A Study into the representation of men in men’s magazines. The number of men’s magazines, or lads mags, such as FHM, Loaded, Men’s Health and GQ have rapidly grown in the past 10 – 15 years. Some argue that these relatively new types of magazines are negative because of the way they are openly sexist against women. The content of many of these ‘lifestyle’ magazines is very general, which could explain why they appeals to such a wide range. David Sharples states that
“In the early to mid 1990’s the men’s magazine revolution began to take off in response perhaps to the development of women’s position in society, and as they fought to change their roles, some men felt pressure to change too”. All media texts give a mediated version of reality. Representation is a version of reality, it symbolises something or someone else. A representation is part of the ideology which the producers want to project, and the reaction of the audience to the representation. Groups of people are often represented and become stereotypes, this is through the processes of categorisation, repetition and applying a value judgement.
‘… as soon as somebody comes along they are categorised in the media and people want to say, “Okay, he fits this concept,” or, “This is who he is,” and we want to define him immediately and they put a label on you. ‘ Leonardo DiCaprio, FHM April 2003. There have been lots of criticism of representations of females in these magazines, because people believe them to be sexist, portraying women as sex objects, emotional, and reinforcing the stereotype that women are available for sex at any time.
In a way, representation’s of men in the same magazines can be seen as an opposition to this, representations of men tend to only portray one side of masculinity, and do not show emotion. Masculinity is characterised in these magazines by aggression, competitiveness and emotional ineptitude. REPRESENTATION AND GENRE AND GENDER ROLES Genre is a pre-existing type of a media product. It works because producers and audiences approve of it. We have expectations of form, a foreknowledge of how that text will be constructed.
Where there are more and more media texts and they are being targeted more and more precisely at certain groups. Gender is a key issue when discussing representation. Essential elements of our own identity, and the identities we assume other people to have, come from ideas of gender. Many objects, not just humans, are represented by the media as being particularly masculine or feminine and we grow up with an awareness of what constitutes ‘appropriate’ characteristics for each gender. ‘gender is one of our deepest and most important traits as human beings.
Our understanding of ourselves as either male or female is the most important aspect of our definition of ourselves as individuals… ‘ Jhally, 1987 Example of characteristics which are typically associated with masculinity include tough, hard, interested in ‘birds beer and sex’. While characteristics associated with femininity include Fragile, Soft, and a housewife. The media shapes our views and conceptions of what it means to be male or female. We encounter many different male and female role models in the course of a day’s media consumption.
Theorists Judith Butler and Foucault argue that gender is fluid, and can change within different contexts and over time. ‘Masculinity’ is a concept that is made up of more rigid stereotypes than femininity. Representations of men across all media tend to focus on the following: Strength – physical and intellectual Power Sexual attractiveness (which may be based on power and strength) Physique Independence (of thought and action) Buckingham says that to be seen as a real man, you can not show emotion, and so men’s magazines exclude sensitive issues and emotions in order to be seen as magazines for ‘real men’.
Another theorist, Lacey, argues that these magazines portray men, or an ideal man, as one with these characteristics: physical strength and fighting power, sexual prowess and control of sex objects, success in physically dangerous undertakings extreme wealth and economic power, direct domination of males and females In contrast, representations of women across all media tend to highlight the following: beauty size/physique sexuality emotional dealings relationships
One theorist, Nixon believes that men’s magazines have to attract advertisers and have found that using masculine traits such as beer, sex and babes, to be the most successful. Media representations of masculinity become more specifically targeted at audiences with product promotion in mind, most adverts in FHM are for male fashion, male skin ; hair care products, fitness products such as weights and clothing. The emphasis on identity through style meant men had to start ‘surveying’ themselves as, like women, they too were being surveyed (see Berger, 1972:46).
Sean Nixon has written detailed accounts on traditional male icons in the men’s ‘style manuals’ such as Arena and GQ that were launched in the eighties, targeting ‘style-conscious young men’ and those needing a medium to promote new menswear and grooming products. The models used for fashion spreads in these magazines were selected to create a particular look: hard features and muscularity were combined with clear skin, well-groomed hair and beautiful clothes, creating an ambivalence of soft and hard.
Typical masculine traits are: independence, self-reliance, freedom, mobility, risk-taking, adventurousness. On the other hand, Maxim is less conscious of style in its articles and advertisements, because of a more working class emphasis. Loaded represents masculinity in a common stereotypical way, Edwards in 1997 described it as “Selfish, Loutish and inconsiderate to a point of infantile and smelliness. He likes drinking, football, and fucking, and in that order of preference…….
in short he is that most ghastly of all configuration, defensively working class which also means defensively masculine”. GQ, (Gentlemen’s Quarterly) is seen as a more up market men’s magazines, aimed at older and more serious reader. Its strap line, “the magazine for men with an IQ”, reinforces that. Although before it took more interest in health and fashion, it has recently become more similar to FHM and Loaded. In opposition to Nixon and Buckingham’s views, David Gauntlett says that,
“But I’ve argued that even in Loaded it’s quite playful about gender identity really – though sometimes that’s just lost in the jokey laddishness – but particularly in FHM (which sells far more copies than its competitors – twice as many as Loaded) there are a broad range of types of acceptable masculinity on offer and a surprisingly conscious acceptance of masculinity as a performance. ” Other studies of gender roles in magazines show that representations have changed over time. Concept of representation is as much audience interpretation as it is about the portrayals that are offered to us by the media.
In FHM for example, article’s include; cooking articles, serious health advice fashion advice and features on how to satisfy a women, not the stereotypical view of masculinity discussed above. This is possibly because of changing attitudes, only the past 10 – 15 years has seen a shift in the attitudes and lifestyles of British men. ‘But the masculinity put forward by the biggest-seller, FHM, we saw to be fundamentally caring, generous and good-humoured, even though the sarcastic humour sometimes threatened to smother this’ David Gauntlett