Media and Gender Stereotyping

Media and Gender Stereotyping

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Past research found that media culture, particularly magazines,
present stereotypical notions of gender. Gender stereotypes are not
inflexible, like a barometer stereotypes change to reflect both
societal and cultural values.

This research set out to study current gender stereotypes types in
four popular magazines (Marie Claire, GQ, Shape and Men's Health). The
advertisements were categorised into gender specific and gender
neutral adverts. The results found that the mode for gender specific
adverts for both men and women's magazines related to female specific
related adverts.

Although the findings did not support the prediction of stereotypical
gender specific advertising, the research itself was characterised by
a number of weaknesses.


Advertisements have appeared in print media since the invention of the
printing press in the 1500s. The usage of the term magazine itself
first came about with the publication of 'The Gentlemen's Magazine'
and 'The Lady's Magazine' in the 1730s by Edward Cave (1691-1754)
(Connor, G 2001).

Different types of magazines exist for just about every age and social
group, for any interest, hobby and lifestyle. Advertisers make use of
information gathered by agencies like ABC (Audit Bureau of
Circulation) and the NRS (National Readership Survey), who categorise
consumers by age, gender, occupation and socio-economic status. This
knowledge enables advertisers to design ad campaigns specific to their
target audience through the types of magazines they read (cited in
Magazines and Gender, 2004).

Even though adverts are designed with a specific audience in mind,
they are still developed to appeal to the vast majority within that
target audience; there is no resource, finance or capability to market
each unique individual. Advertisers exploit stereotypical gender types
to produce advertisement to have the widest appeal.

Societies have always had ways of differentiating between both men and
women, between masculinity and femininity through the assertion of
different attitudes and behaviour patterns onto each gender (as cited
in Gender and Identity, 2004).

It is therefore essential to distinguish between sex, gender and

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stereotype for purposes of the research. Sex refers to the biological
differences between males and females. Gender is the social, cultural
and psychological characteristics of being either male or female.
Stereotype is 'a standardised conception or image of a specific group
of people or objects' (Anon, 2004).

The traditional stereotypes of women as the secretary, housewife,
homemaker or impoverished single parent has been replaced by a more
modern stereotype, the successful, independent career focused woman.
In the same way a new sensitive male stereotype that is in touch with
his emotions and not intimidated by female equality has emerged to
replace the macho, dominant male stereotype of the past.

Looking in appendix 3, the 1950's Atlas, Bond and Desoto Adverts
portray exaggerated masculinity, these men are strong, tough, wild and
free. The cod liver oil (1950), post bran (1940) and coca cola ads
depict the women as caring mothers, serving housewives and socially
refined. The 1970's Levi ad goes a step further by portraying the
woman in the ad as being sexually promiscuous and the Hitachi (1980)
telephone ad has the woman playing the secretary.

Today women are portrayed as more feisty, confident, sophisticated,
successful and independent. The adverts as seen in appendix 2 portray
some of the qualities above but beauty is still unfortunately seen as
the paramount quality of a successful woman. There is albeit a tiny
move away from this as seen in one Dove advert (Marie Claire), which
goes against the norm of portraying women as thin models by using a
larger female to advertise there product. The men's adverts for
fashion and beauty portray a more caring sensitive side coupled with
confidence and sophistication.

Gender stereotypes are a natural occurrence which changes over time to
reflect current-day social ideologies.


The presence of gender stereotypical advertising should be clearly
discernable in gender specific magazines.


The aim of this study was to see how current advertising strategies in
popular magazines represent gender stereotypes within gender specific



Gender specific magazines will contain a higher proportion of gender
specific advertising compared to non-gender specific and neutral


Gender specific magazines do not contain gender specific advertising.


The method in which the research was carried out will be described


The study was a non-experimental study of advertisements in four
magazines (two magazines targeting women and two men). The two types
of magazines chosen were lifestyle and health. A number of gender
specific and neutral categories were created to classify the adverts.
For the women's magazines the categories were beauty, cosmetic surgery
and fashion; for the men's magazines the categories chosen were, cars,
technology and alcohol. Gender neutral fell into the created
categories travel & leisure, food & health and accessories. These
categories were selected to represent the majority of adverts found in
the selected magazines for both men and women.

The category beauty incorporated any and all beauty related products,
toiletries and perfumes. Cosmetic surgery included adverts promoting
weight loss. Technology encompassed a range from mobiles, all kinds of
electronic gadgets to home computers.


This was an analysis study and no participants were involved.


The magazine selection included the July 2004 edition of Marie Claire
(No 191) for women, the July 2004 edition of GQ (Gentlemen's
Quarterly) for men. The next two included the June 2004 edition of
Shape (issue 54) for women and the July 2004 edition of Men's Health.


(1) The researcher visited four retail outlets: Asda, Morrisons,
Sainsbury's and Tesco, where the researcher listed all magazines found
in the periodical section of each store.

(2) Selecting four major publications that would be found in any of
the above retail stores.

(3) The classification of adverts was decided based on the majority of
the type of adverts found in at least two of the magazines.

(4) Leafing through each of the magazines, the adverts were then
counted and categorised.

(5) The only other adverts that were considered were the cosmetic
surgery adverts found in the classified sections at the back of the


There were no ethical issues to take into consideration with regards
to the categorisation of the advertisements. The magazines chosen were
mainstream magazines available to the general public. No soft or
hard-core pornography magazines were considered.


The results of the survey were collated using a tally chart (see
Appendix 1) and a single bar chart was used to graphically display the


Marie Claire had a total of 338 pages, GQ had 240 pages, Shape had 138
pages and Men's Health had 194 pages.

Mere observation of the raw data table (Table 1) found in appendix 3,
shows that the number of beauty and cosmetic surgery adverts were far
higher in the women's magazine Marie Claire (18%) than in the men's
magazines. However the category beauty in the both GQ (9%) and Men's
Health (12%) had the highest category rating in comparison to any
other gender related category. The percentage of cosmetic surgery
adverts in Shape (13%) was higher than the category beauty (9%).

In general the percentage of female specific adverts were higher than
the male specific adverts as seen in Table 2 for both of the women's
magazines. The percentage of male specific categories found in Marie
Claire was seen to be between 1% and 2% whereas Shape featured no male
specific adverts at all. The occurrence of gender neutral adverts
ranged between 1% - 6% for both Marie Claire and Shape.

Female specific adverts for both cosmetic surgery and fashion were
each 3% in GQ and 2% in Men's health; these figures were still
somewhat lower than the male specific adverts. GQ had the same
percentage (4%) spread for all the male categories; in Men's Health
the percentage for Alcohol was 1%, Cars slightly higher figure at 4%
and 3% for technology. Gender-neutral ads had a similar percentage
spread in the men's magazines as seen in the women's magazines. Table
2 below lists all categories and there percentages for the four

Table 2: Total percentage take-up of advert categories:


Gender Type

Marie Claire



Men's Health







Cosmetic Surgery




































Food & Health






Travel & Leisure







The data for the categorization was nominal and so therefore the best
measure for central tendency was the mode. The category beauty had a
mode of 62 for Marie Claire, 21 for GQ and Men's Heath had a mode of
24 as seen in table 3. The mode for the magazine Shape was 18 for the
category cosmetic surgery.

Table 3: Summary of the mode measure of central tendency:

Marie Claire



Men's Health


Beauty (62)

Beauty (21)

Cosmetic Surgery (18)

Beauty (24)

The descriptive analyses of the modal scores show that the female
specific beauty related category rated high in all but one magazine
(Shape). The adverts found within the beauty category in Marie Claire
featured three times more than those beauty ads in GQ and Men's Health
as clearly seen in figure 1 below. Cosmetic surgery, closely linked to
beauty featured the highest in Shape (13%) where beauty took the
second spot at 9%.


Only two advertisements related to household products were found in
Marie Claire only, hardly a number to affect the overall statistics.
This is amazing when compared to past advertising where women were
synonymous with anything related to household products and appliances.



The aim of this study was to see how current advertising strategies in
popular magazines represent gender stereotypes within gender specific
advertising. The hypothesis that gender specific magazines hold a
higher proportion of gender specific advertising is disproved and the
null hypothesis accepted that gender specific magazines do not portray
gender specific advertising. The research found that whilst women
magazines advertise predominantly female specific adverts, the male
magazines and to some degree the women's magazines advertised within
all categories.


Background research suggested that stereotypical attitudes of male and
female gender roles from as far back as the 1800's were far more
traditional than the gender roles of today. However women today may be
seen to be more independent, career minded and successful but physical
attractiveness still is a paramount quality for a woman to have. In
current media beauty is seen to be synonymous with successful women.
Women may no longer be seen to be barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen
but the stereotype has only changed to value beauty and the pursuit of
the perfect body above all else.

Men have not escaped and they too have a stereotypical model that has
evolved to produce a New Age man who is sensitive, in touch with his
emotions and no longer depicted with exaggerated masculinity. The
prevalence of beauty adverts also point to the importance of physical
attractiveness in men.

It was interesting to see that in the women's magazine, the only men
seen in the adverts were in the background, otherwise women advertised
for women only. The same applied to the men's magazines; women
appeared vaguely in the background while men advertised for men with
exception of the condom and beck's beer ad from GQ (as seen in
appendix 2).

Even within the stereotypical gender types, a greater diversity of
different types continue to be created, this is probably due to the
necessity encompass a multi-cultural society that continues to change
and progress.

Magazines portray stereotypical images but then again magazines were
created to entertain and inform, publishers and advertisers alike do
not expect readers to take what they see page after page literally.

Advertisers will continue to use gender stereotypes to mass-market
products, services and initiatives. Stereotypes themselves will never
disappear; like clay, stereotypes have the ability to be molded into
taking on new shapes.


It was decided to exclude toddler and preschool magazines as the
advertising content was at a minimum. This is probably due to the fact
that young children do not have a large amount of disposable income
available to them.

Only four magazines were studied out of the approximate 120 titles
listed, which is not a representative sample. This sample bias is
already a methodological weakness for this research.

The research also did not take into account any ethnic type magazines,
only western magazines.


Advertisements in magazines are designed with a specific audience in
mind. The research would have possible benefited from a geographical
based questionnaire on what types of magazines people actually read.

It would be interesting to see how of stereotypical attitudes are
portrayed in more ethnic and orthodox societies.


Broadly speaking the research disproved the hypothesis that
stereotypical gender advertising continued to exist in magazines.
However the results are not necessarily indicative of possible
stereotypical gender types advertising found in other magazines.



Book references

1. Haralambos, M. and Rice, D. (2002). Psychology In Focus A Level.
Lancashire, Causeway Press p. 316

2. Haralambos, M. and Rice, D. (2002). Psychology In Focus A Level.
Lancashire, Causeway Press p. 554

3. Haralambos, M. and Rice, D. (2002). Psychology In Focus A Level.
Lancashire, Causeway Press p. 792

4. Pipher, M. (2002). Reviving Ophelia: Saving The Selves Of
Adolescent Girls. USA, The Ballantine Publishing Group

Internet References

5. Anon (2004), Gender and Identity

6. Anon (2004), Magazines and Gender

7. Anon (2004), Magazine and Journal. Encyclopaedia Britannica
Online .

8. Anon (2004), The Meaning and Significance of Stereotypes in
Popular Culture. .

9. Connor, G. (2001) Magazines

10. Gauntlett, D (2002) Media, Gender And Identity

11. Marcus, W. (1998) From The 70's To The 90's
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