Engelska A, Professional English Cultural Studies IMAGES AND IDEAS OF FEMININITY AND MASCULINITY JOHANNA LINDBERG (861222-0148) Berit Astrom Spring 2010-03-14 Department of Language Studies Umea University In this paper I will present an analysis of two fitness magazines, Self and Men’s Fitness. Having read a lot of fitness magazines myself, I am used to the way women’s magazines look and what approach they have, so I find it interesting to compare that to how fitness is presented in a magazine for men. The feature I have chosen to look closer at is food, how it is presented to reach a male and female audience respectively.
Since both of these magazines have a focus on fitness and healthy living I assume that the audience-specific differences should be relatively obvious. Food in Self: The title of this section is “Food and Diet”, implying a focus on healthy eating, but also, considering the double meaning of the word “diet”, a focus on weight loss. The subheading “Healthy eating, weight loss secrets, food news”, further emphasize the focus on dieting. In this way Self is a good example of a phenomenon I would say is symptomatic of women’s magazines. Concerning dieting one finds articles like “20 superfoods for weight oss”, “Eat more, lose weight” and “Cheese: slimming secrets”. Of course, slimming down is in many cases an important part of the process of getting fit, but when it dominates the discourse like this it creates an ideal that many women can’t live up to, even if they live a healthy life. There is also a constant focus on calories in all the recipes in Self, the goal is to eat as few as possible to stay slim. In my opinion the message get a little too one-sided, there is hardly any mentioning of the fact that when you work out you actually need to eat more calories than if you don’t.
Less calories, yes in some cases, but it is also important to think about eating the right type of calories. Food in Men’s Fitness: One only has to look at the title of the food section to suspect that the content focus on quite different aspects of eating. The title in Men’s Fitness is “Nutrition”, a very neutral word which to me signals another approach to food. The notion that being a real man has to do with eating a lot of meat is partly confirmed by looking at the recipes in Men’s Fitness.
The overwhelming majority of recipes include meat, but on the other hand one also finds many articles on the advantages of vegetables, for example “Go green to ward off ulcers” and “Farmer’s market picks”, which shows a more nuanced picture of manliness. Another distinct feature is the amount of attention paid to supplements and vitamins, either natural ones to build muscles or boost testosterone levels, or sport drinks and protein shakes. Overall there is a strong focus on building muscles, which seems to be the main objective for guys working out, for example “Protein: A guide to maximum muscle”.
Furthermore there are many recipes on healthy hamburgers and drinks and articles like “Hangover helpers”, and I get the feeling that they assume a stereotypic man loving his beer and fast food. Differences and similarities: A similarity between the two magazines is the focus on weight loss, but it seems to me that in Men’s Fitness the emphasis is on changing from obesity to a healthy weight, while in Self on top of that, there is a more obvious tacit message that slimming down will make you more attractive, sexy and give you a happier life.
Another seemingly stereotypic image that is confirmed by these magazines is women having a weakness for sweets. Concerning desserts, there is a whole section of dessert recipes in Self while I could only find one single recipe Men’s Fitness. However I wonder if this is only a stereotype or if it actually has some biological relevance. In my experience women do eat more sweets than men, though this might just as well be socially constructed behaviour underpinned by these kinds of magazines.
A stereotype of the perfect hostess serving home-baked desserts while still managing to stay slim is nevertheless promoted by articles like for example “Tasty treasures: Crowd pleasing party dishes in perfect stay-slim portions”. A distinct difference between these two magazines is the focus on the opposite sex. In Men’s Fitness there are constantly pictures of women present, under the heading “Why we work out”. This exemplifies the presentation of women as rewards for men who choose the right product, or in this case, chose to do the right work out (www. edia-awareness. ca). This somehow undermines the credibility of the health aspects of fitness also presented in the magazine. It shows a rather primitive image of men, not interested in a magazine without pictures of all but naked women. And at the same time it objectifies women in a, in my opinion rather retrogressive way. In Self on the other hand there are no pictures of men whatsoever, and I understand it as wanting to be a magazine for women and about women, a magazine to identify with. Conclusion:
I find that these magazines reinforce the stereotypic image of masculinity as muscles and femininity as slenderness. This might of course be explained to some extent by their focus on fitness and work out, since both are directed toward an audience already interested in fitness and health. However, I think there should be room for a broader and more inclusive way to look at masculinity and femininity even here. Works cited: www. self. com (2010-03-14) www. mensfitness. com (2010-03-14) www. media-awareness. ca/english/issues/stereotyping/men_and_masculinity/masculinity_advertising. cfm (2010-03-14)