Wednesday, March 12, 2014
Women as a market from a Capitalist point of view.
We live in a consumerist society, in which our aspirations are defined by a collective set of values. These values are often either expressed or defined by our media, together with the numerous revenue enhancing advertisement campaigns that they run.
That set of merits is ever changing according to the social, political or economic changes that a country goes through its history. By examining or studying a nation’s history of media, we can create an accurate profile of a society or the values its people adopt and why.
Print publications are the oldest form of mass media, with magazines playing a significant role. Their importance, form, content, narrative and "commerciality" have drastically been altered through the years, reflecting the changes taking place in our world.
As societies evolved, the role of men and women comprising them also did. Women in particular have been the focus of most major reforms. Gaining voting rights, or the right to work and own property, have been the most significant landmarks in the evolution of our modern societies.
But according to many, that does not mean that women are not being subjected to pressure to conform to a different set of ideals. Their role this time is to be the driving force of the consumerist and capitalist system, by turning them into bigger and better consumers.
This idea was expressed by an iconic feminist, Gloria Steinem. She is a political activist, author, editor, and all-around advocate for equality. Her ideas on the role of the media, especially those of the women’s magazines, help us understand that the reason women’s magazines look the way they look, is much less about readers than it is about advertisers. (1)
Advertisers simply won’t place advertisements in women’s magazines unless they write about their products. Other magazines may be punished if they write negatively about some product area, but only women’s magazines have to write positively or they don’t get advertisements in the first place. (1)
A lot that women liked very much has gone out of women’s magazines, like fiction and articles that just aren’t about products. Women’s magazine editors have to sneak in a couple pages here and there about something that isn’t a product. They are more like catalogs and should be given away free, according to Steinem. (1)
Fashion in particular has generally been conceived as a form of hegemonic oppression, exerting an obligation to conform that weighs heavily on the female population. Fashion photographs generate enormous dissatisfaction among women, because they create unrealistic expectations that most women are unable to meet. (2)
Feminists argue that media images of women are always directed at men and that women are encouraged to look at themselves and other women, the way men do. This view of hegemonic femininity, as the feminists believe, is incorporating masculine standards for female appearance that emphasize physical attributes and sexuality. (3)
Young girls in particular, often express unhappiness and dissatisfaction that the magazines portray an unrealistic female image, especially in terms of body shape. (4) The magazines’ editors’ claim, is that they cannot control the choices of photographers and art personnel. (5)
These artists allegedly perceive that a certain look will create the best image aesthetically and will be well received by their peers in the art world. So in addition to the advertisers who manufacture and sell beauty products, there are others in the industry that influence the images appearing in the media, especially photographers who want their pictures to be beautiful. (5)
There is also a lack of editorial control based on the direct and indirect influence of advertisers. The editors report that there is a strong connection between the editorial pages of the magazines and the advertisement ones, which are purchased by corporations to sell their products. (6)
Ultimately, advertising is the vehicle through which magazines and other media exist and they could not survive financially without it. So when the magazines are dependent on pleasing the advertisers, they struggle between the organization and the advertisers over how women should be portrayed. (6)
In this way, modern women are bombarded with myriads of advertisements that are promoted as role model for them to aspire. A role model who requires a lot of money to spend on cosmetics, plastic surgery, hair products, clothes and accessories, in order to fit in with the dominant image of a woman in our era.
And so the struggle for women’s equality is partially driven not just by human rights, but also by the need of our capitalist system for more potential spenders. Ultimately women are perfect for that role, as to maintain the image that the media are promoting requires an ever increasing salary.
In fact the late modernity unshackles women from the patriarchal past, when they had limited freedoms, rights, money and spending power. In post industrial times the “feminization” of labor, holds young women in high esteem as flexible, presentable and capable worker. Now the new feminine subject is economically independent, liberated from the domestic sphere, realizing the possibility of “having it all”. (7)
This commercialization of our gender, sexuality and race is very important to the capitalist, consumerist societies that we live in. We are all turned into buyers as well as billboards, for companies to advertise their products with. We unwillingly become trade-able commodities, as the population and its buying power or habits, are analyzed, categorized and exploited by the markets.
1) Gloria Steinem. Women who made History. Miss Omni Media.
2) Gender, Race and Class in Media. Gail Dines, Jean M. Humez. Sage Publications. 2003. Gender and Hegemony in Fashion Magazines. Page 314.
3) Gender, Race and Class in Media. Gail Dines, Jean M. Humez. Sage Publications. 2003. Gender and Hegemony in Fashion Magazines. Page 315.
4) The Gendered Society Reader. Michael S. Kimmel and Amy Aronson. Oxford University Press. 2008. Contested Images of Femininity. Page 371.
5) The Gendered Society Reader. Michael S. Kimmel and Amy Aronson. Oxford University Press. 2008. Contested Images of Femininity. Page 372.
6) The Gendered Society Reader. Michael S. Kimmel and Amy Aronson. Oxford University Press. 2008. Contested Images of Femininity. Page 373.
7) Gender Youth and Culture. Global Masculinities and Femininities. Anoop Nayak and Mary Jane Kehily. Palgrave MacMillan Publishing. 2013. Gender relations in Late-Modernity: Young Femininities and the New Girl Order.