Doing Sociology #3 – The Fashion Police: Gender and the Rules of Beauty DUE_______________________
Gender role socialization starts with a baby wrapped in pink or blue and continues to permeate every stage of our lives from there. Messages about what it means to be a girl or a boy are everywhere. We are told over and over, and in a million subtle ways, what is appropriate or desirable for each sex. Ideas about masculinity and femininity are played out innumerable times across an expanding media landscape. Gender norms reflect our ideals about beauty, style, fitness, and physical or sexual attractiveness, and examples of these ideal are on constant display – on our TVs and touch screens, in the grocery store, and at the bus stop. We can’t avoid them.
In this assignment, you will closely examine the covers of men’s and women’s magazines to discover what they have to say about gender and the rules of beauty. Choose one magazine that focuses on women’s fashion or fitness and one magazine that focuses on men’s fashion or fitness.
Some suggestions – For Women: Vogue, Elle, Essence, Glamour, Latina, InStyle, Shape, Women’s Health, Yoga, Runner’s World, etc. For Men: Details, Esquire, GQ, Maxim, Krave, Men’s Health, Men’s Journal, Men’s Journal, Outside, etc.
Locate a recent of issues of each of the two magazines you’ve chosen; you can find a hard copy at a bookstore, library, newsstand, or you can access a digital issues online. You will do a content analysis of each magazine cover. Immerse yourself in all the visual elements and text on each cover. Look at the general display and layout, the specific photos, and any other kinds of graphics. Scrutinize the headlines and which words were used. All of this becomes your data. As you examine the covers more closely, consider the following questions:
- How are the cover models presented? Describe their body type. Does it reflect the ideals for masculine and feminine beauty? How are they posing? What does their posture, facial expressions, gestures, or other physical attributes convey?
- How are the cover models styled? Describe their clothing, hair, makeup, and accessories. Are the cover models engaged in any activities? What do their actions (or inaction) tell us about who they are?
- What is the background or scene of the magazine cover? Does it appear to be taken in a studio, or is it a location shot of some kind? What does the background convey?
- What colors are used for the magazine cover? Look at the background, the title, and any kind of text or added graphics. What, if any, are the other visual aspects of the cover?
- What words and phrases appear on the cover? Which words are bold, italicized, in capital letters, in larger or smaller font sizes, and why? What is the overall tone? What are the explicit and implicit messages embedded in the words?
- As a whole, what are the major themes and patterns that emerge from the cover? DO these themes support or challenge gender norms and the rules of beauty? Besides gender, do other factors of intersectionality – race, class, age, or sexual orientation – seem to affect the message?
- Compare and contrast the women’s and the men’s magazines. What are the similarities and differences between the two covers, and how do you explain them? How do you think such magazines influence how we see ourselves and others?
Write a 3 page essay based on your answers to the above questions. Support your analysis with specific examples from your data. Attach copies of the magazine covers (in print or digital format) to your paper.
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