The Cosmopolitan Divide, part 26

Feminism (and feminist critique) have among their goals the empowerment and freedom of women, right? So in the 1980s, researchers began to counter all of the above by saying that perhaps readers were making their own meaning; that perhaps they themselves were critiquing the magazines even while consuming them. Let’s take this idea further–that women are strong enough that something like a magazine can’t harm them in some deep way.  Just how each generation’s ideology and how it’s communicated to the masses differs, so too does the way each generation responds to it.  So, sure, let’s look at the readers!  Joke Hermes interviewed a number of women in the early 90s to gauge their interaction with women’s magazines.  (For the sake of how much time I’m willing commit to a series on boobs I stared at in the grocery store, I am simply summarizing Gough-Yates’s treatment of Hermes’s study; though really I should have tracked down Hermes’s book Reading Women’s Magazines.)  What Hermes found was that the magazines functioned as a way for women to envision ideal versions of themselves.

Her interviewees often seemed to have very little to say at all about the magazines themselves, talking much more about how the magazines they read fitted into their daily routines. In fact, readers gave meanings to women’s magazines which Hermes found to be quite independent of the text….



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