Gender Portrayal In Magazines

Print media has suffered lately as a result of the upsurge in digital alternatives, many of which are cheaper or even free. One corner of this industry seems to still be going strong: magazines. The glossy pages of these publications still get enough attention that their continued existence is justified in this new technology driven era. There is an aspect of them that remains woefully outdated however, the way that genders are portrayed.

Head vs Body Prominence

Those who pay attention to these images may notice one thing immediately. Men’s faces and heads are shown more frequently than women. When women are photographs, it is most often with views of most or all of the body included. The poses that female models are asked to hold are also more often to be sexualized. This has been theorized to be a means of humanizing the men and objectifying the women. A face is what we think of when we recall people we know but bodies are far less personal to use.

Promoting unhealthy body proportions

Female models have long been chosen on the basis of their adherence to unhealthy industry standard. Magazines often hire models who have not yet finished puberty to pose in women’s clothing which creates an unrealistic concept of how an adult woman would look in such clothing. This also makes older women feel inadequate because the models never seem to look older than 25. Older women in magazines are often altered either by surgery or through editing to blend in with the younger girls. Men who are older can grace magazines and even have gray hair. The male models who grace catwalks are muscular not underweight. Men receive the message to exercise while women are encouraged to under-eat.

Reinforcement of stereotypes for children

Especially in advertising, magazines often show children playing with toys that are suited to the sex they were assigned at birth. Girls with nurturing toys like dolls, boys with activity or aggression based toys such as blocks and fake weapons. This is part of the reason for the lower proportions of women in the sciences. They are subliminally taught that they should do what the other girls do and not something that is just ‘for boys’.

There have been advances in these portrayals but the work is far from over. Magazines are still far from reality.

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