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UBC Theses and Dissertations

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


Examining the ways in which 'femininity' is defined and reproduced via cultural representations has become an important part of feminist critical practice. By addressing the power that images of women have to define the feminine in specific ways, this work has contributed to our understanding of 'femininity' as ascribed and not as an intrinsic female quality. Advertisements in fashion magazines, however, seek to define and naturalize a particular version of femininity while ideologically masking the fact that this definition is an arbitrary construction. These images are one of the sources of information which organize the ways in which the social category 'femininity' is understood in our culture. Thus, advertising images directed to an adolescent audience are particularly significant given that adolescence is a peak period of gender differentiation. While much research has focused upon the content of advertising images of women, this work has not given insight into how the text works to construct the meaning of femininity. The purpose of this research is to examine current definitions of femininity in Seventeen, an adolescent fashion magazine. Quantitative content analysis is used to obtain a systematic description of the manifest content of the representations of femininity. Through the development of asemiotic method further textual analysis addresses the ways in which the text works to construct the meaning of femininity. It was found that despite the incorporation of non-traditional liberation themes into current constructions of femininity, advertisements operate to reproduce traditional definitions of femininity through ideological processes. These processes included the appropriation and reformulation of cultural knowledge, the naturalization of constructed meanings, and the management of contradictions via the appearance of choice and difference. The implications that these constructions have for women's empowerment and struggle for equality are discussed.

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