This essay seeks to investigate how women’s magazines, which are published in the twenty-first century, extend and maintain notions of femininity. Namely how the key concepts of Gramsci concept of Hegemony help us to understand the make-up of woman’s glossy magazines and by briefly studying a current magazine to view the editorial content. Gramsci’s concept of hegemony can be defined as power held by a ruling class over society, meaning its political, intellectual and moral authority or leadership must be predominant.
For Gramsci hegemony means rule by consent, rule by moral and intellectual authority or leadership (Gramsci, 1989). In Britain there are hundreds of glossy magazine’s trying to attract a particular segment of the market, whether they be aimed at women, teenage girls, or men. In 2001 the top 10 women’s magazines in Britain were Cosmopolitan, Glamour, Good House Keeping, Marie Claire, Prima, New Woman, Company, Women and Home, Elle (UK), and Vogue (Audit Bureau of Circulations, 2001).
These magazines are aimed at single women, homemakers and single career minded women. These all represent different ideals to the women reading them, about the way in which they dress and their opinions on their everyday life. These are the basic ideas that maintain notions of femininity, which I will now discuss. For many years women have struggled to gain respect from men especially in the nineteenth and twentieth century, where they have campaigned to be given the same kinds of opportunities as men are.
However it would appear that by reading most of the magazines that are available on the market, it would seem they represent a view of sexual empowerment for women readers, which is in alignment with the advertisers idea of female identity. Throughout many of these magazines women are seen to have limited power, i. e. the only power they have is a sexual one over men. This is evident in the October issue of ‘Cosmopolitan’ where a number of articles appear to emphasise this point, for example ”Flirty girl V’s Mystery Miss”, ”How to keep the sunshine in your relationship”, ”Male order orgasms” and ”Cosmo’s guide to sinful sex”.
This is also highlighted again within the magazine amongst the pages of make-up tips, hair tips and photos of the latest fashions for their readers to learn about and purchase. However all of these ideals about sexuality and empowerment all link nicely with the magazines wide range of advertising companies placing their product in the magazine. For example ‘it is seen that Cosmopolitan’s success with readers and advertisers is the result of the ability to link attractive elements to the consumption of goods and services’ (McCracken, Ellen, 1993).