Mens Lifestyle Magazines Analysing Gender Identities Media Essay
|✅ Paper Type: Free Essay||✅ Subject: Media|
|✅ Wordcount: 4738 words||✅ Published: 1st Jan 2015|
Men’s lifestyle magazines are interesting research for analysing gender identities. As mass cultural texts they have the potential to affect or maintain cultural norms and values in the society (Taylor and Sunderland, 2003). They have the ability to construct masculinity or femininity in a positive way or in a negative way. They could also alter or change cultural norms that have been in existence over time.
In the 1980’s, males in men’s magazines were constructed as emotional, sensitive people. They were also constructed as narcissists that dwelt on fashion whereas females were constructed as powerful, independent beings that were respected by the men. (Gill, 2003). Over recent years, however, the representation of masculinity and femininity has changed due to the introduction of ‘New Lad’ magazines.
Men’s magazines have moved from constructing men as narcissistic people to representing them as pleasurists who enjoy sex, alcohol, sport, cars, games and the viewing of sexualized images. The women, on the other hand, were constructed as sexualized objects to be gazed at. Edward (2003: 139) points out that, women with successful careers have been equally “undermined through salacious spreads of them stripped of their clothes”. These representations make up the characteristic images of the ‘New Lad magazines’.
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For this essay, I will examine the construction of masculinity and femininity in one of these New Lad magazines: FHM magazine. My plan here is to critically describe and analyse the visual images and the texts within the publication. For the first analysis on visual images, I will adapt a multimodal approach taken from Van Leeuwen (2008) and Machin (2007), and for the second analysis on the language, I will use a critical discourse theory described by Van Leeuwen (2008) to examine the construction of men and women through writers’ linguistic choices.
THE MEN’S MAGAZINE
My analysis for this study is a magazine called FHM magazine (For Him Magazine, the January 2010 edition). I chose FHM magazine because, as written by Jackson et al (2001), it has a mass circulation with monthly sales hitting the hundreds of thousands. Due to this wide circulation, the magazine has the power to influence a large number of readers. Launched in 1994, FHM Magazine is targeted at a particular audience: single men between the ages of 17 and 35 (Stevenson et al, 2001).
As observed, the magazine addresses single men as if they were ‘friends’. This friendly manner is all achieved through the giving of advice on relationships, the discussion of sports, parties, music, movies and other topics normal to typically male conversations.
FHM Magazine deals with themes relating to the male lifestyle. These themes include sex, sport, alcohol, movies, women, sexual jokes, food, music and clubbing. The magazine also includes sections such as: letter to the editor, articles, interviews with celebrities and ‘advice’ sections (containing advise on romantic as well as purely sexual relationships) The articles in the FHM magazine primarily focus on sport and stars. Interviews mostly include soap opera stars, actors, actress and models. These celebrities are used to promote and market the magazine because of their status as public figures.
On the cover of the magazine appears a semi- nude woman complemented with the glossy effect of the magazine that serves as an ‘eye catcher’ to the readers. Additionally, within the magazine there is the dominance of black, red and white colours against which advertisements are able to stand out.
(Advertisements, on the other hand, are) The majority of these advertisement feature (male-related products) aimed at men, including cars, men’s toiletries, gadgets, phones, blazers, movies, computers and men’s wrist watches.
Men’s magazines are characteristically ‘male’ because of the emphasis on sport (football), drinking, women and, most importantly, sex. Advice on relationships found in men’s magazine, for example, often deal with sex in the headlines:
“How to talk your missus into the lingerie of your sordid dreams…”
Sentences such as the one above serve as an eye catcher and may lure a man to buy such magazine. Such sentences as well as the sexualized images of females, is the major reasons why male readers buy these publications (Jackson et al, 2001).
The magazine’s narrative structure adopts a ‘storytelling technique’. The story telling approach is employed for various topics including the discussion of women, sexuality and stars. The use of language within the magazine is generally informal with hackneyed words such as ‘wow’, ‘sexy’, ‘foxy’ and ‘hot’ or vulgar words such as ‘bitch’, ‘shit’, ‘damn’ and ‘fuck’. These words, however, are used figuratively to create an ironic effect and without the intention to spite anyone. The use of irony runs throughout the magazine. Jackson et al (2001:104) point out that the use of this literary device is a ‘warning against taking anything that is said to seriously’, adding that it allows the ‘readers to receive advice in respect to sexuality, indulge in fantasies of successful manhood and consume representation of beautiful women in… a guilt free way’.
ANALYTICAL FRAMEWORK AND THEORIES
CRITICAL DISCOURSE ANALYSIS.
Critical discourse analysis, as defined by Van Dijk in his paper, ‘Critical Discourse Analysis’, is “a type of analytical research that primarily studies the way social power abuse, dominance, and inequality are enacted, reproduced, and resisted by text or talk in social and political context” This definition by Dijk therefore means that CDA helps to reveal inequalities in a written and spoken text. Such inequalities may include gender, politics, power, and race.
In previous research, CDA has proven to be a great tool in identifying gender inequalities. The works of Caldas-Coulthard (1996) and Sunderland and Taylor (2003) drew on the critical discourse analysis in order to examine what linguistic choices are given to the social construction of women and men in a magazine. The first, Caldas-Coulthard (1996), centres on the representation of women while the second, Sunderland and Taylor (2003), centre on representation of men.
Writers and speakers use vocabularies and grammatical structures to describe participants or appraise social events as observed in the articles of newspapers or speeches on television. The main issue of Discourse analysts is to examine the writer or the speaker’s choice of words in order to bring out more clearly inequalities that surround the texts. More importantly, the Discourse analysts pay close attention to what vocabularies and grammatical structures were not used but would have logically been used.
In this paper, I will analyse the language of the FHM magazine and will answer the questions below:
– Which gender is activated and which is passivated?
– Are there any gender divides through the language used?
– What linguistic choices have been made to represent the male and female gender and are they represented in a negative or positive way through the language choice?
In order to answer the above questions, I will draw upon the analytical framework of Van Leeuwen (2008) that uses such terms as role allocation. This term examines which social actors are active and passive in a sentence. Also, there are various terms such as role allocation, funtionalisation, individualisation and collectivisation. I will discuss more about these terms in relevant sections.
I also intend to use a multimodal approach for the analysis of images in the FHM Magazine. This approach deals with all communicative modes in an image. These communicative modes include colours, social actors, language, pose, objects and many other semiotic resources. The approach also focuses on how these modes are structured to make a meaningful whole.
In this paper, I intend to analyse images in the FHM magazine paying particular attention to a social semiotic known as ‘social actor analysis’ Machin (2007). This approach allows me to examine the ways men and women are represented in the images of the magazines. It also allows me to study how men and women are positioned for the readers in the images.
ANALYSIS OF FHM MAGAZINE
To be a man or a woman is not the outcome of biological determinism; cognitive structure. Gender is historically and culturally specific, subject to radical discontinuities over time and across space. This does not mean that one can simply pick and choose genders…rather, we are gendered through the power of regulated and regulatory discourses.
Foucault quoted by Baker (2008:291)
Which gender is more activated and which is more passivated?
In order to answer the above question, I will examine ‘role allocation’, a term used by Van Leeuwen (2008) and Halliday (1994). Role allocation shows the position where social actors are located. It equally shows how social actors are represented, e.g. if they can be seen as a person who is active (busy), dynamic, passive, unchanging or benefiting. For this type of analysis headlines from FHM have been selected:
“Commander Ryan Ramsey captains nuclear attack submarine HMS Turbulent.”
“The best way to learn about relationship is to be in one. This month we are going steady with India.”
(FHM Magazine pp 120 & 169).
The man (Commander Ryan Ramsey (appendix 5)) and the pronoun ‘we’ (referring to the men writers) are actors, and the woman (India) is the goal. In the sentences above, the males are activated because of the material processes, ‘captains’ and ‘going’. This is quite different in relation to the female, India, however, who has no process. She is treated as an object of representation, represented as a subjected social actor or a passivated participant.
Other headlines in the magazine include:
– “World Triathlon Champion Alistair Brownlee knows at least three things about getting fit.: The man, Alistair Brownlee, is activated as senser in relation to the mental process ‘Knows’
(FHM Magazine pg 160)
– “FHM’s girl of the decade is Rachel Steven”: Rachel Steven is passivated.
From this, we cannot conclude, however, that all women in the magazine are passive; some are equally activated as in the sentences below:
‘She was Walford’s wild child in East Enders, now Louisa Lytton is heading for Hollywood”: ‘She’ is activated because of the existential process ‘was’.
“Rachel Steven is our cover girl of the decade”: The woman is activated as a carrier in relation to the relational process ‘is’
(FHM Magazine pgs 80&106)
The question, then, is what type of process is used to represent men and women. In my earlier analysis, the men appear activated either in a material or mental process. The material process depicts them (men) as active people, undergoing activities, and the mental process depicts them as people capable of ‘thinking and evaluating.’ On the contrary, women are activated in relational and existential processes. The relational processes, as Machin (2007) points out, are ‘carriers of meaning rather than actors’. They are not active. This inactiveness is also observed in the visual images of women (appendix 3 and 4) they ‘carry meaning through [her] postures and dress’ Machin (2007:133). Additionally, the existential process means that the woman appears in a place that does not allow them to be ‘active’ as is the case of material processes. These representations depict men as active and functional individuals, while the women are represented as passive and objects.
Are there any gender divides through the lexical choices used?
In the magazine, linguistic choices differentiate women from men in terms of work. Applied linguist, Van Leeuwen, puts forward the terms, ‘functionalisation’ and ‘identification’ to identify how social actors are represented. The term ‘functionalisation’, as he explains, occurs when social actors are represented in terms of activities, occupations or roles. The second term ‘Identification’ occurs when social actors are represented in terms of personal relations such as auntie, husband or in terms of physical descriptions such as young, pretty and many other descriptions (Van Leeuwen, 2008).
Table 1 lists the ways females and males are represented by FHM. In the majority of cases, men are represented in terms of roles and occupations as observed in the previous section while women are described in terms of physical identification and relational identification.
Director Guy Richie…
Foxy Lady… Elisabetta Canalis…
DC Executive Editor Dan DiDio…
High street honey Charlotte…
Shaun White, World- famous Snowborder…
Kerry Katona, blonde, fun and top- heavy…
Jeff Zuker, the chief executive of NBC Universal….
Rachel lives with new husband Alex. Jamie Oliver and Gwen Stefani are her neighbours… (Relational Identification)
Warren Buffet, the billionaire US investor…
George Clooney’s arm candy, the exotic sounding Elisabetta Canaliss… (Relational Identification)
Movie maestro, James Cameron
Anna Skellern…another pretty victim in the Descent….
Dennis Wise, the club’s then Executive Director…
Cecilia Peckaitis…the hot girl in the lynx Dry ad…
India is 19 and lives with her folks in Reading…. (Relational Identification)
Based upon the above data, it is possible to observe two strong discourses that are evident in the magazine. The first is the business discourse and the second is the sexuality discourse. This business discourse is achieved through the use of words such as ‘directors’, ‘executive(s)’, ‘editors’, ‘chief’, ‘chairman’, ‘billionaire US investor’ and ‘maestro’. This discourse suggests power and professionalism. The sexual discourse includes terms such as ‘foxy’, ‘pretty’, ‘hot’, ‘sexiest’, ‘candy’, ‘exotic’, ‘blonde’ and ‘fun’ as well as many other physical identifiers associated with women. These two main discourses serve to divide gender in terms of work.
What linguistic choices have been made to represent the male and female gender and are they represented in a negative or positive way through the language choice?
As written earlier, the writer’s choice of linguistic words has been a focus of discourse analysts. Working from existing theories in Critical Discourse Analysis, I have selected three articles from the magazine to examine what choices of words are used to represent both genders. The first article centres on a male, music executive, Simon Cowell. The second and third articles centre on two female actresses, Elisabetta Canalis and Rachel Steven.
Tables 1 & 2 lists the lexical items used to describe the social actors along with their frequencies.
FEMALE Frequencies MALE Frequencies
Pretty 1 Huge star 2
Princess 1 Giant 1
Girl next door 1 Impresario 2
Five foot force of nature 1 master 2
Sexist 5 Boss 2
Hot 1 Success 3
Candy 1 humble 1
Exotic 1 strong 1
Formaggi (cheese) 1 High profile 1
Dolly bird 1 shallow 1
Foxy 1 reckless 1
beautiful 1 cocky 1
Actress 1 Harsh 1
Presenter 1 Hairy 2
A close look at the linguistic choices in table above shows that the man, in majority of the time, is described in terms of status or function. For example, we have the words ‘boss’, ‘impresario’, ‘huge star’, ‘master’, ‘high profile ”giant’ (connoting power or importance), and ‘strong.’ On the contrary, women are described in term of physical appearance such as the words ‘pretty’, ‘beautiful’,
Like language, social actors are represented in images to communicate ideas to the viewers. According to Kress and Van Leeuwen (1996), producers of images use social actors to demand an ‘imaginary social response from the viewers’.
In order to analyse the social actors of images in the magazine, Kress and Van Leeuwen’s (1996) ‘three dimensions of the positioning of viewers with the participants’ would be considered. The first is the ‘image act or Gaze’ that shows how a social actor relates with the male viewers. S/he may give a demand gaze that is aimed directly at the viewers or an offer image. The second is the social distance that depicts how a social actor is close or distant to the viewers and the third is the angle of interaction that shows the various angles from which viewers see participants. It could be horizontal angles that symbolize involvement, vertical angles that symbolize power or oblique angles that symbolize detachment.
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In the FHM magazine, about 47 per cent of all the editorial photographs are females while 53 per cent are males. In the section that follows, I will examine how the women and the men (social actors) are constructed in the visual images of the magazine. I will begin by looking at the angle of interaction, image act and ‘social distance’ of both men and women and, equally, study how they both relate to the male viewers. I will, then, consider which gender is excluded, included, individualized, and grouped.
VISUAL REPRESENTATION OF FEMALE AND MALE GENDER
About 25% of the pictures of women are demand images, while 22% are offer images. The offer images of the women make no contact with the viewers. They therefore allow male viewers to accentuate on their semi naked bodies, appendix (2b). This representation depicts women as sexual object to be gazed at.
Apart from the offer images, a high percentage of the demand images are seductive, communicating sexual intentions to the male viewers (appendix 2a). ‘Pose’ combines with the women’s gaze to bring out a complete meaning. The combination of both the gaze and the pose depict women as making sexual requests to the viewers. This sexual request and intention may, in turn, evoke erotic feelings in the male readers. So, apart from the fact that women are linguistically represented as sexual objects in the magazine, the women are also visually constructed as sexual temptresses.
24% of images of men are demand images, while 29% of them are offer images in the magazine. Of the offer images, most of the men, with the exception of some found in advertisements, make this offer because they are involved with an activity or work. For example, appendix 2d&2e shows the men staring away from us because they are busy doing an exercise. These images allow male viewers to observe male characters as they work, unlike the offer images of women that allow the viewers to gaze at their semi-naked bodies. Here, males are depicted as functional and active people while females are portrayed as non-functional and passive. Just as observed on a linguistic level, the visual portrayals of women and men divide genders in terms of work.
For the majority, men that are inactive are seen to give demand images. Their gazes may reveal a serious, calm or joyful expression. Most men with serious expressions communicate a form of ‘power’. They are seen folding their arms to depict them as authoritative (appendix 2c). The calm expression communicates to the viewers the experience of a trouble-free lifestyle. Unlike the first, they are seen with their hands in their pocket that portray them as collected and easy-going people.
Surprisingly, there is a difference between the demand images of the men and the women. I believe the females are portrayed as more demanding that the males. For example the woman in appendix 2a demands sex from the male viewers whereas the man in appendix 2c does not demand anything, rather he boasts to the male viewers. The woman may be saying, “Come sleep with me”, while the man is saying, “I am in charge”.
Looking at the angle shot of images in the magazine, I have observed that, when sexualized, women are shot more at vertical angles than any other angles (appendix 2a). This vertical angle depicts them as powerful and superior to the male viewers. However, Machin (2007:75) points out that vertical angle shots of sexualized women ‘work by metaphorical association’. He writes:
“.images of women wearing very little clothing… may make them appear vulnerable, or objectified as sex objects. But this effect is reduced by using a low-angle shot. The viewer therefore looks up at the woman…So she is given status and power through being looked up to. This reduces the power of the viewing position and therefore reduces her vulnerability as she looks down dominantly on the viewer. Of course this does not really increase her power over us but works by metaphorical association.”
Despite the fact that sexualized women are represented as powerful by the use of vertical angles, this representation as Machin (2007) noted is a false sense of power.
Unlike the images of women, men are shot mostly at horizontal angles as well as vertical angles. Oblique angles of men are mostly seen in the advertisements within FHM. The horizontal angles symbolize involvement with the imaginary male readers while the vertical angles symbolize superiority.
While the vertical angles used for women metaphorically depict a false sense of power, those used with men depict as the male as having a true sense of power. (Appendix 2c). The vertical angle portrays men as powerful and women as powerless.
Photographic shots of women and men are very interesting to consider. Some women, especially celebrities, are more often shot using an extreme long-shot than any other shots. They lay on the floor so that their whole body is bold, enlarged and can occupy two pages (Appendix 4). This leaves the upper part of the body to occupy the left page and the lower part of the body to occupy the right. This ‘extreme’ long shot is done to give the imaginary male viewers a clearer and bolder view of the women’s body.
Long shots of the women suggest, however, a distant relationship between the viewers and model (Kress and Van Leeuwen, 1996). Thus, we may conclude that the ‘woman’ in appendix 4 has a distant relationship with the viewers. But, the enlarged and bold figure of the woman draws her body nearer to the male viewers to create a more intimate distant, ‘distant that make touching possible’ (Kress and Van Leeuwen 1996:251). Such extreme long shots were not used for the male participants. There are no emphases on the man’s body and they do not occupy two pages. Here, we could see that the women are offered as sexual objects for men’s desire.
HOW ARE MALE AND FEMALE ACTORS REPRESENTED.
This section will focus more on how the males and the females are depicted. I will examine which gender is individualized, categorised, excluded and included.
INDIVIDUAL AND GROUP.
Pictures taken by photographers could depict people as individualized or as grouped. Van Leeuwen (2008) shows us how middle-class oriented newspaper tends to individualize ‘elite’ people and group ‘ordinary’ people in a verbal discourse. It is easy to see, in the appendices, that both genders are individualized and not grouped. Thus, another observation I made is that women are also grouped.
There is a huge difference between women that are individualized and women that are grouped. Individualized women are seen improperly dressed with the grouped women appearing well clothed. This difference tells us that the magazine tend to individualized sexualized women and group ‘ordinary’ well-clothed women.
Examining appendix (3a), we see a group picture of two women and four men discussing in an eatery. These people are cast of a major television programme known as Skins. If we examine appendices 3b, 3c, 3d, 3e, the four men of the television programme are introduced here and more importantly, individualized. This is totally different to the two women cast members. As depicted in appendix 3f, they are grouped. Both give an offer that suggests lack of communication with the viewers. Also, they are properly dressed and not opened to sexualize reading which emphasis my previous point. I believe that these differences serve to construct the men as independent and the women as dependent.
Exclusion means not acknowledging a certain kind of people that live and work in the same society. (Van Leeuwen, 2008). To take an example from the magazine, appendix 3a, as written earlier are cast from the television programme Skins. The four male cast members, as noticed, were properly introduced, for example, appendix 3b and 3c introduced the men and the characters they play in the Skins:
1b) ‘Jack O’Connell, 20.
Plays: James Cook.
1c) Luke Pasqualino, 19
Plays: Freddie Mclair
However, no proper introductions were given to the female cast members of Skins. They are introduced as shown in appendix (3f). The readers are not provided with their names or what characters they play in the show. They are ignored or excluded. The effect of this exclusion, I believe, is to foreground the women as ‘Other’.
This essay has examined the gender differences found in the language and images of the new generation men’s magazine, FHM.
In this magazine, particular linguistic choices and the representation of gender in images has shown a level of social inequality between females and males. The women analysed in this essay have been seen to be negatively constructed. This construction depicts them as subjected or passive individuals within society. In addition, the linguistic choices relating to these women, as observed in most articles, present one particular discourse – the discourse of sexuality. However, the use of the sexuality discourse is not presented for men. Rather, the magazine focuses on the business discourse, which portrays men as active and functional individuals within society.
Furthermore, through an analysis of the social actors found in the images, I have shown that women are represented as non-functional individuals, powerless dependent creatures, sexual objects for men’s desire and lustful temptresses. These negative representations of women are, however, not portrayed in images involving men. They are, alternatively, represented as powerful, successful and confident people, or people undergoing activities. These portrayals create gender imbalances within the magazine.
With the use of the CDA and the multimodal approach, I have shown that, in FHM, women are poorly constructed and men are positively constructed, making the magazine an example of ‘hegemonic masculinity.’ Wheaton (2001:214)
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