understand what lies beneath thesomewhat obvious surface of each individual advertisement. Thisprocess at times seems awkward as the layers of meaning existsimultaneously and are intricately intertwined.Although few studies have included both quantitative contentanalysis and qualitative textual analysis as research methods, ithas been recognized that when used in conjunction, the strengths ofboth methods compliment each other and yield a highly useful"middle-range" methodology (Leiss, et. al., 1986:175). Whilecontent analysis provides a rigorous and systematic overview of thebroad content under investigation, semiotic decoding is able toprovide a more sensitive access to the various layers of meaningcontained within an individual advertisement thus revealing how theadvertisement works to construct meaning.Although meanings may be indeterminate according to individualreadings, advertisements explicitly intend to convey particularmeanings to readers. In so doing they use images, notions,concepts, and myths in an attempt to fix meaning. Advertisementsmust work for a closure of meaning in order to subvert competingdiscourses. It is through a closure of meaning that advertisements81naturalize that which is in fact an arbitrary culturalconstruction.The data collected in this research will be discussed givingconsideration to the dominant themes and patterns which arise. Thedominant definitions of femininity will also be discussed in termsof their political significance.82CHAPTER FIVE: FINDINGSCONTENT ANALYSISIn this chapter the findings obtained through^contentanalysis of the advertisements in Seventeen for 1992 will bepresented and discussed. These data give an overall description ofthe characteristics of the advertisements contained within thestudy and reveals some of the ways in which femininity is generallyrepresented. Following the examination of these general findingsthree specific advertisements will each be decoded according to thesystematic method previously outlined. These decodings will givea more in depth understanding of the ways in which the meaning offemininity is constituted.TABLE TWO: TYPES OF PRODUCTS ADVERTISED IN SEVENTEENMAGAZINE, 1992% OF PRODUCTS ADVERTISEDBEAUTY PRODUCTS: 49.3FASHION: 29.9EDUCATION/CAREER: 5.7ENTERTAINMENT: 3.6HOUSEHOLD RELATED: 2.3FOOD: 1.7MEDICAL/HEALTH: 1.3MORE THAN ONE TYPE: 1.2MISCELLANEOUS: 5.0TOTAL 100.0Notes: Pages with 5 or more ads were excluded from analysis.Inter-rater Reliability 94%.It is evident that an overwhelming amount of the advertisingcontent in Seventeen is devoted to beauty products and fashion.Together these products comprise 79.2% of the total products83advertised. It therefore appears that the overall emphasis of theadvertising concerns physical appearance and the construction ofappearance via the consumption of the products advertised. Allother categories are significantly marginal in comparison. Thepredominance of fashion and beauty products in Seventeen reflectsthe conclusion drawn in many previous studies, namely, that theprimary goal emphasized in advertisements directed at women isattending to personal beauty (Andrew, 1978; Belkaoui and Belkaoui,1976; Courtney and Lockeretz, 1971; Evans, et. al., 1991; Monk-Turner, 1990).In 76.1% of the advertisements analyzed products were picturedwith humans present. The high percentage of ads with humanspresent is significant because the inclusion of humans is one ofthe ways in which advertisements address the audience, forinstance, through smiles and eye contact. The people seen inadvertising also serve as a point of reference for the reader byproviding a tangible ideal to be emulated. Furthermore, thepresence of humans in ads works to give meaning to the product interms of social relations.From the data presented in Table Three, we can see thatadvertisers in Seventeen offer to the audience a world in whichyouth is the norm and standard for both males and females. Youngpeople account for 94% of the people appearing in theadvertisements. No other age category approaches the frequency ofthe category of youth. The major emphasis is upon young women whocomprise 77.9% of all people pictured in the advertisements.84TABLE THREE: SEX AND AGE GROUP OF MODELS SHOWN IN ADVERTISING,SEVENTEEN MAGAZINE, 1992%OF TOTAL PERSONS % OF SEX CATEGORY(n = 1137) (n = 906 females)(n = 225 males)ADOLESCENT/ YOUNG ADULT 93.6FEMALE: 77.9 97.8MALE: 15.7 79.6MIDDLE AGE 3.5FEMALE: 0.7 0.8MALE: 2.8 14.2CHILDREN 1.8FEMALE: 1.0 1.2MALE: 0.8 4.0ELDERLY 0.5FEMALE: 0.1 0.1MALE: 0.4 2.2CAN'T CLASSIFY: 0.5 N/ATOTAL 100.0Notes: Pages with 5 or more ads were excluded from analysis.Pictures with more than 6 people were excluded. [8]Inter-rater Reliability 86%.It is interesting to note that following the category ofadolescent/young adult, the next most frequent category is middleaged males. Middle aged males often appear as authority figures inadvertisements where they endorse a product or explain a product'sproperties. Middle aged males appear much more frequently thatmiddle aged females.Children rarely appear but when they do, male and femalesappear almost equally. The elderly also make rare appearances butthe frequency of these appearances is so low that it is almostnegligible. In the entire sample, only one elderly female appeared85while only 5 elderly males appeared.^One must conclude thatoutside of young people, there is very little representation of therange of ages which actually exists in the world.TABLE FOUR: REPRESENTATION OF ETHNIC/RACIALIZED IDENTITIES INSEVENTEEN MAGAZINE, 1992% OF PEOPLE^% OF SEX CATEGORYPICTURED (N = 970 FEMALES,(N = 970) (N = 253 MALES)CAUCASIAN 88.3FEMALE: 70.1 88.4MALE: 18.2 88.1BLACK/AFROAMERICAN 6.2FEMALE: 5.7 7.2MALE: 0.5 2.4HISPANIC ORIGIN 2.9FEMALE: 1.5 2.0MALE: 1.4 6.7ASIAN 1.5FEMALE: 1.4 1.7MALE: 0.1 0.4EAST INDIAN 0.3FEMALE: 0.1 0.1MALE: 0.2 0.8FIRST NATIONS/ABORIGINAL 0.0FEMALE: 0.0 0.0MALE: 0.0 0.0CAN'T CLASSIFY 0.8FEMALE: 0.5 0.6MALE: 0.3 1.6TOTAL 100.0NOTES: Categories are taken from MacGregor, 1989.Pages with 5 or more ads were excluded from analysis.Pictures with more than 6 people were excluded.Inter-rater Reliability 89%86The most significant finding in Table Four is that racial andethnic minorities are underrepresented in the advertising inSeventeen [9]. Visible minorities account for only 12% of allpeople pictured. Visible minority women account for only 9.2% ofall people pictured and, while this figure is quite low, it ishigher than levels found previously in general interest magazines(see MacGregor, 1989). The lack of ethnic and racial diversity inthe advertisements indicates that a distorted norm is being createdand imposed. This is especially relevant when one considers that79.2% of all advertisements in the 1992 issues are devoted tobeauty and fashion products. These types of advertisements promotea beauty standard that is not only unrealistic, but one that is anexclusionary discourse constructed around a white ideal.TABLE FIVE:^RELATIONSHIPS PORTRAYED IN ADVERTISEMENTS, SEVENTEENMAGAZINE, 1992% OF TOTAL PICTURESCONTAINING PEOPLE(N = 847)FEMALE ALONE:^ 54.3HETEROSEXUAL COUPLE:^13.6FEMALE TOGETHER: 13.2MALE ALONE: 7.4FEMALE PARTIAL: 4.6MIXED PEER GROUP: 4.0CHILDREN, MALE/FEMALE: 1.1FAMILY: 1.1ADULT/CHILD: 0.3MALE PARTIAL: 0.2MALE TOGETHER: 0.1CAN'T CLASS: 0.1Notes: One relationship counted per picture.Pages with 5 or more ads were excluded from analysis.Pages with 5 or more pictures were excluded. [10]Totals do not equal 100% due to rounding.Inter-rater Reliability 97%87The findings in Table Five indicate that women areoverwhelmingly depicted in isolation from others. In just overhalf of the 847 pictures containing people, women were seen alone.This finding is characteristic of studies done throughout the pastthree decades (Courtney and Lockeretz, 1971: Wagner and Banos,1973; Masse and Rosenblum, 1988; Ferguson, et. al., 1990). Thisfinding also supports the charge that advertising represents anasocial world void of either conflict or community; a utopian worldwhich sustains an idealized, narcissistic self in which we aresatisfyingly alone with our objects, realized through and sated byconsumables (Masse and Rosenblum, 1988:131).Following the category of females alone, the next mostfrequent category is heterosexual couples.^This is the mostfrequent relationship shown. This finding suggests that forfemales, the primary relationship with others is found within thecontext of heterosexual romance. The depiction of the centralityof males in the lives of women is one that has been noted in paststudies of advertising (Wagner and Banos, 1973; Bolla, 1990). Thecentrality of heterosexual relationships can be interpreted asdependence of women on men because without this relationship, womenare shown as being isolated and alone. The centrality ofheterosexual couples in the advertisements also carries a strongnormative proscription.In relation to the other categories used in this study, it isa positive finding that the category of females together was almostas frequent as heterosexual couples. However the frequency of this88relationship was relatively low and reflects similarly low levelsin previous studies. In 1971, Courtney and Lockeretz found thatwomen were rarely shown interacting with other women and that ofthe ads showing just women, only 11% showed more than one.With regards to the use of partials - that is pictures showingonly part of a body - it is important to note that female partialsare more often used than male partials. Female partials appeared32 times whereas male partials were seen only twice. This issignificant when we consider the argument that partial figures maybe interpreted as fragmentation of an integrated self or asdissociation of the self (Masse and Rosenblum, 1988:131-132).Overall, 65% of the people pictured in the advertisements areshown as non-active (see Table Six). This level of activity is themost frequent for both males and females. The large number offemales shown in non-active poses reinforces the female stereotypeof passivity found also in Poe (1976), Duquin (1989), and Bolla,(1990). While non-active depictions rank number one for both malesand females, the percentages within sex categories reveal that menare more often seen as relatively active, vigorously active as wellas posed for activity than their female counterparts. Thesefindings also reflect Goffman's (1979) argument that men inadvertisements more often exhibit behaviours which are instrumentalin nature, while women are seen more often as passive bystanders.89TABLE SIX: COMPARISON OF FEMALE AND MALE ACTIVITY LEVELS INADVERTISEMENTS IN SEVENTEEN MAGAZINE, 1992% OF TOTAL PEOPLE^% OF SEX CATEGORY(N = 1191)^(N = 952 FEMALES,N = 233 MALES)NON-ACTIVE 64.5FEMALE: 55.7 69.6MALE: 8.8 45.1RELATIVELY ACTIVE 27.0FEMALE: 18.3 22.9MALE: 8.7 44.2VIGOROUSLY ACTIVE 4.3FEMALE: 3.0 3.8MALE: 1.3 6.8POSED FOR ACTIVITY 3.7FEMALE: 2.9 3.7MALE: 0.8 3.9CAN'T CLASSIFY 0.5 N/ATOTAL :^ 100.0Notes: Pages with 5 or more ads were excluded from analysis.Pictures with more than 6 people were excluded.Categories are based upon Duquin (1989:99-100).Inter-rater Reliability 95%.Women in the advertisements were most often shown in fictionalsettings (see Table Seven). These depictions do not locate womenin the real world but in fantasy-like situations or, alternately,in blank voids which give the impression of the model being nowhereand everywhere. It is interesting that the next most frequentsetting for models was non-home, outdoor settings. Examples ofthese settings are the beach and parks but the street was also acommon setting. This finding contrasts with the relatively lowpercentage of domestic settings found. The lack of home-related90settings compared to the non-home settings undermines thetraditional stereotype of female domesticity. The unclassifiablesettings were often not discernible due to an emphasis being placedupon a model's face/body (in beauty ads) or upon a model's clothing(fashion ads).TABLE SEVEN: ENVIRONMENTS OF FEMALE MODELS IN ADVERTISEMENTS,SEVENTEEN MAGAZINE, 1992% OF ALL ENVIRONMENTS SHOWN(N = 659)FICTIONAL SETTINGS:^42.3NOT HOME OUTDOORS: 32.2UNCLASSIFIABLE:^ 12.4HOME:^ 8.1(indoors and outdoors)NOT HOME INDOORS:^ 5.0TOTAL:^ 100.0Notes: Pages with 5 or more ads were excluded from analysis.Unclassifiable refers to pictures in which the backgroundis evident but not discernible.Inter-rater Reliability 88%.The categories of characteristics shown in Table Eight reflectthe range of themes which surround descriptions of femininitycontained within the advertising in the 1992 issues of Seventeen.These characteristics are the ones referenced in the advertisementsas being the ideal qualities a woman should possess, or in the casethat she doesn't, the ideal qualities that she can gain by using91the product. These characteristics can therefore be conceptualizedas being the normative standard presented to the reader.TABLE EIGHT: CHARACTERISTICS OF FEMININITY: RECURRING THEMES INSEVENTEEN MAGAZINE ADVERTISEMENTS, 1992THEME:^ # OF TIMES APPEARINGBEAUTIFUL/ PHYSICALLYATTRACTIVE: 125FRESH/CLEAN:^ 108PROBLEMATIC/NEGATIVE THEMES:^102HETEROSEXUAL: 97SOFT/SMOOTH: 92NATURAL:^ 68MODERN/HIP: 52NEEDS TO BE CARED FOR:^ 51HEALTHY: 50OUTGOING:^ 45GETS NOTICED BY OTHERS: 44PLAYFUL/SILLY/CHILDLIKE:^42TRUE TO SELF/AUTHENTIC: 37PERFECTION/ FLAWLESS: 32CONFIDENT/BOLD:^ 32GLOWING! SHINING: 32YOUTH/INNOCENCE: 26EXCITING/DRAMATIC: 12OTHER:^ 23TOTAL THEMES:^ 1070TOTAL ADVERTISEMENTS:^ 725NOTES: Pages with 5 or more ads were excluded from analysis.Themes refer to written text as well as visual imagery.The categories are not mutually exclusive.More than one theme per ad is possible.Themes reflect the direct references made to femininity andnot references made to products.There arises from the data a normative profile of 'idealfemininity' composed of the five most frequent themes. The primarycharacteristic emphasized above all others is that to be feminineis to be beautiful in a physical sense. When the theme of beautyappears in the advertisements it is almost always a descriptor of92the way a woman looks, not a deeper reference to who she is.Following the standard of beautiful looks, a woman is always to befresh and clean. There is an element of sterility contained withinthis theme which suggests a necessary purity and this leads furtherto the implication that ideally femininity is untainted,uncontaminated, immaculate and chaste.The theme of cleanliness, while setting a standard of what isacceptable, also problematizes the female body. The hair and faceare never clean enough; deodorants are needed for the breath,underarms, feet, and of course to combat 'feminine odour'; and thenthere is the whole range of problems surrounding menstruation. Itis not surprising that the third most frequent theme found in theadvertisements pertains to some aspect of the female body asproblematic. Words such as 'remedy', 'control', 'treatment','protection', and 'therapy' are consistently used in conjunctionwith negative body imagery.The findings also show that the ideal femininity isunquestionably heterosexual. Heterosexual romance provides apredominant context for the consumption of beauty and fashionproducts. Being physically attractive to a man is offered as aprimary motivator for the consumption of products which will remedyher lack of what the advertisements dictate as being necessaryqualities. An underlying theme of anxiety can be foundintermingled with the focus on the problematic body and theimplications of such problems for a woman's relationships (seeWarren, 1978).93The last dominant characteristic which arises out of thefindings is that femininity is soft, smooth, sensitive, silky, anddelicate. All of these themes reference traditionally established,normative feminine qualities. Although femininity is presented inthe advertisements in contradictory ways, the advertisements dotend to reinforce many age-old standards and qualities which havelong been associated with the `fairer sex'.Content analysis of the advertising in Seventeen has yieldedan overall description of the ways in which femininity ispresented. This has been achieved by breaking down the substanceof the advertisements into discrete categories of content. Thisgives some insight into what the components of femininity' are,however, no insight is given into the ways in which these discretecategories are organized within advertisements. Only by examiningthe advertisement as a totality can we begin to understand how eachelement within the ad interacts with other parts to createmeanings. Content analysis has provided a surface description offemininity but the ways in which the meaning of `femininity' isconstituted depends upon processes of signification, mostsignificantly, second-order signification. These processes willnow be examined through the semiotic decoding of threeadvertisements looking specifically at the structural relationshipswithin advertisement and the meanings produced according to thesystematic method outlined in chapter three.94ADVERTISEMENT DECODINGS:ADVERTISEMENT: MAYBELLINE ILLEGAL LENGTHS MASCARAIn this advertisement, several primary signs can be isolated(see Figure 1). These include a female person, a striped shirt,two containers of mascara, and written text that varies accordingto size and colour. To break each of these signs into signifierand signified is rather straightforward. The female person, thestriped shirt and the containers of mascara exist as photographicimages.^These images are the material vehicle - that issignifiers.^The signifieds respectively are a woman (morespecifically, 'supermodel' Christy Turlington), an article ofclothing, and a cosmetic product which is applied to the eyelashes.The written text also exists as a series of signifiers andsignifieds. At the micro level of analysis, the individualletters, composed of various lines and shapes, are signifiers whichsignify particular letters of the alphabet. These letters combineto form words (signifiers) which have corresponding mental concepts(signifieds). Each word of the written text in this advertisementis a signifier which communicates a particular signified. Ratherthan analyze each word in terms of the signifiers (the printedtext) and the signifieds (the mental concept of each signifier) itis more useful to look specifically at a few central words whichare each related in terms of the mental concepts that they elicit.Unlawful, strong, dangerous, rule-breaker, and illegal are allsignifiers of concepts which are thematically related. Each of95Figure 1: Maybelline Illegal Lengths MascaraSEVENTEEN, September 1992re there lire^Not forunlawfully longthey're almostA born rule-No wMAYBE IT'SMAYBELLINE..these printed words within the text together evoke a theme ofillicitness.Within each of the signs contained in this advertisement thesignifiers and signifieds exist in iconic, indexical and symbolicrelationships. The images used in the advertisement are theproduct of photography and are highly iconic signs, meaning thatthe relationship of signifier and signified is one of resemblance.These signs look very much like the actual objects that they arestanding in for. For example, if drawings had been used instead ofphotography, the relationship would be less iconic. The photographof the woman, however, serves as more than just the materialvehicle used to signify an actual woman. It is a signifier thatsignifies a further meaning and therefore the relationship is alsoindexical. The photograph is of a woman who is very beautiful byour cultural standards and, for a more specialized audience, thisis a photograph of a famous and currently fashionable Isupermodel'.The meaning, therefore, which is being signified is more than justa woman, it is the ideal of beauty and success embodied in anauthority of high fashion glamour.Falling across the face of the woman photographed, there is apattern of shadows. These shadows are iconic as they stand in forthe actual shadows that fell across the woman's face when she wasphotographed but these same shadows are also an indexical signbecause they indicate the presence of something else. Given thetheme of illegality apparent throughout the advertisement, theseshadows indicate the existence of bars.97Besides iconic and indexical relationships, several signsexhibit and transmit meaning via symbolic relationships. In thewritten text, the relationship between signifiers and signifieds iscompletely symbolic because language is purely arbitrary. Thespecific words used in this advertisement mean something to thereader only because the meanings of the signs which composelanguage are predetermined culturally and are used on the basis ofshared understandings. Certain words are used by advertisers toconvey specific meanings that the reader is expected to understand.In this advertisement, the theme of danger and illicitness isexpected to be relayed to the reader.The stripes on the shirt that the model is wearing are a signthat has an iconic relationship between signifier and signified -that is - the stripes in the photograph directly resemble theactual stripes on the real shirt. However, the stripes are also asign in which the signifier and signified exhibit a symbolicrelationship. Within our culture there is a convention thatstriped clothing is symbolic of prisoner's uniforms. This link istotally arbitrary but is commonly understood by members of ourculture. Thus, the visual imagery works to reinforce the centraltheme conveyed through the written text.The signs contained within this advertisement are relativelymeaningless when considered in isolation but of course they do notexist in isolation from each other within the structure of theadvertisement. These structural relationships reveal much of whateach sign signifies. First we must consider the paradigmatic98relations of each sign. Each sign used within this advertisementwas selected from a range of functionally similar signs. Ratherthan use supermodel Christy Turlington, a lesser known model couldhave appeared or a woman who is not a model or one who is not even'beautiful' by our skewed cultural standards. Rather than use amodel's face in whole, a single eyeball could have been used.Rather than the striped shirt, any functionally similar article ofclothing could have been used. For instance a blouse, a jacket, atank top, a housecoat, and so on. Furthermore, the pattern on theshirt could have been plaid, checkered, plain, houndstooth or polkadot. Any of these substitutions would alter the overall meaningconveyed.As discussed earlier, the written text contains several wordswhich have been draw from the same paradigm to convey a consistenttheme although similar words could have been used, such asillegitimate, violator, offensive, transgression, menacing andwrongful. The point of analyzing the signs in terms of theirrelations to other signs within their respective paradigms is tounderstand that the signs used within this advertisement werechosen specifically over other signs. For example, ChristyTurlington signifies ultimate beauty and glamour largely because ofwhat she does not signify. Meaning is relational within theparadigm. We could replace any one of the signs contained in thisadvertisement with a functionally similar sign from within itsparadigm and the overall meaning would be altered.99In constructing an advertisement signs chosen from theirrespective paradigms are combined together in a chain of discourse- a syntagm. The signs from each paradigm are not combined in anarbitrary fashion but are combined according to convention.Often within advertising the structure of the advertisement reliesupon such taken for granted conventions. In our culture we have aconvention of reading from top to bottom, and left to right. Whenthis advertisement is read following this convention, the readerinevitably is drawn into the space of the product in the lowerright-hand corner.^In this way, the entire advertisement isstructured around the product and the product is made the key tounderstanding the theme of illicitness. We also can see at thebottom of the advertisement two boxes (one white, the other black)containing text. Reading from left to right we are taken from thespace dominated by the model into a space set aside for theproduct. The significance of this structure is that the readercould assume that one need be born with the qualities of beautyexhibited by the model but as the text is read, the reader movesinto the space dominated by the product thus the reader is toldthat it is the mascara that has created beauty, not genetics. Theunderlying message is that 'you', the reader, can use the productto achieve desirable qualities that you were not born with. Thisstructure facilitates the transfer of meaning from the model to theproduct to you.The relationships of signs within a syntagm further determinethe meaning of each individual sign. For example, the striped100shirt could be just a striped shirt but because the written textcontains words which signify illegality, the reader is expected tomake a mental exchange of meaning. The stripes identify the womanas a rule-breaker and by implication, a user of the `illegal'mascara. The woman is a highly successful and glamorous model.She is also a user of the mascara and so the qualities belonging tothis woman, most notably success and beauty, are exchanged with thequalities of the product. Like the mascara, she has no limits andthe mascara will deliver glamour and beauty onto the user. Themascara remains a sign within the advertisement but promises tocreate what it represents.Via the exchange of meanings the mascara becomes more than acosmetic product and can offer more to the reader than othermascaras because this particular mascara is "illegal" or"contraband" - a status that confers upon the product forbiddenqualities unavailable in other legitimate' brands. The desire forthe forbidden, for the prohibited, is both elicited and fulfilledby the product.The written text also acquires its particular meaning inrelation to the image of the woman. The words unlawful, strong,dangerous, illegal and rule-breaker are combined with an image ofa beautiful woman and the exchange that occurs between them ismutually determining. In short, the qualities becomeinterchangeable. The illicit qualities referenced may potentiallyhave negative associations but instead are associated with beautyand glamour. Meanwhile, beauty and glamour in general become101characterised more specifically by the theme of illicitness. Themascara can be used to defy the constraints of regular standards ofbeauty and achieve an ideal outside of the norm. When we beginto examine the exchange of signifiers within the structure of anadvertisement we begin to appreciate the richness of the layers ofmeaning that are not immediately recognized.Much of the meaning which is conveyed to the reader by theadvertiser via the actual advertisement is dependent upon a mutualcultural code. In order to 'understand' this advertisement, thereader must come to the moment of reading with past experiences andbeliefs which will enable the reader to interpret the ad. Thedominant theme of this advertisement is beauty and danger. Readthrough the cultural code of femininity, the reader understandsthat a particular type of femininity can be created through the useof the mascara - the femme fatale. Words such as strong, unlawful,dangerous, rule-breaker and illegal are not words conventionallyused to describe femininity, however, the reader is able to drawupon a predetermined repertoire and find the femme fatale as acultural sign of dangerously irresistible, feminine beauty - abeauty ideal that the female reader is encouraged to emulate bothwithin and outside the advertisement. If the reader did not havethe `femme fatale' as an interpretive tool, the theme of danger andillegality might instead be used to interpret the type of womanshown as criminal, psychotic, violent and so on.Much of the meaning contained within the advertisement wouldnot exist without the work of the reader. Signs have no meaning102until deciphered. This deciphering requires the reader to makeexchanges between signifiers and transfer meanings especiallybetween the product and the other signs used. For Williamson(1978:43) "things mean to us and we give this meaning to theproduct, on the basis of an irrational mental leap invited by theform of the advertisement". In order to do this, the reader mustbe drawn into the advertisement through appellation. In thisparticular advertisement, the reader as subject becomes one of thethings signified and, by implication, one of the things exchanged.We have already established that the woman is beautiful, glamorous,successful, dangerously irresistible and therefore strong andpowerful. She also uses the mascara to which many of her desirablequalities are attributable. While the product gives meaning toher, it is also made to give meaning to us if we insert ourselvesinto the advertisement. One of the ways in which this happens isby the setting up of two groups of women: "Are there limits? Notfor some women...". This dichotomy creates two distinct groups ofwomen. One group is like the woman pictured in the advertisement.They have no limits, they are remarkably strong, irresistiblybeautiful, powerful, successful and in control of their lives. Theother group however, is none of these things. The meaning of eachtype of woman is determined in relation to the other. Desire isimmediately channelled by the structure of the advertisement suchthat the reader is already constituted as one who belongs to thelin' group of women."...the more subtle level on which the advertisementworks is that of lalreadyness'... you do not simply buy103the product in order to become a part of the group itrepresents; you must feel that you already, naturally,belong to that group and therefore you will buy it".(Williamson, 1978:47).The reader is invited to insert herself into the advertisementas a rulebreaker after all, she needn't be born one but merely dareto join in and use the 'illegal' mascara. The reader is neveraddressed directly as 'you' but instead must objectify herself andthink of herself not as 'me' but in the third person as 'she' -another self to be created by using the mascara.Finally, in decoding this advertisement we must examine theinteraction between the first (denotative) and second (connotative)orders of signification. This advertisement can quite easily beread at the surface level at which meaning would be takenliterally. We could read that some women have lashes which are solong that they are unlawful and so remarkably strong that they arealmost dangerous but this literal meaning seems absurd as there isno such thing as a law against long eyelashes. The meaning of thispart of the written text is meant to work at another level -connotation. Indeed, if we insist upon reading the advertisementat the strictly denotative level, it is unlikely to make sense.Perhaps the only part of the advertisement that is 'innocent' andis meant to be read literally is the text which reads, "Lashextending brush lengthens. Conditioning Formula strengthens"(whether or not this claim is true of course). Every other signworks to signify meanings additional and further to the obvious,denoted ones.104At the denotative level, this advertisement contains aseemingly innocuous message about a cosmetic product - mascara.However, the advertisement relays little straightforwardinformation about the product. Most of the meaning containedwithin the advertisement occurs via connoted meanings which havevery little to do with the mascara in terms of product information(cost, qualities, colours, application procedures, etc). Insteadthe use of the product is made to mean ideal beauty and glamour,seduction and illicit excitement. All this and more is offered tothe consumer who need not be born with the 'right' qualities. Sheneed only insert herself into the advertisement as the 'right' kindof woman.One of the most interesting aspects of the connotative messageis that this advertisement contains many words that suggestqualities not usually associated with the beauty standard of ourculture (strong, dangerous, illegal) hence, a potentiallysubversive and powerful form of femininity is suggested. However,the structure of the advertisement and the interplay of varioussigns works to recuperate this powerful imagery and redefinefeminine power in terms of an old beauty myth - the femme fatale.This message is reinforced on the plane of connotation by the useof black and white photography which takes the reader back toHollywood circa 1930 and the glamour of big screen movie stars.Thus the imagery used to accompany the theme of danger is one whichis still a beauty ideal and one that women are encouraged toemulate. The advertisement links potentially empowering qualities105to the use of mascara for the achievement of beauty and in theprocess empties these qualities of any political significance. Theuse of mascara after all has nothing to do with pushing the realboundaries that limit the lives of real women. Instead theadvertisement reproduces the myth that women are to seekempowerment, self-esteem, success and social worth via physicalattractiveness.This advertisement is only one among many which "still presentobjectified female sexuality (the appearance given off by carefullytended body parts) as personal achievement. Personal strength(physical or social) which can be seen as an avenue to femaleindependence, a feminist goal, is repeatedly refigured as a meansto attaining sexual attractiveness" (Goldman et. al., 1991:338).This advertisement also works to discursively reproducetraditional femininity while offering the theme of subversivenessto the reader. This is especially relevant given the intendedaudience are adolescents. As argued in Pleasance (1991:74):"Within marketing there is the knowledge that teenagerswant rebellious identities, and instead of fighting thatimpulse it has been harnessed, so that rebellion nowtakes place on the terms of the market with the help ofits products. The market has realized the potential ofits products to tell the story of youthful rebellion. Inthis way, resistance, difference and rebellion can berecouped within dominant relations."DECODING #2: SOFT AND DRI ANTIPERSPIRANTThe primary signs in this advertisement exist as a combinationof printed text and visual images (see Figure 2). In the act ofreading the advertisement the reader unites the visual images andtext (signifiers) with mental concepts (signifieds). The written106text which varies according to size, colour and boldness, suggestsa consistent theme - confidence and success. The visual imagesserve as signifiers for the following signifieds: a smiling woman,a hot pink jacket, newspapers, a shoe shine stand, an older man,two men dressed in business suits and a product.For each of the signs present within the photographic image,the relationship between signifier and signified is meant to beread as iconic because the scene in the shoe shine stand isintended to be a direct representation of reality even though ithas been specifically contrived for the purposes of advertising aproduct. The scene is meant to be read as a woman having her shoesshined alongside two men while they read their newspapers. Theimage of the product is also an iconic sign as the image representsthe real product.Despite the intentions of the advertisers to create aseemingly simple scene, the shoe shine scene carries many furthermeanings. The image of the shoe shine stand itself is an indexicalsign. To sit on the stand and have one's shoes shined indicatesstatus and success. The newspapers serve to indicate that thesepeople have a need to be informed of the day's news, that they areactive 'players' in the here and now. The man who kneels to shinethe woman's shoes indicates a lower status not only by the job heperforms in relation to the other people but by the physicalpositioning of the man. He is lower than the others in theirshared space and he kneels. This man's grey hair indicates his age108and this too implies that this man has a different status than thepeople sitting above him in the stand.The scene is thick with symbolic signs as well. The colour ofthe woman's jacket is bright pink. This symbolizes femininity andidentifies the woman as traditionally feminine. The pink flower onthe product serves also a symbol of femininity and identifies theproduct as exclusively feminine. The business suits worn by thewoman's male counterparts symbolize status, success, respect, powerand identify the men as influential professionals. The shoe shinestand symbolizes a traditionally defined male space and can be readas a symbol of all such male dominated and controlled socialdomains. The stand itself places the people in a symbolicrelationship in which the people having their shoes shined sitabove the person performing the service. This physical positioningis symbolic of the 'superior' and 'inferior' power relationship.The man performing the service is kneeling at the feet of hiscliental. This also symbolizes servitude. The act of reading thenewspaper serves as a symbol for traditional male activitiesespecially reading the business sections, the stock market reports,and the sports sections.Although language exists as a symbolic system of purelyarbitrary signs, a consistent theme is communicated to the readerby the written text in this advertisement. The copy containsphrases like "nobody's baby", "nobody's fool", "knows what shewants", "unmistakably confident", and "stays cool". These phraseselicit a set of desired values such as self-assured confidence and109success.^It is interesting that most of the written text isdevoted to communicating this theme rather than relating concreteproduct information.It is important to remember that each of the signs containedin this advertisement exist in relation to other signs within thesame paradigm. These relations reveal the significance of thesigns chosen to appear in the advertisement. After all, verylittle happens by accident within an advertisement. Withinparadigms signs are often arranged hierarchically according tovalue. This advertisement carries the implicit theme of status andsuccess so the signs chosen for the advertisement are taken fromthe upper levels within their respective paradigms where highervalued signs are located.For instance, the business suit exists within a paradigm ofmen's clothing but in relation to other functionally similararticles of clothing such as pyjamas, jogging suits, jeans and t-shirts, the business suit carries with it specifically highervalues. Likewise, the newspapers could be romance novels,textbooks, or fashion magazines. The newspapers attain theirsignificance because they are not romance novels, textbooks orfashion magazines. Any one of these alternative signs would alterthe message intended by the use of the newspapers as a sign withinthis advertisement. Finally, the woman seen in the shoe shinestand is defined in relation to what she is not: fat, old, short,a visible minority and so on. Each of her physical characteristicsplace her in the higher valued end of a structural paradigm.110Even the language chosen is read as favourable because withintheir paradigm these words carry more favourable meanings inrelation to other words from the same thematic paradigm includingbrass, arrogant, presumptive, or cocky. The positive meaning ofthe words chosen for the advertisement are reinforced by the visualsigns and their positive connotations. Simultaneously, the textanchors the visual image and allows the reader to interpret themeaning of the scene depicted. Following the convention of readingleft to right and top to bottom, the text and the image arestructured so that the reader is led to the product, the key tounderstanding why this woman is confident and successful.Within this same structure, the signs mutually determine theirmeanings through the exchange of signifieds. The primary exchangeoccurs between the product and the woman who has been linked topositive values. The product is hard working and so is the woman.She is successful. The product is soft and so is the woman - thatis - feminine as indicated by the pink jacket. The women isdistinctly modern. She has successfully gained entry to atraditionally exclusive male space. She uses the product so it isdistinctly modern.The dominant codes that are activated in the reading of thisadvertisement are the cultural codes of femininity and masculinity.The pink jacket, pink text, and pink flower on the product elicit'the feminine'. The newspapers, the business suits, the shoe shinestand, and the predominance of males in the scene elicitmasculinity. The placement of traditional femininity within a111masculine context provides for an interesting contrast. The resultof this contrast is that the woman is read as unconventionallyfeminine - that is as the liberated woman - who is alsotraditionally feminine as indicated by the pink, soft theme.The reader is appellated in this advertisement via themovement from the description of the woman pictured (her) to adescription of 'you' as unmistakably confident in style. Thisplaces 'you' in the shoe shine stand via the product, as a self-assured, poised, successful, liberated woman. 'You' are linked viathe pink text to the woman's pink jacket and the pink label of theproduct. This structure works to constitute the individual readeras a subject. The reader must exchange herself for the person'spoken to', the spectator assumed by the advertisement(Williamson, 1978:50). The assumed subject not only is a woman whowould use the product but is one who remains traditionally femininedespite her 'liberation. 'You' become constituted as this kind ofwoman. Appellation is further achieved by the gaze of the modelwhich meets and connects with the gaze of the reader.If this advertisement were to be read at the strictlydenotative level, the meaning evoked would simply be a woman havingher shoes shined while reading a paper. The structuralrelationships however provide for further connotations beyond thisseemingly innocent scene. When we consider these connotations wefind that while the advertisement appears to be about equalitybetween men and woman, it in fact perpetuates male and femaledifference and defines femininity in traditionally narrow terms.112This woman has presumably been successful in gaining entry to themale domain of power and prestige. She participates intraditionally male activities as an equal (she has a newspaper andis having her shoes shined just like the two men beside her). Thiswoman has challenged the boundaries and won suggesting that today,a woman can 'have it all' if she chooses. Although the descriptionof the woman relies on values borrowed directly from the women'smovement, the scene contains only one woman thus the politicalemphasis of the women's movement on collectivity is reduced to theattainment of individual goals. Who needs feminism? Advertiserstell women that now that equality has been achieved women can relaxin their collective struggles and concentrate on the real workahead - individual goals (Gordon, 1980). In this case, theobtainment of individual goals is linked to the use of a particularbrand of antiperspirant - Soft and Dri. The message is alsorelayed that certain aspects of traditional femininity should notbe sacrificed in the process of achieving equality. For example,a woman should be physically beautiful and soft. Thus the confinesof traditional femininity remain intact despite the rhetoric ofequality.This advertisement is a good example of the way in which womenhave been shown in less traditional roles, in this instancecompeting alongside men in the business world. However, thiscompetition still rests upon the way in which a women looks ie.whether or not she is 'feminine'. Although advertisers"...ostensibly address women in terms of new gender roles embracing113new-found 'freedoms' and life-chances, those new roles are made noless contingent on the same old scenario for gaining power - usingappearance to simulate, and stimulate desire" (Goldman, 1992:123).DECODING #3: COVERGIRL MARATHON MASCARAThe primary signs in this advertisement are: written textwhich varies according to size and boldness; a woman's faceenclosed in a superimposed box; the woman's clothing; the handlesof ski poles; a container of mascara; water droplets; and a whiteand blue backdrop (see Figure 3). The text signifies the theme ofendurance and vitality. The visual images signify a woman who isskiing and a cosmetic product that is applied to eyelashes to makethem "long, dark and beautiful". In these instances, therelationship between signifier and signified is simply iconic.However like in most advertisements, the text and visual imagesserve as vehicles for the communication of further meanings.The clothing worn by the woman indicates that she is outgoingand has a healthy, active lifestyle. The ski poles indicate thatshe is currently engaged in downhill skiing and this furtherreinforces that she is an energetic and vibrant person. Herwindblown hair indicates that she is outdoors, enduring theelements. The blue backdrop as an indicator of the sky alsolocates the woman outdoors while the water droplets surrounding theproduct further indicate natural elements.The box superimposed on the woman's face indicates that she isa Icovergirl'. The box is meant to represent the cover ofmagazine. To be a covergirl is sign of success and so this model's114Marathon Mascarareally goes the distance.eeping lashes long, darkand beautiful, no matterhat you do! Sagaahead, put it to the test.Marathon looks lustOut on„ 'tit you take it off.7igure 3: Covergirl Marathon MascaraSEVENTEEN, April 1992LONG-DISTANCE LASThe mascara that lasts as long as you do.411*,success is made known. Her success as a professional 'cover girl'allows her stand as a figure of authority. The text located at thebottom of the advertisements indicates that in this advertisement,beauty is being redefined. Thus it is implied that this is thelatest definition, a new and improved kind of beauty appearing forthe first time. Finally, the word 'marathon' in our culture hascome to symbolize the ultimate test for stamina and endurance andoften the word is used to describe any event which lasts a longperiod of time. The name of the product 'Marathon' mascara,suggests that the mascara has great strength, incredible enduranceand will last a long time. The use of the marathon theme of courseis not surprising since in relation to other sports, the marathonstands as one of the most challenging and demanding. This confersupon the sport more prestige and respect than other sports such asbadminton or bowling. Again, we see that advertisers will oftenchoose from within paradigms those signs which are located at ornear the top of their paradigmatic hierarchies.Despite the imagery created by using words like marathon,long-distance, and long lasting the advertisement is really aboutbeauty. In order to maintain this underlying theme specific signshave been chosen for inclusion. This is best recognized byexploring the paradigmatic relations of several signs. The womanwho appears has been designated as a 'covergirl' - that is - aprofessional model who enjoys success in this particularprofession. The use of her name within the advertisementcontributes to her status and even elevates her to celebrity116status. Given the outwardly obvious marathon theme in thisadvertisement it may seem more appropriate that the woman picturedbe a woman who enjoys the status of a professional athlete ratherthan a professional model. The most obvious choices would be afemale marathoner or given that the woman is pictured skiing, areal female downhill racer.Rather than show this particular image of a model skiing, theovert theme of the advertisement suggests that a picture of anactual woman running the last mile of a marathon would be moreappropriate. Of course this image would not be one so fresh andlovely.Similarly, the clothing that the woman is wearing contributesto the beauty and glamour theme of the advertisement. Functionallysimilar garments such as a hooded parka or a snowmobile suit couldstand in for her attire as these garments could accommodate theneed to keep warm while skiing but they would not create acontemporary, fashionable image.The primary signs exchange signifiers in such a way that thetheme of beauty becomes the main determinant of the overall meaningof the advertisement's message. The theme of endurance mingleswith the theme of beauty creating the message that what must endureis the woman's beauty and not her physical strength. In the textwe read that the product really goes the distance and so do you.Your qualities and the qualities of the product areinterchangeable. Covergirl Renee Jeffus also goes the distance (asillustrated by the photograph) and she is wearing the mascara while117doing so. Therefore a further exchange takes place in which 'you'can exchange yourself for Renee Jeffus as someone who is young,active and outgoing. Renee Jeffus is not a professional skier buta professional covergirl and as a professional `beauty' this is thequality that the product works to sustain, not physical endurance.Her quality of beauty exchanges with the mascara and determines itsmeaning as a means of achieving the beauty exhibited by her. Theidentification of the product as a beauty creator and sustainer isfurther reinforced by the way in which the green and blue label ofthe mascara and the green and blue fashion of the model areinterchangeable. Finally, the advertiser tells us that in thisadvertisement beauty is redefined but it is defined via theproduct. Beauty can now last even longer than ever before if youuse the mascara.If this advertisement is interpreted by using the culturalcode of femininity the qualities referenced may seem somewhatunconventional. Femininity has long been associated with passivityand it is relatively recent that women have competed in marathonsand more physically rugged sports. In this regard, the femininitypictured in this advertisement is distinctly modern. However theactive imagery is recuperated and made to serve the theme of beauty- an ideal quality long associated with femininity. Thistraditional aspect of the definition of femininity is reinforceddespite allowing for more contemporary qualities. This is mostevident in the text that reads, "Keeping lashes long, dark andbeautiful no matter what you do". Thus beauty is the primary118concern. The code of femininity is required if this advertisementis going to be interpreted, for if the advertisement wereinterpreted as an advertisement for a type of mascara that wouldserve as an aid for winning marathons or downhill skiing races, itsimply would not make sense.This advertisement is structured in a way that the reader isappellated directly throughout. The subject presumed by theadvertisement is you' and 'you' are constituted as an active,outgoing, contemporary woman who needs to be beautiful "no matterwhat you do". Therefore you need the product, a mascara that lastsas long as you do. Once the reader is inscribed with these needsand qualities, the advertisement invites the reader to redefineherself via the product and inject herself into the box surroundingthe model's face as a Icovergirl'.On the plane of connotation, this advertisement communicatesthe message that while women today are physically active andcapable of participating in strenuous exercise, they would not wantto do so without ensuring that they could be beautiful at the sametime. Presumably, if the woman pictured could not ensure herbeauty while skiing, she would not enjoy it as much and may evendecline to go. One of the implications of the message is thatwomen should feel as though they must always look their best andanything less is unacceptable because they can rely on productslike 'marathon' mascara to achieve this. Remaining beautiful underany condition is the real goal to be pursued and this goal isexemplified by the professional model who serves as the object of119achievement. Thus the advertisement communicates an oppressivenormative standard: you should be beautiful no matter what you do!Despite the claim made by the advertiser that they are 'redefiningbeautiful' a standardized beauty ideal is being applied andreproduced by the advertisement.In this advertisement the importance placed upon a woman'sappearance, "no matter what she does", reinforces an ideology inwhich women gain social power through their appearance - that is,through the approving, or envious, gaze of others. Through her"commodity-mediated appearance", a woman is "...able to elicitdesire via presentation of self as a valued commodity - valued byher rareness/availability - the more powerful she feels (Goldman,1992:124).All three of the advertisements decoded here offer updepictions of women which are "updated" in several aspects.Femininity appears in the form of women who are self-determiningrulebreakers, who have broken through boundaries and are reapingthe benefits of their individual success. However, in the processof decoding these ads, we discover that these "updated" versions offemininity are merely surfaces for an underlying version oftraditional femininity.120CHAPTER SIX: CONCLUSIONThe findings of this study reveal that theadvertisements contained within the 1992 issues of Seventeenmagazine define femininity in narrow and limited terms. Many ofthe dominant trends found in this study reflect findings of studiesdone throughout the 1970's and 1980's thus revealing thatstereotypical representations persist in the 1990's. The analysisof the content of advertising in this study reveals that thedominant definition of femininity includes an emphasis on beautyand fashion, youth, predominance of caucasian racial origin, theisolation of women from each other, the centrality ofheterosexuality, female passivity, and the placement of women infantasy-like contexts. These components of the dominant definitionof femininity are again reflected in the themes which surround thedescription of ideal feminine qualities. In particular beauty,heterosexual romance and the problematization of the feminine bodyappear as recurring themes.Despite the reproduction of the traditional definitions offemininity evident in these advertisements, this study reveals thatcurrent constructions of femininity today incorporate certaincharacteristics that have previously fallen outside of the femalesex role. Traits such as confident, bold, outgoing, strong andindependent appear as part of the current constructions offemininity. If these themes had been uncovered through the use ofcontent analysis only, they might be interpreted as positive signs121of changes within the definitions of femininity. However, throughsemiotic decoding, further investigation into the context withinwhich these non-traditional themes appear reveals that thesesignifiers have been emptied and reworked into the dominantdiscourse such that the traditional versions of femininity, towhich feminism has so vehemently objected, are reinforced andreproduced.This demonstrates the value of developing a semioticmethodology for the study of cultural representations. Semioticdecoding allows for a clearer understanding of the ways in whichthe text works to construct preferred meanings. Therefore, whilethe results of this study confirm, via content analysis, thatstereotypical portrayals of women persist, insight is also giveninto the ways in which the advertisements work to construct thesestereotyped definitions of femininity. While past research hasconcentrated on the depiction of women in sex-stereotyped roles,most of this research has focused exclusively upon the denotativelevel of meaning.In this study, analysis of the ways in which femininity isdefined within advertising moves beyond the denotative level ofmeaning to an analysis of the production of meaning at theconnotative level. Analysis of second order signification hasdemonstrated the importance of understanding the form that thecontent of advertisements take. The development of a semioticmethodology makes possible a better understanding of the ways inwhich women are portrayed in advertising and how these portrayals122work to define femininity. Thus this study has made a significantcontribution to the study of representations of women inadvertising. The significance of the use of semiotics, however,extends beyond the scope of this particular study. The systematicsemiotic method developed in this study provides a research methodthat can help researchers develop more sophisticated analyses ofthe signifying practices of other forms of culturalrepresentations.THE OPERATION OF IDEOLOGY IN ADVERTISINGThe semiotic methodology used in this study is importantbecause it allows for a greater understanding of the ways in whichadvertising operates ideologically to define femininity. Morespecifically, the semiotic decodings have revealed how femininityis defined via the appropriation and reformulation of culturalknowledge, the naturalization of constructed meanings, and themanagement of contradictions via the appearance of choice anddifference. For instance, the Soft n' Dri ad (Figure 2)appropriates from cultural knowledge the ideals of feminism;confidence, independence, and equality. These ideals are thenreformulated and given to the product which if consumed will inturn bestow the named qualities onto the consumer. These qualitiesare thus emptied of their historical context and significance."To study ads is to study the framing of meanings. Allmeanings and activities exist in a social context -meanings is always relational and contextual. Remove anactivity from its context and its meaning changes.Advertisements photographically isolate meaningfulmoments, remove them from their lived context and placethem in the ad framework where their meaning isrecontextualized and thus changed. Every image that123appears in advertisements has thus been framed. It couldnot be otherwise." (Goldman, 1992:5).Signs of femininity are linked to objects which will then givemeaning to the individual. Thus modern advertising teaches thereader to consume not the product, but its sign, what it stands for- in this instance ideal femininity (Goldman, 1992:19). In thisway meaning becomes a possibility only through the consumption ofcommodities.This appropriation and reformulation of cultural valuesresults in definitions of femininity that are arbitraryconstructions. However, rather than appear as though constructed,these definitions are made to appear as though natural because theydraw upon what is often taken for granted to be common senseknowledge. The myths of femininity produced by advertisementsoperate to naturalize what is in fact a distorted relationshipbetween signifier and signified, making the representations offemininity seem innocent, pure and natural (Barthes, 1972:156). Inall three advertisements decoded in this study an oppressive beautystandard is reproduced by the creation of a message that ties beingfemale to being beautiful. This equation of femininity and beautyis presented as the natural ideal regardless of the specific typeof femininity presented. Whether a woman wants to be dangerouslyexciting, confidently liberated or athletically aggressive, themessage remains that she would naturally want to be beautifulthroughout. This message is presented as though it were simplycommon sense.124The management of contradictions in the definitions offemininity present within advertisements is apparent in the linkageof particular 'feminine qualities' such as beautiful, perfect,fresh, clean, healthy and so on to the use of products to attainthese qualities. While these qualities are presented as naturalaspects of 'the feminine' and therefore normative, theirachievement is always tied to the consumption of products. Thisprocess is riddled with contradictions. For instance, in manyadvertisements a quality such as beauty is linked to nature -hence, "natural beauty". The connotations of this linkage lead toa spiralling, circular logic: Women are naturally beautiful thusbeauty becomes a normative quality, something that women should be.Following from this norm of beauty, all women naturally want to bebeautiful, i.e. normal. Inserted into this desire is the productwhich will confer upon the user the quality of beauty. Since womennaturally want to be beautiful, a quality that is a natural part ofbeing feminine, it is natural that they would use the product toattain this essential quality. This naturalization of femininityis also reinforced by modes of appellation through which the readeris constituted as a woman who exists already as the kind of womandescribed in the ad hence someone who would naturally use theproduct. Not only is a particular version of femininitynaturalized but the act of consuming ever more goods.On the surface, the definitions of femininity in Seventeenadvertisements seem to offer many choices to its young readers. Asseen in the decoded ads readers can choose to be dangerously125beautiful and defiant, modern and self-assured, or outgoing andsporty - each identity to be tried on in the form of a cosmeticproduct. The appearance of a seemingly endless range of choicesmasks the fact that a narrow range of possibilities for self-definition are offered to young women in these ads supporting thecharge that "the choices and freedoms apparently offered byconsumption hide the lack of material choice for women" (Pleasance,1991:77).^Within the structure of advertising messages theculturally contradictory relations of traditional femininity andfeminism have been reconciled in a seemingly unproblematic fashion.Signifiers of femininity and signifiers of feminism co-exist andintermingle such that a woman can emulate traditional beautystandards yet be a defiant rule-breaker. She can be soft and wearpink clothes yet be tough and confident. She can compete alongsideher male counterparts yet not have to sacrifice her most valuablefeminine qualities. The incorporation of feminist political/socialgoals into advertisements for fashion and beauty products is anexpression of expanding commodity logic.^Advertising hascontinually colonized and incorporated new cultural material forthe purpose of giving cultural currency to commodities and toextend commodity relations (Goldman, 1992; Wernick, 1991).AFFIRMATION OF DOMINANT CODESThe findings of this study show that the discourse ofadvertising is a discourse of power, characterised by themaintenance of capitalist economic and patriarchal relationsdespite surface changes in the depiction of women as "liberated"126and self-determining (Warren, 1978). The maintenance of the statusquo, however, must be understood as the result of a dialecticalprocess in which advertising messages continually draw upon andreact to the cultural climate.Since the early 1970's advertisers have paid greater attentionto what women want to hear about themselves. By the 1980'sadvertisers had to adapt the ways in which they addressed women inorder to recapture the interest of estranged readers (Goldman,1992:133). In order to appeal to women consumers, advertisers haveaddressed their target audiences through the selectiveincorporation of the actual cultural/demographic characteristics ofthe audience into the advertising message. In doing soadvertisements invite the audience to identify with acommercialised image of themselves. The attributes of the consumerand the attributes of the commodity are made to match."All advertising has to do, surely, is to bring itsproffered attributions into line with the actual self-identifications, needs, and values which consumersexperience as their own. But the inevitable selectivityof typification (is that really me?), plus the need toensure a two-way fit between consumer subjectivity andbrand image, rules out a purely passive approach. Thecircular logic of attribution masks the leap of faith thereader must make to get into the picture. Potentialconsumers must be positively induced to embrace what theproduct is made to mean. On the plane of ideologicalorientation, as on that of wants and needs, symbolicadvertising has at the very least to affirm the code ofvalues to which it makes appeal." (Wernick, 1991:38).When audience members identify with the appeal of anadvertising message directed toward them they are taking thepreferred ideological meaning structured into the message, that of127the 'dominant' culture (Sinclair, 1987:38). The appeal of manyadvertisements is structured such that the reader is 'positioned'within the dominant ideology.Advertising in Seventeen produces definitions of femininitythat are not outwardly degrading or offensive to readers but thatare instead positive and complementary because these ads draw uponcultural signs which already have currency. The incorporation anddepoliticization of feminism via second order signification withinadvertising serves to illustrate how dominant social codes areaffirmed and reproduced at the expense of alternate or oppositionalcodes. Positively coded signs and the already established culturalpower of such signs are appropriated and co-opted into thesignifying practices of advertising. It is not the real content ofthe signs that is being appropriated as much as the positive signvalue they already hold. For example goals of the women's movementand liberation themes are co-opted in the Soft n' Dri ad becausethey already have cultural currency. In their incorporation intothe advertisement's signifying system, however, the content ofthese themes are emptied of their political significance becausethey have been removed from the historical context of women'sstruggle for equality and placed within the apolitical/ahistoricalcontext of consumption. These themes have additional currencygiven that the political/social climate today can be seen asIpostfeminist' implying that many young women perceive themselvesas liberated, taking for granted the struggles of feminism to winthe right to equality (Rapp, 1988; Stacey, 1987). Many128advertisements for cosmetics and fashion draw upon the reader'sself-concept as liberated.In terms of advertising's ideological role Wernick (1991:45)points out that, "...In the images promotionally given to products,advertising produces a continual stream of totemic, marketunifying, second-order cultural messages. It does so, however, inconstant interaction with the shifting moods, codes and cross-currents of the culture that surrounds it, so that advertisingreprocesses and, where necessary, reconciles whatever core valuesand symbols have currency". It is not the oppositional discourseof feminism that is being affirmed in advertising but traditionalfemininity. The cultural currency of feminism is used to givevalue to the dominant code of traditional femininity through anexchange of signifiers within the advertisement's structuralrelationships.The ideological definitions of femininity in advertisementsmust be understood as the products of a dialectical relationshipbetween the structure of advertisements and the larger culturewithin which they exist. The discourse of femininity iscontinually reworked and modified at the local level by the womenwho actively participate in it. Advertising responds to suchchanges, ready to expropriate that which has acquired culturalcurrency. While the structure of advertising may work to affirmthe dominant culture, it's influence cannot be seen as completelydeterminate."There is an ongoing dialectic between women's freedom toexpress themselves stylistically within discourse, to129make choices, among them to choose specifically'unfeminine' styles, and the strain of the fashionindustry and its media towards a controlled andcontinually changing orthodoxy of both appearance andinterpretation which would fully regulate desire asdemand. Such closure is never attained" (Smith,1990:205).TEXTUALLY MEDIATED DISCOURSEThe definition of femininity via the operation of ideologicalprocesses within advertisements must be placed within the largersocial context. Advertisements insert themselves into thepractical organization of achieving femininity as a presentation ofself within the local, historical process of everyday life.However, the effects of this textual definition of femininityextend beyond the structuring of the local level of actions andpractices of individual women as they create themselves in relationto the ideality of the text. The textual definition of femininitywithin advertisements remains uniform across multiple sites ofhuman interaction. This is because the norms and interpretationsof appearances across multiple sites are governed by thestandardized definition of femininity as manifest in the text. Asargued by Smith (1990:203), "Women are caught up in the circle ofappearances and interpretation established publicly in thediscursive texts. Though they can, with the body and resourcesavailable to them, choose a 'look', the relation between that lookand its interpretation, and therefore how the look they have chosensignifies, are pre-given in discourse".Advertisements further structure social relations byorganizing local social relationships as a relationship to a market130selling fashion commodities^(ibid).^Fashion magazineadvertisements not only standardize the definition of femininitybut standardize desire to coincide with the mass production ofcommodities which include clothing, cosmetics, and beauty industryservices."The discursive relations of femininity are vested intexts designed for and distributed on a mass market, andthe production and distribution of those textscoordinates, differentiates, and regulates the market andproduction of clothes, cosmetics, etc. The relationbetween the standardized ideality of the discursiveimages of femininity and the imperfect body generatesthat perpetual renewal of desire into which texts tyingdesire to commodity are inserted" (Smith, 1990:208).COMMODIFIED SOCIAL RELATIONSUnderstanding the signifying practices of advertisements isimportant because "...advertisements set forth a reified sociallogic that is culturally reproduced via the advertising form"(Goldman, 1992:35). This reified social logic is apparent in theways in which social relations are shown as the products ofrelationships with commodities. Within advertisements,objects/commodities are made to mean something in terms of socialrelations, and commodified social relations are represented asthough authentic. This logic is reflected in the Marathon Mascaraad (Figure 3) in which the relationship between the object/mascaraand the subject/woman is one in which the characteristics of theacting subject/woman are attributed to the object/mascara. In allthree ads decoded in this study human qualities are given over toobjects. Mascara becomes remarkably strong and dangerous or ableto run marathons, while anti-perspirant is confident and modern.131"Advertisements thus separate the intrinsic qualities ofbeing human from actual living humans. The link can berestored only by the purchase of the commodity. Humanqualities must be bought back, reappropriated by means ofconsuming..." (Goldman, 1992:31-32).Products are given agency while humans take on the status ofobject. The definition of femininity as manifest in the idealityof the advertising image sets up a practical relation of a woman toherself as object to be made in relation to the textual definition.As Smith (1990:50) explains, "The 'structure' of the relationshipof subject to herself is tripartite: the distance between herselfas subject and her body, which becomes the object of her work, iscreated by the textual image through which she becomes conscious ofits defects". A woman's body becomes an object upon which she canact to bring it into correspondence with the 'unchanging perfectionof the text'. Women are sold their images in the form ofcommodities and become commodities themselves - that is , a productconstructed through the consumption and use of fashion and cosmeticcommodities.Within the structure of advertising a "consumerist addressimprisons the subject in a totally commodified ontology"; needsbecome defined in relation to the world of objects; being isreduced to having, desire reduced to lack (Wernick,1991:35). Needsarise in advertising only in so far as a particular commodity canbe presented for their satisfaction. The findings of this studyreflect the ways in which gender relations have been recast interms of commodity consumption. As argued in Goldman (1992:107),"Redressing the power imbalance in gender relations was invariably132cast in terms of commodity consumption and personal appearance:change occurs not through politics, or strikes, or challenges tothe legal system, but through individuated commodity consumption".Self-determination, independence, and success are attainable as astyle, created through the consumption of the right products.IMPLICATIONS FOR THE EMPOWERMENT OF WOMENThe advertisements which have been decoded in this studycontain a model of social power in which women attain power throughcommodity mediated appearances and commodified body images. Theattainment of control over one's life and relationships ispresented as the outcome of the "commodified articulation offeminine appearance" (Goldman, 1992:108). This avenue toempowerment for women fundamentally differs from avenues availableto men. As argued by Winship (1978:146), "The achievement ofindividuality, through the narcissistic construction of you, theparticular loved object, relies not on work at the point ofproduction as it does for men, but on work at the point ofconsumption".In this model of social power autonomy and control areobtained through voluntary self-fetishization. A woman's socialpower is constituted through a fetishism of appearances, however,this power is contingent upon others because it rests upon theability to become an object of desire. The commodified self reliesupon the judgement of others. Goldman (1992:117) points out, "byemphasizing the fetishized self as the conduit of power andcontrol, the ad obscures the fact that feelings of control gained133through impression management are literally purchased at the costof self-alienation".Within this model of social power problems are defined andlocated within the attitudes of individual women and not in theunequal conditions of commodity production and consumption (Goldmanet. al., 1991:335). Feminist social goals are reduced toindividual lifestyle and the potentially subversive ideologicalforce of feminism is "channelled into the commodity form so that itthreatens neither patriarchal nor capitalist hegemony" (Goldman,1992:131; Rapp, 1988:32). The redefinition of feminism throughcommodities obliterates the origin of feminism in a critique ofunequal social, economic and political relations.PRACTICAL STRUGGLESSemiotic analysis, when compared to content analysis, allowsa more sophisticated understanding of the ways in whichadvertisements operate to define femininity. On a practical levelthese more sophisticated analyses contribute to an understanding ofthe ways in which meanings are ideologically produced and may,therefore, contribute to the development of new strategies toaddress sexism in advertising. Insight into new strategies tocombat sexism is derived through a better understanding of whyprevious strategies have failed. Semiotic analyses are usefulbecause they reveal how sexism in advertising has continued despitethe calls for reforms and regulation through laws. For instance,the decoding of ads in this study demonstrates why the critique ofadvertising made by liberal feminists does not adequately address134the problem of sexism. Advocating the reform of stereotypicalrepresentations through the incorporation of non-traditionalimagery does not ensure a positive direction for the transformationof imagery. For instance in Figure 1 the woman is strong anddangerous but not because of the possession of real social powerbut because of her 'devastating' beauty. In Figure 2 a womanappears as the equal of her male counterparts but she is stilldefined as 'soft'. In Figure 3 the woman pictured is athleticallyaggressive but is primarily concerned with being beautiful nomatter what she does. In all three of these advertisementstraditional femininity is reinforced through the appropriation offeminist ideals and identity is defined through consumption.As long as the production of images of women in advertising ismotivated by the desire to sell commodities, these images will becontrolled by commodity logic. This precludes the possibility ofwomen controlled images."...the realities of national advertising campaigns, theadvertising industry and magazine publication moot thepossibility of any true female voice behind the ad: theseare extensively male worlds. The ads we view in women'smagazines are not statements by women for women: they areconstructs of women made predominantly by men for women.The woman seen in women's magazines is doubly Other, theprojection of a hegemonically masculine sender" (Masseand Rosenblum, 1988:140). [11]Rather than advocate censorship or regulation of content ofimages, some feminists have instead focused upon the need for thecreation of new texts, produced by and for women, in whichalternative constructions of the feminine and a wider range ofpossibilities for women's lives appear. However the potential for135establishing and sustaining such texts within the existingrelations and conditions of production has proven to be nearlyimpossible as evident in the struggles to launch MS magazine as asource of alternate discourses (Steinem, 1990).LIMITATIONS AND FUTURE DIRECTIONS FOR STUDYAlthough semiotic analysis provides a greater understanding ofthe ways in which the text works, this method is restricted in anumber of ways. Firstly, this study is restricted to theexamination of only one particular source of definitions -advertisements in Seventeen. The study of more definitions fromboth different magazines and from different forms of culturalrepresentations are needed in order to understand the intertextualnature of these images.Secondly, semiotic analysis is conducted entirely at thetextual level. Critics have pointed out that primacy is given tothe text at the expense of analyzing the wider historical andmaterial context. In the past semiotics has been used in isolationfrom the conditions and relations of production in which the textis produced and consumed (see Jaddou and Williams, 1981). In thefuture, this context could be provided through ethnographicresearch on the process through which the text is produced. Thiswould include analysis of the organization of the advertisingindustry and the magazine industry in order to understand theprocesses through which the images of women are created anddisseminated throughout our culture.136Thirdly, ethnographic research is also needed to explore thecontext^of readers' lives in which advertising images areconsumed. Given the insights provided by semiotics into theworkings of the text, further research is now needed in the area ofaudience reception. Cultural analysis has yet to develop acoherent theory of audience response to advertising or to addressthe questions of how and why people consume mass cultural products(Myers, 1983). Further research in the area of audience receptionwill begin to unravel the complexities expressed in the massculture debate over whether consumption is to be understood as aform through which dominant power relations are articulated andmaintained or whether consumption of dominant cultural forms infact provides openings in which dominance is evaded (Pleasance,1991).Research that focuses upon the text in isolation relies uponthe researcher's use of a particular code. In this study the texthas been decoded through the dominant code of femininity, however,this level of analysis does not reveal how contradictions expressedwithin the text are read. This would involve an analysis of theways in which sex, age, class, race and ethnicity intersect withthe dominant discourse to produce oppositional or negotiatedreadings (see Brown and Schulze, 1990). Ethnographic researchcould begin to address these issues and, by focusing upon livedexperiences, link mass communicated images and ideology to thecontexts in which it occurs.137For feminist critical practice these issues are of centralconcern for "...understanding how popular culture functions bothfor women and for a patriarchal culture is important if women areto gain control over their own identities and change both socialmythologies and social relations. Feminism, as a critique ofexisting social relations, assumes that change is not onlydesirable but necessary" (Rakow, 1986:23).138NOTES1 The study of advertising can be placed within the contextof cultural studies and the debate over the status ascribed todominant culture. In one theoretical framework dominant culture isseen as a site where dominant power relations are both successfullyextended and reinforced. In the opposing viewpoint, dominantculture is conceptualized as a site of conflict and struggle wheredominant power relations are continually challenged and never fullysecured. For a discussion of this debate in relation to popularmagazines see Pleasance (1991). The roots of this debate arelocated within the critique of mass culture as decline anddomination, instigated by the Frankfurt School, and responses tothis critique. See Horkheimer and Adorno (1944) and Marcuse(1964).2 It should be noted that the study of advertising involvesthree potential areas for analysis: the production of ads withinthe advertising industry, the individual ad as an isolated entityand the audience's reading and interaction with the ad. Semioticsfocuses upon the structural relationships within individual adsgiving consideration to the larger social context within which thead exists, however, this type of analysis does not claim to accountfor the explicit intentions of the advertiser/producer or for theactual readings of audience members. These concerns could mostadequately be addressed through ethnographic research. For ananalysis of the advertising industry see Sinclair (1987) or Vinikas(1992). For an analysis of the rise of modern advertising as adirect response to the needs of mass industrial capitalism see Ewen(1976).3 Although an argument can be made for the existence of"preferred readings" the extent to which advertisers are explicitlyor rationally aware of the structural relationships present withinads remains questionable without ethnographic research. This issueis beyond the scope of this study, however, rather than posit a'conspiracy theory' it seems more reasonable to surmise that thedirection towards privileged meanings is loose rather thancompletely determined. As argued in Sinclair (1987:39), "In asense there is a struggle to control culture, a continuous, thoughintuitive rather than conspiratorial effort on the part of thedominant institutions of capitalism to ensure that all definitionsof how life is to be lived remain within their hegemony".4^The code of femininity reflects cultural conventionsregarding what is and what is not 'feminine'. As such the codegoverns the interpretation of signs as being feminine/not feminine.139This interpretive code is based upon the meanings that are assignedto femininity and masculinity. Each culture creates its ownmeanings for these categories and these meanings involveexpectations regarding general characteristics such as personalitytraits, social roles, social positions, and physicalcharacteristics (See discussions in Basow, 1992 and Mackie, 1987).Empirical evidence for what constitutes the dominant code offemininity within our culture was established within the findingsof the content analysis studies of sex role stereotypes reviewed inchapter one. These studies offer insight into whichcharacteristics are 'read' as feminine based upon shared culturalknowledge. For example, passivity, physical beauty, sexualattractiveness, domesticity, dependence, and subordination to malesare recurring themes which are repeatedly associated with thefemale sex role. Further evidence for the degree to which certaincharacteristics are commonly assigned to females as compared tomales is discussed in extensive detail in Williams and Best, 1990.5 Although cultural texts offer a point of entry into thesocial relations that they are embedded in and organize, it isimportant to understand that the relationship between texts, suchas advertisements, and the reader/consumer is never unilateral butis instead dialectic. The relationship is mutually determining.For a discussion of this dialectical relationship see Smith(1991:202).6 In each table of this study pages with five or moreadvertisements were excluded from the analysis in order toeliminate a "classified ad" type segment located in the final pagesof the magazine. The majority of such ads are very small andtherefore lack images or substantial content. In general the adsthat were eliminated did not reflect the format of the majority ofads which were included in the analysis.7 Decoding will be limited to three advertisements for thepurposes of analyzing second order signification and the ways inwhich connotation operates above and beyond the denoted image. Theintention is to illustrate instances of the constitution of'femininity' and is not intended to be an exhaustive semioticanalysis of the entire content of advertising in Seventeen.Limitation of analysis to three ads is adequate given the specificscope of this study.8 In each of the tables data pertains to pictures which containless than six people. This was done in order to avoid crowd sceneswhich are difficult to code with any degree of accuracy. Themajority of pictures in the ads contained less than six people.1409 Census data for the population of the United States in 1990indicates the following figures for racial/hispanic origin (aspercentages of the base population of 248,709,873):White: 80.0%Black: 12.0%Hispanic: 9.0%Asian: 2.6%Aboriginal: 0.8%Asian Indian: 0.3%Other race: 4.0%SOURCE:^U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1990 Population andHousing.10 Pages with five or more pictures were excluded from analysisin order to eliminate pages that were composed of "collages". Thisformat contains pictures that are often to small to render accuratecodings.11 As argued by Masse and Rosenblum (1988:140-41) this is notto say that the projector of these images is necessarily male.Women are involved in the construction of advertising and can alsoincorporate and replicate the ideology contained within the ads.141REFERENCESAndersen, Margaret L. (1988). Thinking About Women: SociologicalPerspectives on Sex and Gender. 2 Ed. 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