Throughout the years, ever since stereotypes and gender roles were born, the world has been improving on accepting every single type of body, shape, skin color, hair type and flaw in both women and men.
Even though body positivity has improved, it still doesn’t mean that it is completely out of people’s minds. Still, most of the population in the United States have certain standards for what they think they should look like. In America, specially, there are so many stereotypes and “ideal” body images and a big way they are portrayed is through mass media or more specifically, in magazine covers. Social media, newspapers and magazines have all been set backs to a gender-role free country. According to psychologist Sam Famine, “a stereotype is a view or a characterization of a person or a group of persons based upon narrow and frequently incorrect assumptions. Stereotypes are used by those who cannot or will not take the time to notice what a person is really like.
They are particularly common in media because they are easier to create. Audiences and media production personnel both respond to them.” To create an argument and find valid points, research done by Sam Femiano, who is a psychologist in private psychotherapy practice in Massachusetts, is used. His research is used to create an idea of what the male stereotype looks like in media as a whole to be later related to the magazine cover of Boys’ Life. It does not talk about the women’s perception in the media yet thoroughly explains what a stereotype is in media. “Looks over brains” is something society is teaching young women and it has had such a big impact on what the media decides to publish today.
Brittany Vaughn wrote an article titled Why Does Society Value Beauty Over Brains?” She talks about how she was blessed with a high IQ and high athletic abilities yet she was constantly being judged on her looks. The following is an excerpt from her article: “Not only do I have to fight this mindset in order to focus on what truly matters to me, I also have to deal with the consequences—I am still judged first and foremost by my looks instead of my intelligence…we also have to fight against a culture that looks at our bodies before it even listens to what we are saying (if it listens at all).” Further proof is seen based on a statistics displayed by psychologist Carolyn Ross, who studies on why women hate their bodies and related her research to the amount of expectations that are placed all around mass media, 80 percent of women in the US are dissatisfied with their appearance.
And more than 10 million are suffering from eating disorders. Magazine covers, other than society itself brainwash women to think that thin is good and healthy and that they should strive to be slim; that their number one priority should be to take care of their physical appearance before anything else. For men, on the other hand, they are fed on the idea that they should be muscular, aggressive, intelligent, and leaders, expanding on Sam Famine’s research and article. The media shows this through the magazine covers now that is has become so common to generalize appearances and personalities. Boys’ Life and Girls’ Life are magazines that are targeted towards teenagers and are the counterpart to each other.
The September 2016 issue of Boys’ Life and Girls’ Life magazine caused a lot of controversy in the United States. The reason was because of the message portrayed in their cover or other words, the lack of a good message. The argument in the essay will be that both male and female stereotypes are greatly represented in the September issue of Boys’ Life and Girl’s Life magazine in many different ways including the following: advice given and suggested, content promoted in the cover, color symbolism and visuals used, manipulative strategies, tone, literary devices and marketing strategies. According to their website, Girls’ Life separates their magazines issues with: what is trending, style, fitness, crushes, life, books, fab up your life, fun and quizzes and Boys’ Life separates their magazine issues with: games, jokes, outdoors and gear, hobbies and projects, scouts and contests.
The authors of both Girls’ Life and Boys’ Life magazine covers are very precise in what to use in their covers to gather as much audience as possible having a specific target audience in mind. Even though it caused controversy due to the message portrayed in Boys’ Life magazine and not in Girls’ Life, recognized as encouraging men to follow the right path and concentrate on their future, there are still stereotypes and gender roles represented in both covers. II. Women and Men’s Stereotypes Teenagers now more than ever are being placed under stereotypes and have very limited and high expectation of what their personality should be like or what they should look like. Women and men have very different categories they are supposed to fit into and magazine covers are specially ones to promote them.
In the United States, both women and men go to social media to seek the latest trends to be able to “fit in” more so when you are a teenager. For women, social media depicts asks them to have be “thin and graceful, have a feminine personality and to have manners.” Men are asked to be smart and entrepreneurs, “aggressive, and to be tall and muscular.” Teenage girls are normally depicted to be immature, rebellious, immoral, shallow, gossipy and deceitful. They are also considered to be a sex object which contributes to physical appearance. Girls are pressured everyday to be thin. They are positioned to believe that thin is beautiful and that beautiful cannot happen any other way.
The United States is a country known for the social media and even though there are now more people who speak up about the effect that social media has on girls no magazines or any other type of social media seem to change what they are publishing. But they are expected to be responsible, friendly, law abiding, virtuous, intelligent, discreet, feminine and honest. Being feminine, according to women is to be weak, dependent on men, clueless, confused and not driven. Men are depicted to be rebellious, selfish, tough, lazy, reckless, deceitful, violent and obsessed with sex. But they are expected to be respectful, loyal, empathetic, industrious, responsible, honest and manly. Magazine covers always promote a healthy body, a smart mind and a driven and dominant way of thinking for men. According to men, being “manly” is being strong, courageous, having a lot of sex, fixing cars, being driven, successful and not caring what other people think; this is exactly what social media and magazines promote. This is what is wrong with society today and what magazine companies are still promoting in the United States.
III. Girls’ Life The stereotype of ideal body image is represented not only by the model featured in the cover but also by advertising makeup, hair and clothes. Body image is not only your weight but also the way you dress and how you physically look like. By the use of the title “Wake Up Pretty..
. because mornings are rough,” the magazine is implying there is a certain way a girl should wake up and generalize on how mornings can be a rough time. The audience, teen girls, now infer that morning a rough time for your face because you can look asleep and now open to read on what you can to do to look better in the morning. It makes girls think that they should be worrying about their appearance because “pretty” as used in the title, is used to describe appearance. It also is a term that generalizes and manipulated girls into thinking they should follow their content to make their appearance more ideal to the standard or more similar to what the magazine is describing as perfect. The stereotype now includes how girls are supposedly obsessed with what they look like. They are expected to always look pretty therefore by putting this type of content and title on their cover page, Girls’ Life gets the reader engaged because it goes along with the rest of society.
The magazine is more explicit with ideal body image with the hyperbole, “Your Dream Hair.” The specific word used here is “dream” which is often used as a synonym for perfection, hence the exaggeration. Like the other title, it is assuming the every girl’s hair should look a certain way. Below the title it says: “next level tips and trends.” This is the magazine promoting for every girl to follow what is on trend and popular at the moment. What it is implying is that, even their hair should fit into society’s standard which is what social media says and manipulates girls into thinking is the only way of being accepted. Not only do these stereotypes show through the titles but also with the model being featured. It is not only Girl’s Life Magazine who does this but they are showing a celebrity who is skinny, light skinned, wearing a lot of makeup and who has acceptable and desirable blonde hair according to society’s rules and expectations.
It might not be so explicit, but the model is portraying the stereotypes of that being skinny is beautiful, wearing makeup is feminine and having perfect hair and clothes is pretty. According to Elaine Shen, in her article “Finding the Perfect Cover: Exploring What Makes a Magazine Sell,” she says that color, images, tone and font, amongst many other factors, in the cover, all affect the sale of a magazine. In this Girl’s Life Issue, color and tone are strategically placed not only to sell, but they also portray the stereotypes. Majority of the cover is white which is normally associated with light, goodness, innocence, purity, and virginity. It is considered to be the color of perfection. Perfection is a key work when it comes to relating the color white to the stereotypes. The color purple also shown a lot in the cover evokes romantic and nostalgic feelings. It shows that girls all strive to be what society considers perfect via their clothes, hair, grades and social life.
The tone used in this cover is optimistic and informal, which normally also appeals to teenage girls as well. By not using any advanced language, it attracts a bigger audience of girls which implicitly covers the stereotype of prioritizing looks over intelligence and education. The third title in the cover that stands out is “The ‘New’ Denim Checklist.” Again, it is portraying that every girl should follow a certain rule that allows her to be accepted by society. Below the title it says: “Get ready to hear ‘I love your jeans’!” Here, even more than the rest of the magazine cover, there is an immense amount of pressure being created for girls to hear those types of comments only based on what they wear and physical appearance. They are being told that they have to look and dress a certain way just to be accepted which falls into the stereotype of girls always wanting to look perfect and be accepted for what they look like.
The stereotypes for girls that these titles of the cover also fit into are that girls are obsessed with clothes and fish for compliments all the time. The title is also generalizing and narrowing what a girl should wear and saying that whatever they put as content on their magazine the readers will love. A big stereotype for girls as well is that they always want to be in a relationship and that they worship relationships. Another stereotype is that they aspire to have a perfect relationship and get so stressed over little things involving a relationship. This is shown via two titles in the cover.
The first is “Confessions! My First Kiss. Real Girls smooch and spill.” Here not only is the magazine portraying the stereotype of girls being obsessed with relationships but also the one of girls being gossipy and always having something to say whether that is a secret or drama. The authors of the cover also make a big deal of what a first kiss is supposed to be and look like.
They generalize and put all girls into the category of relationship or boy obsessed. The second title that shows this is “Quiz! Are you ready for a boyfriend?” This makes it seem like what all girls are looking for in life or aspire to have is a relationship. Aside from this fitting into the stereotype, the purpose of the content is given via a quiz which manipulated a girl’s mind into answering differently that how she actually would just to have the result they desire which is a stereotype of them being feminine and perfect always. There are another two titles in the cover which fit into the stereotype of girls always having to gossip, have a big group of friends and being intelligent. Those include the following: “Best Year Ever. How to have fun, make friends and get all A’s” and “Bye, drama.
The friendship rules #squads swear by.” Again, these titles are very sexist just like the stereotypes they are advertising. They encourage a girl to think that making friends, getting all A’s and having a perfect friendship group is the only way to live because it is the only way of living accepted or seen in society. IV. Boys’ LifeThe issue of Boys’ Life that came out at the same time of Girls’ Life is a way more visual cover. It has more individual pictures than titles.
The biggest and only title written in the cover is “Explore your Future. Astronaut? Artist? Firefighter? Chef? Here’s how to be what you want to be.” The most dominant stereotype that fits into the title is being driven and ambitious. Boys are expected to always know what they want to do and to have a career in mind their whole life. They always seem to have a goal and they are stereotypes to work very hard to pursue it. The second and last title which is very small in the cover says and provides more insight as to what the magazine actually contains.
“Fighting fires on the runway… Three stories of scouts in action… Plus comics, jokes and much more!” This magazine cover actually lacks stereotypes considering the marketing strategy that these authors use is to give them what the audience wants to hear and accommodate their content to what is accepted in society. The stereotype portrayed here is not negative at all, it actually inspires boys to focus on their career path and to be inspired in whatever they want to be. The boys targeted as the audience are not being shamed for anything or targeted for anything in specific, it is just applying pressure in a positive way. The pictures that can be seen in the cover include a hammer, an FBI hat, construction machines, an airplane, a biology beaker, coins, a calculator, a telescope, a firefighter hat, a computer, a police badge, a dog being treated, a microphone, an astronaut helmet, a pencil, medical appliances, a fan, a spatula and various fingerprints.
Most of these pictures are considered to be something a man is connected to or something manly, as said by the men of the United States. According to a survey conducted by Stormline News, the manliest jobs, in no specific order are: “engineer, blacksmith, motor mechanic, chef, and surgeon.” All these careers are represented by an image in the cover yet there are no representation of other jobs that men occupy or want to follow, but are not considered “manly.” The stereotype of being manly comes up. Boys here are expected to find a job that pays a lot of money and are normally associated to construction, science, and some kind of doctor which is a stereotype being followed in the cover. Another way that stereotypes can be seen in this cover is through the selected colors and tone used. For example, the title, “Boys’ Life,” which is was first captures your attention, is in red.
Red is normally associated with energy, war, danger, strength, and power. The other color presented is black which again is associated with similar things like power, elegance, formality, death, evil, and mystery, all being connected to boy’s stereotype of being manly and powerful. The tone, like in Girls’ Life, is optimistic; it encourages the intended audience of male teenagers to be driven and value intelligence, careers and education over everything not mentioned in the cover, which ties back to the main stereotype of men being leaders and smart.The reason why not many stereotypes are portrayed in this cover, or the ones that are are not really negative is because its is proven that men who follow stereotypes are less attractive to women. The authors of Boys’ Life even though do try to manipulate boys into being a certain way, maybe they do it for the better and do not include all the negative stereotypes in the United States because it is less attractive for women which if flipped, is a stereotype in itself. Being attractive to women is considered to be a stereotype in itself.
Men alter themselves to be more appealing and sometimes may be their goal even though it is not very common unlike for women. Men are thought to be doing something for the sake of getting women or being more attractive therefore the magazine uses manipulative psychology to represent these stereotypes. V. ControversyFrom this controversial and sexist event of when the magazine covers issues and went into sale, a graphic designer from California, Katherine Young redesigned Girls’ Life magazine cover to be more like Boys’ Life magazine and focus on women’s future and not only their looks.
This caught the attention of many in social media. She designed the cover using an average teenage girl with no makeup on and replaced the titles with: “Girls Doing Good,” “100+ Ways to help Other in Your Community,” “Wake Up Hungry? Healthy foods to power you through rough days,” Best You Ever,” “Your Dream Career” and “Why Drama?” This caught the eye of many people since it showed what magazine companies should actually portray to help young women to be successful in the future and not focus on their appearance for the pleasure of other people. Like Boys’ Life, it leads women into creating an idea for their future and it helps them to create their own path. Katherine Young later on went to write a post on how girls shouldn’t be told they need a makeover rather than magazine cover need their own makeover. She says that it is not only one magazine but all of them that are portraying women’s an object and use way too unrealistic beauty standards in their covers. It also caught the attention of two very famous celebrities who are known for being ignoring gender roles and stereotypes while also known for calling out sexist and stereotypical posts and events, Amy Schumer and Blake Lively.
Amy Schumer, celebrity known for acting, posted a side by side comparison of both issues of Girls’ Life and Boys’ Life magazine with the caption “no.” Blake Lively, also famous for acting, reposted her post and said: “Wow. I second that emotion. Ladies, let’s not let this happen anymore…” The event, the publishing of both magazines issues were now in a bigger spotlight due to the fact that they got attention from two very big celebrities and now more people were writing about and calling out the authors and magazine owners. The authors of both Girls’ Life and Boys’ Life magazine covers have not spoken about the event or tried to defend themselves in any way. These magazine covers contain a lot of stereotypes.
But it is considered a marketing strategy. Studies have been conducted proving that teenage girls are more interested in reading content about makeup, clothes and life tips rather than reading a magazine that does not include the mentioned. Like all other magazine, there is always a model who is modified to fit a certain ideal which captivates the audience. Even though these studies might be true, all the stereotypes being portrayed in Girls’ Life magazine issue are negative and may sometimes be degrading towards women causing them to feel inferior to the rest of society. VI. ConclusionMagazine covers make women feel like they need the perfect body type, perfect skin, nails, hair and the perfect relationship while they make men feel like they need to have the perfect muscular body, be very fit, be athletic and be smart and technological.
Overall these titles in the magazine cover of Girls’ Life is not letting girls be unique, they just want them to fit into society and make them think is is necessary to be accepted a certain way or look a certain way. To state, stereotypes are portrayed in a way bigger scale in Girls’ Life Magazine that in Boys’ Life Magazine. The stereotypes portrayed in the Girls’ Life magazine covers included girls being obsessed with clothes, hair and looking an ideal shape, being thin, being obsessed with relationships or desire a relationship, having a lot of friends, and being smart and responsible. This is communicated and obtained from the titles and images viewed in the cover. It also stands out when compared to its counterpart, Boys’ Life magazine cover that came out with the same issue, September 2016 that portrays the stereotype of boys always being driven and ambitious and always looking for a career and achieving their lifelong goals. Even though it has less words and titles as the Girls’ Life magazine cover, with the few titles it does have and the abundance of images that represent future and potential career paths, the stereotypes are shown. The difference between the two is that Girls’ Life magazine is degrading and negative while the stereotype shown in Boys’ Life magazine are positive and can contribute to a better future of a teenager.
To refer back to the research question, Boys’ Life and Girls’ Life Magazine portray men and women stereotypes in the USA in many ways such as titles, visuals, color symbolism and messages of their content.