Content analysis of print media

Material Information

Content analysis of print media Cosmopolitan vs. Maxim gender-specific stereotyping in advertising
Forsyth, Nicole
Publication Date:
Physical Description:
viii, 62 leaves : ; 28 cm


Subjects / Keywords:
Cosmopolitan (New York, N.Y. : 1952) ( lcsh )
Maxim (New York, N.Y.) ( lcsh )
Content analysis (Communication) ( lcsh )
Stereotypes (Social psychology) in advertising ( lcsh )
bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )


Includes bibliographical references (leaves 59-62).
General Note:
Department of Sociology
Statement of Responsibility:
by Nicole Forsyth.

Record Information

Source Institution:
|University of Colorado Denver
Holding Location:
Auraria Library
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
71778400 ( OCLC )
LD1193.L66 2006m F67 ( lcc )

Full Text
Nicole Forsyth
B.A., University of Colorado at Denver, 2001
A thesis submitted to the
University of Colorado at Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Master of Sociology
Liberal Arts and Sciences

This thesis for the Master of Sociology
degree by
Nicole Rebecca Forsyth
has been approved
Andrea Haar
H'lfr Ob

Forsyth, Nicole Rebecca (M.A. Liberal Arts and Sciences)
Content Analysis of Print Media: Cosmopolitan vs. Maxim Gender-Specific
Stereotyping in Advertising
Thesis directed by associate professor Candan Duran-Aydintug
The concept of identity has a long history in philosophy and became widely used
in sociological literature in the 1950s (Wrong 2000). Identity theory explains
social behavior in terms of the reciprocal relations between self and society using
any social tools available, including print media. This exploratory analysis aims to
understand the link between identity theory and advertising, specifically looking
at advertisements in select Cosmopolitan magazines, with a dominantly female
readership and Maxim magazines, with a dominantly male readership. The
factors looked at in this analysis revolve around whether men and women are
represented differently in advertising in Maxim as opposed to Cosmopolitan,
whether men and women are being realistically represented in magazine
advertisements, whether men and women are pictured in stereotypical roles in
advertisements, and if the older issues of both Cosmopolitan and Maxim portray
men and women differently than the newer issues. Results show that Maxim
shows more fantasy ads than Cosmopolitan. Both publishings show more non-
sexual ads over sexual ads, but Maxim's numbers are higher in the sexual
category when compared to Cosmopolitan. Cosmopolitans overbeautifying
numbers nearly double those of Maxim. Older Maxims features more fantasy ads
but less sexualized ads than the newer publishings. Newer Cosmopolitans shows
higher totals for sexual advertisements than the older version, but both eras of
Cosmopolitan have a fairly even split between fantasy and reality ads.
This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidates thesis. I
recommend its publication.

I dedicate this thesis to my best friend and sister Nicole for not letting me get
myself down and insisting I could do it when I thought I couldnt. Youre
unrelenting support and endless hours of help have shown me that the bond we
share knows no bounds.

Many thanks to Andrea Haar for a push in the right direction, encouragement, and
kind words. Also thank you Candan Duran-Aydintug for letting me in on all of
your vast wisdom. Without you, this thesis would not have been possible. Carlos
Reali, thank you for your help, reassurance, and important resources I needed to
get this done. I would also like to thank Cody, my loving boyfriend. Although
you did not help me directly with this product, you kept things under control at
home when I didnt have the strength or sanity to do it myself. Your support has
meant more to me than you know.

Cosmopolitan vs. Maxim............................1
Purpose of study..................................5
Scope of study....................................6
Content Analysis..................................8
Identity theory..................................10
Fantasy vs. Reality..............................29
Research questions and key issues................31
Definition of factors............................ 36

Maxim vs. Maxim.................................39
Cosmopolitan vs. Cosmopolitan...................44
Maxim vs. Cosmopolitan..........................49
5. DISCUSSION...........................................53

1. Old Maxim totals..........................................42
2. New Maxim totals..........................................43
3. Old Cosmopolitan totals...................................47
4. New Cosmopolitan totals...................................48
5. Totals for all magazines..................................52

Cosmopolitan and Maxim
Cosmopolitan, or simply Cosmo, is a magazine published monthly from
New York City by the Hearst Corporation. It was founded in 1886 as a magazine
for the whole family ( The current
2006 editor-in-chief is Kate White.
Through the years, Cosmopolitan magazine has been able to publish
versions in 32 languages such as Spanish, Swedish, Romanian, Russian and
French. It reaches readers in more than 100 countries worldwide. It was banned in
Singapore until recently ( In earlier
incarnations, such as under John Brisben Walker from 1889 to 1905, it was one of
America's leading markets for fiction, and for a briefer period was known for
important investigative journalism (
Circulation had been in decline for years until Helen Gurley Brown became chief
editor in 1965, and remodeled the magazine
( Then, Cosmopolitan became a
women's magazine complete with a sexy cover shot every month of a woman in a
low cut dress or bikini.

In recent years the magazine has become more sexually explicit in tone.
Cosmopolitan in the UK started in the early 1970s. It was well known for its
sexual explicitness, especially with strong sexual language, male nudity (although
not showing the genitals, or it would be considered pornographic) and sexual
themes such as rape (
Though Cosmopolitan is known for its sex advice and sex tips, the
magazine does also try to educate women in areas other than sexuality. Regular
features such as Guy Confessions, where men tell embarrassing stories, and
sections like Health Check, which has featured articles such as Cosmo Gyno
and Your Body: Curb your out of control winter appetite, are there not only for
entertainment value but to help women understand their bodies and even
recognize possible health problems. There are also gossip articles about
celebrities. However, Cosmopolitan does promote good mental and physical
health. Monthly sections titled Real Life Reads write about experiences women
have gone through, such as one woman's ordeal when her fiance was killed in
Iraq. There also is a section You, You, You, which contains a wide variety of
advice. Cosmo seems to have created a niche for itself because its content is
women oriented and allows a place for women to read about their bodies and
know that other women are going through the same experiences.

The magazine's increasingly sexual focus has led to some controversy,
especially since it is often sold in clear-view at checkout counters of family
grocery stores. Many parents are uncomfortable with their children reading
magazine headlines such as How to date 8 men at once and get away with it.
While Cosmo has evolved into a magazine that has features to attract both male
and female readers, female readers are still the most heavily engaged target
audience ( The magazine features
mostly feminine topics such as sex, makeup, hair tips, etc. Certain third-wave
feminists have argued that although the present iteration of Cosmo was started to
stop discrimination and empower women, it now contributes to women's
oppression by inspiring uneasiness over their physical image, due to the
magazine's venerated display of women's sexuality and statuesque body image
Maxim, comparable as a male version of Cosmopolitan, is an international
mens magazine that is prominent for depicting popular actresses, singers, and
female models in sexually alluring poses, usually wearing lingerie or other
explicit attire. The U.S. version of the magazine, unlike the European versions,
shows no nipples or genitalia. The first issue of Maxim was released in the UK in
May 1995 with Lisa Snowdon on the cover. The first American issue was released
on April 1,1997 with Christa Miller as the cover model. Maxim currently 16

different versions: the UK, the US, Canada, India, Belgium, Romania, the Czech
Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Korea, Mexico, Netherlands, Poland,
Portugal (although in this country the magazine is called Maxmen due to a
copyright infringement filed by a magazine for women called Maxima), Russia,
Serbia and Montenegro, Singapore, Spain, Thailand, Ukraine and a Spanish
language American edition. Maxim is the first mens magazine in India, having
been launched January 2006 (
In the USA, Wal-Mart has decided not to carry the magazine. It has been
widely speculated in the media that Wal-Mart's intent was to promote family
values and/or that the Walton family, owners of Wal-Mart, found the magazine
offensive. Nevertheless, the magazine is available in the Wal-Mart stores of
Mexico and Canada (
Other regular features of the magazine are short articles on subjects such
as sports, movies, television, video games, fashion, relationships, cars, crime, and
alcohol subjects considered to be of interest to the magazine's primary
audience of 18-35 year old males. Every issue also features extensive reviews and
endorsements of new products in these fields. A wireless version of the magazine
was launched in 2005 across cellular carriers in 20 countries in Europe and Asia

Maxim has a number of subsidiaries and competitors; the most notable of
these are Stuff, a subsidiary and FHM, a competitor.
On February 5th, 2006 Maxim launched their own radio channel on Sirius
Satellite Radio.
Purpose of the Study
Are men and women represented differently in advertising in Maxim as
opposed to Cosmopolitan? Are women and men being realistically represented in
magazine advertisements? Are women and men pictured in stereotypical roles in
advertisements? Do the older issues of both Cosmopolitan and Maxim portray
men and women differently than the newer issues? Is there more or less gender
stereotyping in the older issues compared to the newer ones? Drawing largely
from the identity theory, I plan to answer each of these questions based on the
results of coding the advertisements from various Maxim and Cosmopolitan
magazines. Identity theory has a strong link to advertisements because
advertisements are one of many tools society uses to tell people what is popular or
hip in fashion, including makeup and clothing, technology, entertainment, dieting,
and even personal hygiene. People rely heavily on this tool as a validation of
their own personal worth. People play a variety of roles in their lives, and they
look to advertisements to let them know the latest products that will fit or enhance
the roles they play. For example, in the business world, people need to have the

latest technology to make their jobs easier and more efficient. Media and
advertising tells us that high speed Internet is much faster and more efficient than
dial up. If you are lacking in the latest technology, you are behind in the times
and society will view you as not working to your full potential, because it is
assumed then that your potential is connected to the gadgets that you hold. Then
you might worry that your colleagues will think you are slacking and use your
lack of technical progressiveness to further their own career. Your identity as a
competent businessperson will become unfavorable. The same can occur with
different advertisements as they relate to different role identities.
Scone of the Study
This study looks specifically at similarities and differences between the
female-based Cosmopolitan magazine and the male-based Maxim magazine. I
looked at the advertisements in these magazines in an attempt to extract gender-
role differences embedded within the magazine. I chose to evaluate these
magazines in particular because they are very similar with regards to the topics
they address. Both are geared towards late teen to thirty-something readers, and
both mainly report on modem social trends. I felt it was very important to use
Maxim to compare with Cosmopolitan because no other mens magazine can truly
parallel Cosmopolitan as Maxim does. Other mens magazines focus exclusively

on more specific things like health, sex, finance, sports, or entertainment. Maxim,
like Cosmopolitan is a mixing pot of all of these things tied into one magazine.
One of the main limitations of this study is the time span. Since Maxim is
a relatively new publication, it was not possible to go back more than seven years
for this study. Understanding the difficulty in finding significant changes in
advertising over only a seven-year period, I was very insistent that this be the
magazine to compare with Cosmopolitan because of the aforementioned reasons.
Even though there are many mens magazines that have been out for a more
substantial period of time, they simply do not compare amicably with
Another limitation is that the earliest versions of Maxim magazine are
limited for advertisements because they had not yet become an established
publication at that time. Therefore; there are far fewer advertisements in the older
issues than in the newer ones.

Content Analysis
The method of content analysis enables the researcher to include large
amounts of textual information and identify systematically its properties by
detecting the more important structures of its communication content. Yet such
amounts of textual information must be categorized according to a certain
theoretical framework, which will inform the data analysis, providing at the end a
meaningful reading of content under scrutiny (Weber, 1990).
Content analysis has become an increasingly important tool in the
measurement of success in public relations programs, notably media relations
programs, and the assessment of media profiles. In these circumstances, content
analysis is an element of media evaluation or media analysis. In analyses of this
type, data from content analysis are usually combined with media data including
circulation, readership, number of viewers and listeners, frequency of publication
(Wimmer and Dominick, 2005).
As an evaluation approach, content analysis is considered to be quasi-
evaluation because content analysis judgments need not be based on value
statements. Instead, they can be based on knowledge. Such content analyses are

not evaluations. On the other hand, when content analysis judgments are based on
values, such studies are evaluations (Frisbie, 1986).
According to KrippendorfF (2004), six questions must be addressed in
every content analysis:
1. Which data are analyzed?
2. How are they defined?
3. What is the population from which they are drawn?
4. What is the context relative to which the data are analyzed?
5. What are the boundaries of the analysis?
6. What is the target of the inferences?
Qualitatively, content analysis can involve any kind of analysis where
communication content (speech, written text, interviews, images ...) is categorized
and classified. In its beginnings, using the first newspapers at the end of 19th
century, analysis was done manually by measuring the number of lines and
amount of space given a subject (Berelson, 1971). With the rise of common
computing facilities like PCs, computer-based methods of analysis are growing in
popularity. Answers to open ended questions, newspaper articles, political party
manifestoes, medical records or systematic observations in experiments can all be
subject to systematic analysis of textual data. By having contents of
communication available in form of machine readable texts, the input is analyzed

for frequencies and coded into categories for building up inferences (Berelson,
1971). Robert Philip Weber (1990) notes: To make valid inferences from the
text, it is important that the classification procedure be reliable in the sense of
being consistent: Different people should code the same text in the same way (p.
12). The validity, inter-coder reliability and intra-coder reliability are subject to
intense methodological research efforts over long years (Krippendorf, 2004).
Identity Theory
The concept of identity has a long history in philosophy and became
widely used in sociological literature in the 1950s (Wrong 2000). The works of
Mead and Cooley marks identity studies. Studies focusing on the individual
dominated the field through the 1970s (Cerulo 1997). Identity formation has
moved from being conceptualized as a static, psychological development to a
more social process involving the interaction of individuals (Wrong 2000, Yeh &
Huang 1996, House 1977).
Identity theory is a microsociological theory that sets out to explain
individuals' role-related behaviors. This theory places its major theoretical
emphasis on a multifaceted self that mediates the relationship between social
structure and individual behavior. It is strongly associated with the symbolic
interactionist view that society affects social behavior through its influence on self
(Mead 1934).

Symbolic interactionists such as Mead (1934) considered the self to be a
product of social interaction, in that people come to know who they are through
their interactions with others. This comes in to play with advertisements in
magazines because the consumer has to be extremely impressed in order to be
attracted to a product. The product must make the consumer's life easier, improve
his/her life in some way, and/or make him/her more socially acceptable, so it
becomes the challenge of advertising companies to find out how they can appeal
to the consumer through their advertising. Because of their ability to shape
consensual images and definitions of femininity, women's magazines exert
cultural leadership in struggles surrounding what it means to be a woman
(McCracken 1993). This attribution of leadership is based on the seemingly self-
evident claim that these magazines shape both a woman's view of herself and
society's view of her (Ferguson 1983).
Stryker proposed that we have distinct components of self called role
identities for each of the role positions in society that we occupy (Stryker 1968,
1980). Role identities are self-conceptions or self-definitions that people apply to
themselves as a consequence of the structural role position they occupy, and
through a process of labeling as a member of a particular social category (Burke
1980). Society tends to place labels on people when they are perceived to be a
particular type of person within the society. The middle-aged woman with

children is generally associated with the soccer mom, and advertisers respond to
the societal stereotype by pushing certain products toward these individuals, such
as minivans, because they assume that is what the middle-aged mother would
Fashion and beauty culture were denounced throughout the 1970s, often
by feminists, as submission to patriarchal exclusion of femininity, and yet at the
same time they were recognized as one of the few legitimate avenues of women's
creative self-expression by society as a whole.
Women look at advertisements in magazines and many times do not see
themselves, but a picture of what they want to be and what society finds to be
acceptable. They then can say, I find that product appealing, and others find it
appealing as well, so it must be a good product. This is, of course, what
advertisers want their consumers to say, thus the challenge to find out how to get
this reaction from the consumer.
Identity is the pivotal concept linking social structure with individual
action; thus the prediction of behavior requires an analysis of the relationship
between self and social structure. From an identity theory perspective, a role is a
set of expectations prescribing behavior that is considered appropriate by others
(Simon 1992). Satisfactory enactment of roles not only confirms and validates a
person's status as a role member, but also reflects positively on self-evaluation.

Psychological distress may arise if feedback from others is perceived to be
divergent from one's own identity. This may be the case in many women's
magazines where advertisers overemphasize sexuality and the importance of
physical attractiveness in an attempt to sell products. Advertising images have
also been accused of setting unrealistic ideals for males, and men and boys are
beginning to risk their health to achieve the well-built media standard. Research
has showed an alarming increase in men and boys in obsessive weight training
and use of anabolic steroids and dietary supplements that promise bigger muscles
or more stamina for lifting (Shallek-Klein 1999). Research has also found that
advertisers purposely normalize unrealistically thin bodies in order to create an
unattainable desire that can drive product consumption (Hamburg 1998).
In attempting to mold their appearances to meet the current ideal,
numerous women are literally starving themselves to death. The incidence of
eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia, has doubled during the
last two decades (Dittrich 2006). This increase is no longer limited to women in
their teens and twenties, but is increasingly diagnosed in patients during their
thirties and forties. One of the negative psychological side effects associated with
eating disorders is the patient's distortion of their own body image.
In a sample of Stanford undergraduate and graduate students, 68 percent
felt worse about their own appearance after looking through women's magazines

(Dittrich 2006.) One study found that 47 percent of girls were influenced by
magazine pictures to want to lose weight, but only 29 percent were actually
overweight (PR, 1999). Extensive evidence shows that similar perceptions exist
in men. In a study measuring the effects of magazine portrayals of men on the
body image of college males, participants were asked to observe two posters
containing pictures of attractive men from two men's popular fitness and fashion
magazines for five minutes each and then answer questions about their feelings.
Results conclude that these men were realistic in their perception of their bodies
compared to actual measurements. However, they were dissatisfied with their
body and desired to lose or gain weight as well as change the appearance of
various body parts (Smith 2001).
Identity theorists focus on the self-defining roles that people occupy in
society, rather than on the wider range of different social attributes that can be
associated to the self. These latter attributes, which might include gender, race,
and ethnicity function as master statuses (Stryker 1987) because in many contexts
they override all other characteristics of the person.
Identity theory links role identities to behavioral and affective outcomes,
and acknowledges that some identities have more self-relevance than others. Role
identities are organized in a hierarchy in the self-concept with regard to the
probability that they will form the basis for action. Those positioned near the top

of the hierarchy are more likely to be invoked in a particular situation, and hence,
more self-defining than those near the bottom (McCall and Simmons 1978;
Stryker 1968). Identity salience is conceptualized as the likelihood that the
identity will be involved in diverse situations.
The direct and explicit implication of this behavioral notion of identity
salience is that identities positioned higher in the salience hierarchy are tied more
closely to behavior. Thus, people with the same role identities may behave
differently in a given context because of differences in identity salience (Thoits
1991). This relates to magazine advertisements because advertisers often have ads
to appeal to different audiences for the same product. For example, one magazine
could be advertising for Dell computers and have a picture of a college student
sitting in front of the computer in their dorm room, while the same ad in another
magazine could be slightly altered with a picture of a business man or woman
dressed in a nice suit sitting in their office in front of a Dell computer. Both of
these targeted groups have the same role identity as a working person, but each
takes that role in a different direction. The difference in behavior is due to
differences in identity salience.
As well as affecting behavior, salient identities have affective outcomes:
their enactment should exert more influence than do identities lower in the
hierarchy on a persons sense of self-meaning, feeling of self-worth, and level of

psychological well-being (Thoits 1991). Role congruent behaviors have self-
evaluative implications which vary according to the relative importance of the
different components of self.
In addition to behavioral and affective outcomes, identity salience
influences people's relationships, particularly their perceptions and evaluations of
others (McCall and Simmons 1978). Although not fully developed, one proposal
states that salient identities are associated with positive evaluations of others who
occupy the same role. Another more fully explored proposal is that the number
and importance of social relationships founded on a particular role identity may
influence the salience of that identity (McCall and Simmons 1978). This idea is
captured by the notion of commitment.
Identity theory proposes that the salience of a particular identity will be
determined by the person's commitment to that role. Commitment, defined as
the degree to which the individual's relationships to particular others are
dependent on being a given kind of person (Stryker and Stratham 1985; 345),
reflects the extent to which important significant others are judged to want the
person to occupy a particular role position. Commitment to a particular role
identity is high if people perceive that many of their important social relationships
are predicted on being that role. Advertisers have to be particularly attentive to
this commitment. They must ask themselves, what different roles do readers of

this magazine encompass? How can we appeal to all women or all men through
just one advertisement? If advertisers do not meet this challenge, they run the risk
of losing potential consumers, or worse, offending the consumer.
Stryker (1968) names two types of commitment, which are interactional
commitment and affective commitment. Stryker identifies the latter as reflecting
the number of roles associated with a particular identity. The former refers to the
importance of the relationships associated with the identity. The more strongly
committed a person is to an identity, the higher the level of identity salience will
In summary, society in the form of role positions provides a person with a
sense of self-meaning and influences social behavior through these role-related
components of self. Hence, the impact of society on behavior is mediated by self-
referent role identities. Identity theory distinguishes among identities in terms of
their hierarchical position in a persons structure of identities. This distinction is
used to account for variation in behavioral choice and that has implications for
affective outcomes. The relative salience of different identities is based on the
number and strength of important social relationships that depend on the
occupancy of specific roles.

The continuum of advertising that now underlies nearly 90 percent of the
pages of most womens magazines has not always been a structural constant. The
importance of advertising in womens magazines was only realized in the 1890s
when the ladies papers were able to keep their price to sixpence instead of the
shilling they would have had to charge if they had depended on cover price alone.
This proportion of advertising revenue to cover price profits is almost exactly the
same as that quoted for Cosmopolitan (Winship, 1987). Also in the 1890s,
magazines had begun to include pages of advertisements in the body of their text.
Previously, between 1825-1850 when several thousand new magazines were
started, advertising made only a preliminary appearance and was confined chiefly
to the covers of expensive magazines or to four or eight page inserts (Tebbel,
1969). Even more importantly, magazines were able to link commodity
consumption with their production of models of ideal femininity on one hand
and visual pleasure on the other. By 1900, content had increased dramatically to
72 pages from the original eight because more advertising was sold.
In todays society, purchased advertising makes up between 50 and 60
percent of most womens magazines and editorial manner between 40 and 50
percent. Although many readers may enjoy the ads, publishers want people to
feel they are getting a good amount of editorial amount for their money.

In a culture of consumption, represented most powerfully by the
advertisement, the appearance of a womens magazine is more than the modes of
technology or finance employed in its production. It is also, crucially, a matter of
how readers define themselves and are defined by the magazine. Everywhere we
turn, advertisements tell us what it means to be a desirable man or woman. For a
man, the message is manifold: he must be powerful, rich, confident, and athletic.
For a woman, the messages all share a common theme: She must be beautiful.
Advertising, of course, did not invent the notion that women should be valued as
ornaments; women have historically been measured against cultural ideals of
beauty (McCracken 1993). But advertising has joined forces with sexism to make
images of the beauty ideal more pervasive, and more unattainable, than ever
Advertising categories shape the cultural attributes of a magazine. For
example, while Cosmopolitan published 888 ad pages for toiletries and cosmetics
in 1981, Family Circle ran 160 in this category. In contrast, Cosmopolitan ran
only 34 ad pages for food and food products while Family Circle ran 479
(McCracken 1993). Magazines consciously develop their editorial material to
offer an appropriate showcase for their advertisers products.
Advertising in magazines continued to grow largely because of industry
growth. Also, crucial to the increased distribution of goods was the creation of

fancied needs; businesses wanted people to buy not simply for basic needs but for
the needs of industry. Because women were the major purchasers of consumer
goods, making 80 percent of family purchases in the early 1900s (Ewen 1976),
much advertising addressed women. Because women are still the principal
purchasers of consumer goods, womens magazines constitute the largest group in
the industry and contain immense numbers of ad pages. The publishing industry
has made changes that are, for the most part, minor. Traditional womens
magazines have updated their methods of urging women to buy and some claim to
attract male readers as well. Several new publications address more specialized
sectors of women with high purchasing power. The strength of the womens
magazine category rests principally on the crucial role of women in the
consumption process and on the ability of this magazine group to adapt to social
change, even if superficially.
Ads instruct us to assume a self-conscious perspective and to view our
physical selves through the censorious eyes of others. To those of us who grew up
in the consumer culture, intense self-scrutiny has become an automatic reflex. But
this reflex is not God-given; it is the product of decades of deliberate marketing
effort. Since the birth of the modem advertising industry in the 1920s, marketers
have sought to foster insecurity in consumers. One advertiser, writing in the trade
journal Printer's Ink in 1926, noted that effective ads must make [the viewer]

self-conscious about matter of course things such as enlarged nose pores, bad
breath. Another commented advertising helps to keep the masses dissatisfied
with their mode of life, discontented with the ugly things around them. Satisfied
customers are not as profitable as discontented ones (Ewen 1976).
The material that advertising tries to sell is never sufficient in itself.
Advertising must be validated, often only in fantasy, by additional meanings. For
example, womens magazine ads promise that shampoo will bring women male
attention or that a dress will assure success on the job, although neither product
will satisfy these needs in practice. Ultimately, advertising does more than sell
products. The cultural patterns of the system of fantasy begin to take root in
society, becoming a system of communication in their own right. People respond
to each others displayed signals which symbolize ones having made the
correct purchases. Consumers use products as a means of expression and
eventually come to depend on the system of fantasy (Ewen 1976).
The idea of fantasy advertising is also apparent in mens magazines. In
his analysis of gender in advertising, author and University of North Texas
professor Steve Craig argues that women tend to be presented as rewards for
men who choose the right product. He describes such commercials as narratives
of playful escapades away from home and family. They operate, he says, at the
level of fantasy, presenting idealized portrayals of men and women. When he

focused specifically on beer commercials, Craig found that the men were
invariably virile, slim and white, and the women always eager for male
companionship ( These advertisements
suggest that if you drink a certain kind of beer, women will find you attractive. Of
course in real life, this is not the case. Generally, women do not walk up to men at
bars and say, Hey, that brand of beer your drinking makes you look sexy.
Hence, fantasy must be used in these advertisements to give men the illusion that
this could happen to them in order to sell the product.
Many view advertising in womens magazines simply as a series of
pleasurable images, even though conscious to some degree that its purpose is to
sell products and services. However, these images are rooted as well in the
economic system of consumer goods distribution. The information, for example,
that a magazine charges over $100,000 for an ad on its back cover, a cost that is
often passed on in some form to consumers who buy advertised products,
materially reconfigures the pleasurable signs of the ad (McCracken 1993).
The number of advertising pages sold per issue is one of the most
important signs of a magazines fiscal health and advertisers confidence in the
publications ability to promote products. Vogue and Cosmopolitan have the
highest number of ad pages of the womens magazines and were ranked tenth and

seventeenth respectively of all US consumer magazines by ad pages for 1982 (The
Folio 1983J.
Turning to the back cover of the October 2005 Cosmopolitan, we are
drawn to a close up of an attractive African-American woman looking longingly
off in the distance. The womans face is illuminated with just the right amount of
light so her lips, covered in a luxurious shiny pink lipstick, shimmer and her
perfectly separated and mascara coated eyelashes highlight her radiant hazel eyes.
The background is darkened along with the womans shoulders to focus all of the
attention on the beautiful womans face. Stretched across the length of the entire
page at the top is the word COVERGIRL in white so as to contrast the dark
background, making it particularly visible. At the bottom right comer, a tube of
mascara floats on the page almost magically with the open wand of the mascara
tube floating next to it to display the bristles of the mascara brush. In tiny letters
towards the bottom of the page, it reads, Want to make the other mascaras
jealous? Below in larger letters it reads, Throw em a curve. By purchasing it,
the ad suggests, we will have full, separated, clump-free lashes.. .faster than you
can say fantastic
Each day millions of women engage pleasurably with ads such as this.
Like any language, the systems of meaning configured in advertisements are
value-laden. Beneath the pleasurable and seemingly innocent appearance of

purchased ads are subtexts and codes that articulate ideology. Beyond their overt
roles of selling products, ads present selected value systems as merely common
All advertisements address us with one or more signifiers. It has been
argued that we learn to identify ourselves according to the way we are addressed.
If we respond when someone calls to us, Hey cutie, we are admitting that this
signifier may refer to us. When we respond to a given form of address, be it
proper name, a title, or an advertising image, we are tacitly agreeing that this is a
conceivable and appropriate means of addressing us.
In the case of advertisements, if our self-concept does not already
correspond to the form in which we are addressed, the ad encourages us to learn
to see ourselves in this way. Some women, for example, may see a Maybelline ad
for cover stick aimed at reducing redness and circles under the eyes, and never
before worried about circles under their eyes. The ads task is to convince women
to see this alleged problem in themselves and to feel the need to purchase the
cover stick.
Ads utilize a variety of modes of address. Frequently, the slogan or
headline speaks to us declaratively in direct address, for example, what makes
you different is what makes you beautiful (Estee Lauder Individualist makeup,
Cosmopolitan, October 2005, pp.1-2) or with an imperative, Do try this at home

(Olay Regenerist peel system, Cosmopolitan, October 2005, p. 7). Ads address us
through their visual images as well and often the visual and verbal elements work
together to interpellate.
One famous ad series for Bass shoes uses the single verbal imperative Go
bass or go barefoot. Usually several women are shown barefoot in the
background of the ad, having left their shoes displayed for us in the foreground
{Mademoiselle, January 1981, pp. 20-1). In each ad, however, there is at least one
more pair of shoes than the number of women in the picture. The extra pair of
shoes is a subtle means of calling out to us. It addresses us visually with the
message that this pair is for us. Another variation reverses the interpellation using
signifiers; here we see the feet of eleven women; ten are wearing Bass shoes
while one is barefoot {Mademoiselle, February 1982, p. 103). Now the visual
image of bare feet, rather than the extra shoes, addresses us, suggesting that we
are inadequate like the woman without shoes in the photo who, in addition, does
not have painted toenails as do the other models. Without Bass shoes, these ads
imply, we might as well go barefoot. This either-or dichotomy intends to arouse
feelings of inadequacy in the potential consumer while at the same time offering a
concrete alternative that calls out to us directly. The extra pair of shoes or the
single pair of bare feet invite the reader to become part of the group of attractive
women in these ads who wear Bass shoes.

Mens visual reification of women permeates many levels of society.
Although staring is usually considered rude in our culture, mens staring at
women in womens magazines or vice versa in mens magazines is usually
exempt from this proscription. In advertising, the position of the camera
sometimes coincides with a male perspective of the women portrayed, or vice
versa, especially in magazines from the 80s. Women frequently internalize the
male surveyors view of their appearance so that this cultural construct becomes
their own view of themselves. In womens magazines, there are numerous
varieties of the implicit male vision which, although part of the symbolic code,
are often presented as natural, objective pictures of women.
One such ad for Borgata Hotel and Casino in the September 2005 issue of
Maxim features a pair in what appears to be an indoor swimming pool. They are
both in full eveningwear wading around in the pool. The woman is pictured in the
forefront wearing a beautiful gold gown with full makeup. She is looking down
at the water smiling uncomfortably. In the background is a blurred vision of a
male companion also in the water up to his waist in a business suit. He is holding
a drink in one hand while casually leaning against the side of the pool. He is
looking at the woman pictured in the forefront with great approval and a wide
smile is stretched across his face.

It is reasonable to believe that in real life, this would never happen. The
pair would likely be ejected from the hotel for this type of behavior, and their
beautiful eveningwear would be ruined. However, the ad makes it seem as if this
is natural behavior, and the couple is simply being spontaneous and flirty. They
do not seem to care about the hundreds of dollars wasted on their attire, and they
look even less worried about the fact that their behavior could cause them to be
kicked out of the hotel. In real life, these are things normal people would be
concerned about.
As we study the creation of meaning in ads, focusing on the value-laden
systems that structure the pleasurable images, we begin the work of becoming
critical, articulate receivers of mass culture. Advertising texts may attract us, but
when we are aware of their value systems and subtexts we will read them
differently. We must also remain aware of the utopian elements at work in many
advertising texts. How does the ad present us with attractive fantasies and other
pleasures to make us buy a product? While often these levels of pleasure remain
intact even after critical analysis of an ad, it is helpful to understand this utopian
pleasure and fantasy as the rewards that mass culture offers for our consenting to
remain passive (Williams, 1980). Utopian fantasies in ads can intimidate us at the
same time that they give us pleasure.

Advertising has historically perpetuated attractive body types. Body
image and girls understanding of it change with new advertising trends.
Throughout history and through cross-section of cultures, women have
transformed their appearances to conform to a beauty ideal. Ancient Chinese
aristocrats bound their feet as a show of femininity; American and European
women in the 1800s cinched in their waists so tightly, some suffered internal
damage; in some African cultures women continue to wear plates in their lower
lips, continually stretching the skin to receive plates of larger size. The worlds
ideal of beauty has continually focused on women's bodies: the tiny waist of the
Victorian period, the boyish figure in vogue during the flapper era, and the
voluptuous curves that were the measure of beauty between the 1930s and 1950s.
Current standards emphasize a toned, slender look, one that exudes fitness, youth,
and health.
The range of actual body types in the past was no different than today.
What has changed is what has been set up as the ideal. As quoted by Katie Ford of
Ford Models, studies have shown that while almost 25 years ago, the average
model weighed 8% less than the average American women, todays model weighs
23% below the national average. The effect of many current advertising methods
is that the body is turned into a thing, an object, a package. In many ads, bodies
are separated into individual parts: legs, breasts, thighs, waists; the result is that

the body becomes separated from the woman. It then becomes acceptable for the
woman's body to be scrutinized. Women's bodies receive large amounts of
attention and comment and are a vehicle for the expression of a wide range of
Fantasy vs. reality
Do real women want to buy their beauty products from regular women or
from size two supermodels? Frances Grill, founder of the Click Model Agency,
doesn't think that supermodels have anything to worry about. Grill believes that
when people pick up magazines, they are looking for the fantasy and the illusion
and are drawn in by glamour. She insists that although regular people don't see
this when they look in a mirror, they can fantasize it
Dove is banking on her being wrong. Dove skin cream campaign has
begun featuring real women with real curves in its latest advertising scheme. Gina
Carnegie, a model for Dove explains that these ads are not about fantasy, but
rather celebrating reality. Ironically, Carnegie, a size 6, was told by a modeling
agency she applied to work for that they do not work with plus sizes. A
representative of Dove says that women will relate more to the models, and men
will see the women as more attainable and think of their wives, rather than

unattainable, perfect supermodels
The people pictured in magazine ads or television commercials are
abstract people. This is not to say they are Active characters. In a play or
television series, actors generally portray particular people with particular names
who, in the Active universe they occupy, exist in a set of relations with other
Actional characters and have a range of meanings within that world. An
advertisement is not like this, it does not construct a fully Active world. The actor
or model does not play a particular person but a social type or a demographic
category. A television actress, for instance, will be asked to audition for
commercials that call for a twenty-six to thirty-Ave-year-old P&G housewife.
She is not supposed to represent a twenty-six-year-old or a thirty-year-old or a
thirty-Ave-year-old but a twenty-six to thirty-Ave-year-old housewife, the sort
likely to buy Procter & Gamble products. The age range from twenty-six to thirty-
Ave corresponds not so much to a physical type as to a presumed social type with
predictable consumer patterns. It is a demographic grouping used for market
research. An actress seeking a role in a television commercial is expected to have
two wardrobes ready for auditionsstandard and upscale. She is to represent
either the middle-American housewife or the affluent American housewife, but
never a particular person (Schudson, 1984).

Research Questions and Key Issues
What do the advertisements say about the magazine, the readers, and the
products? What kind of vibe is the advertisement trying to give off? Can the
advertisement be seen as insulting to certain people or minority groups? Does the
advertisement portray minorities in a fair and appropriate way? How do people
view themselves through advertisements? Does it affect their self-view? Do
certain advertisements make a person feel better, worse, or neutral about their
own self-image? Analyzing magazine advertisements can be such a general and
enormous task that one must narrow down what they are looking for in the
advertisements themselves. All of these questions cannot be answered in one
thesis and doing so would take several years. I felt it was better to focus on a few
of these issues to be able to explore the issues fully. I have narrowed my study
down to the following questions:
1. Are men and women represented equally in advertising in Maxim as
opposed to Cosmopolitan? It is expected that in both magazines, men will be
underrepresented, with more females appearing in advertisements than males.
Men are not the primary consumers in the home, so I predict they would want to
see which products will make them more popular with the female population,
hence the abundance of advertisements featuring women with men. I predict
Cosmopolitan will also feature more female models because it is a female

oriented magazine and as the literature said, women are the primary buyers at
home, so I believe they would relate more to seeing other women rather than men
pictured in the advertisements.
2. Are men and women over sexualized in advertisements? I predict that in
general women in particular will be over sexualized in an attempt to sell the
product. It is expected that women will appear more sexualized in Maxim
magazine than they are in Cosmopolitan. My reasoning behind this is that Maxim,
being a mens magazine, will want to please its male readers by putting as many
advertisements featuring females as possible for eye candy.
3. Are women and men being realistically represented in magazine
advertisements? The literature mentioned using fantasy as a selling point for
many products in advertisements, but the consumer, male or female, should be
able to see past the fantasy and find a use for a certain product in their everyday
mundane lives. I predict that a majority of the advertisements will use fantasy
over the real-life approach. I will also look at the usage of celebrities in
advertisements. Generally, we think that celebrities live the perfect life; therefore,
I want to see if the celebrity factor affects the fantasy factor.
4. Are women and men pictured in stereotypical roles in advertisements?
Is there more or less gender stereotyping in the older issues vs. the newer ones?
Are male models more likely to exhibit characteristics such as masculine, non-

domestic, technical, leaders, independent, dominant, athletic, physically strong,
and heroic. Are women pictured feminine, domestic, non-technical, followers,
dependent, submissive, and thin in non-active or non-athletic settings? I predict
that women will be less stereotyped in the advertisements in Cosmopolitan than
they are in Maxim because Cosmopolitan will show that women can be eclectic in
todays society. They can be active, business minded, technical, physically
strong, independent, and any other characteristic that men are typically shown
possessing. Maxim may lean more towards stereotyping women because it is
geared toward the male audience, and may not make as much of an attempt to
autonomize women in their advertisements. I also predict there may be less
stereotyping in general because of the times we live in. In older magazines, men
and women were expected to act in a certain way and they had to have certain
characteristics. These characteristics were portrayed onto the pages of
advertisements in magazines and hence, stereotyping in advertising began.
However, in todays society, I feel we are much more open to men and women
acting in whatever way they feel they need to express their personality. Our
society is much more androgynous and masculine and feminine behavior can
cross over now much more than it ever has in the past.
I believe there may be slightly more gender role stereotyping in the older
issues of both magazines because we have become so politically correct so as not

to offend any particular group, be it males, females, African Americans,
Hispanics, etc. Every word or image these days has to be politically correct, so
advertisers make more of an effort in todays society to adhere to that standard.
Maxim is a fairly new publication and has only been around for about a decade, so
my comparison or older issues compared to the newer ones will span seven years.
In order to compare fairly, I will select similar month and year issues of
Cosmopolitan to evaluate each magazine on the same level.

I obtained three months worth of both magazines for the newer editions,
and three of each for the older editions totaling 12 magazines in all. I acquired the
months of August, September, and October 2005 of both Cosmopolitan and
Maxim from a newsstand and I was able to obtain issue 4 (November/December
1997), 5 (January/February 1998), and 7 (April 1998) of Maxim, and October
1997, November 1997, December 1997 of Cosmopolitan through other avenues of
research. This sample was chosen because of availability, and to be able to
evaluate the magazines from a similar time period.
The total number of advertisements for the three newer Cosmopolitans
was 361 with an average number of 120 per issue. Maxims number of
advertisements in the three newer magazines totaled 212, averaging 71 per issue.
The older issues of Cosmopolitan totaled 297 for the three issues, averaging 99
per issue. Older Maxim topped out with a total of 100 advertisements for the
three issues with an average of 33 per issue. I believe this number is significantly
lower than the newer issues because Maxim was a brand new magazine in 1997
and it had not established itself enough to get as many advertisers as it does now
in the newer issues.

In this study, I looked at ads from 12 magazines; six Maxim magazines;
three older (1997-1998) and three newer (2005) and six Cosmopolitan magazines;
also three older (1997-1998) and three newer (2005). The factors I looked at were
based around finding gender representations within the ads. These include
fantasy/real main focus of the advertisement and background; sexual/nonsexual
picture and sexual/nonsexual message of the advertisement; sex of people in the
advertisements, whether or not the subject is stereotyped or not stereotyped; and
Definition of factors
*Main focus fantasy: Main focus of the advertisement, product or human, has
unrealistic characteristics such as overly made up to perfection, cartoonish,
computer generated imaging, dreamy-looking such as beautiful vacation spot, or
things not seen or used in most peoples everyday life.
Main focus realistic: The picture is true to life. It is not artificial, deceptive, or
false. Characteristics include not overly made up, little or no touch up can be
noticed, and most people can see themselves using or doing this in everyday life,
cannot be determined: no main focus, words only, no picture.

*background/scenery fantasy: everything behind or aside from main focus has
fantasy characteristics
"background/scenery realistic: everything behind or aside from main focus has
realistic characteristics
"neutral: plain background lacking pattern, monotone, blurred.
"sexual: picture has an image that is sexually suggestive, stimulating, or erotic.
Picture may include suggestive posture/pose such as laying down, posing with
legs spread, overly exposed skin, seductive facial expression.
"nonsexual: picture is not suggesting any sexual tones.
"over beautified: scene or person pictured is overdone or perfect beyond any
realistic grasp. Although not sexual the picture still portrays a look of .
perfectionism and cannot be categorized as nonsexual.
"sexual: message in ads is suggestive sexually.
"nonsexual: message in ads has no sexual connotation.
*other/no message
*1 female
*1 male

*2+ females
*2+ males
male and female mixed
* non-human/ product
yes, the character is gender-stereotyped: male is portrayed as more likely to
exhibit characteristics such as masculine, non-domestic, technical, leaders,
independent, dominant, athletic, physically strong, and heroic; women pictured
feminine, domestic, non-technical, followers, dependent, submissive, and thin in
non-active or non-athletic settings.
*no, the character is not gender-stereotyped: characters, male or female are shown
outside of normal stereotypical boundaries.
Subject shown is non-human
celebrity: person pictured is a well known/household name.
non-celebrity: person pictured is unknown, not a household name.

In the results section, I compare the older Maxims to the newer Maxims,
the older Cosmopolitans to the newer Cosmopolitans, and the overall totals from
all Maxims to totals of all Cosmopolitans. The totals reflect the average of all
three magazines for the time period (old vs. new Cosmopolitan ox Maxim).
Maxim vs. Maxim
Beginning with the main focus factor, new Maxim had significantly fewer
fantasy advertisements than old Maxim with a total of 60.20%. The majority of
the main focus of old Maxim's advertisements were fantasy totaling 71.15%.
Conversely, the new Maxims showed more realistic main focus advertisements
than old Maxim totaling 39.80% compared with the 28.85% in the old Maxims. In
both magazines, there were no cases in the cannot be determined category.
In a somewhat surprising reversal, the new Maxims had a slightly higher
total of background fantasy with 46.77% compared to 40.38% of background
fantasy in the older Maxim. The total of neutral advertisements was higher in the
old Maxims with 40.48% compared to 30.35% in the new Maxim.
I was most surprised by the sexual vs. non-sexual factor. The results
showed that in both the picture and message subcategories, the majority of
advertisements were nonsexual. Both old and new Maxims were very close in the

sexual picture category with 24.38% and 22.11% respectively. Nonsexual
showed a slightly larger difference with new Maxim topping out at 64.18%
compared with 61.54% in the old Maxim. Over beautified also showed a minimal
difference with 11.44% in the new Maxim compared with 16.35% in the old
The message factor showed almost double the percentage of sexual ads in
new Maxims with 19.90% compared with 7.69% in the old Maxims. Non-sexual
was the largest category for both magazines with 67.16% for the new Maxim and
more than % of the total advertisements in the old Maxims with 75.96%. No
message got 12.94% in the new Maxim compared with 16.35% in the old Maxim.
With the sex of ad subject factor, the differences between the two time
periods were quite noticeable. New Maxim had one male pictured in 23.88% of
the ads compared with a much larger 34.61% of single males pictured in old
Maxims. A single female was pictured in only 9.95% compared to an even
smaller 7.69% in the old Maxims. Two or more males were seen in 7.46% of new
Maxims and only 5.77% in old Maxims.
Two or more females was the smallest category with only 1.49% in new
Maxims and 0% in old Maxims. New Maxim totals showed that male and female
were pictured together in about % of advertisements with 24.88% whereas old
Maxims totals showed male and female pictured together only about 1/5 of the

time with 19.23%. The totals were nearly even in both new and old Maxims with
nonhuman subjects shown in advertisements with 32.34% in the newer ones and
32.69% in the older ones.
The celebrity factor proved to be almost even. Celebrities were featured
in 10.95% of new Maxim and 10.58% of old Maxims. Noncelebrities were
featured in 56.72% of new Maxim comparing very closely to the 56.73% in the
old Maxims. Advertisements featuring nonhuman subjects totaled 32.34% in the
newer Maxims and 32.69% in the older Maxims.
The final factor I looked at was stereotype. The newer Maxims had
notably higher totals for stereotyping with 59.70% while older Maxims totaled
50.96%. Non-stereotyping was seen in only 7.96% of newer Maxims compared
with a much higher total of 16.35% percent in older Maxims. The remaining
totals belonged to the nonhuman category, again with 32.34% in newer Maxims
and 32.69% in older Maxims.

Table 1. Old Maxim Totals
Old Maxim Maxim No. 4 Nov/Dec 1997 Maxim No. 5 Jan/Feb 1998 Maxim No. 7 April 1998 Totals

Main Focus
Fantasy 32 (65.31%) 19 (79.17%) 23 (74.19%) 74 (71.15%)
Real 17 (34.69%) 5 (20.83%) 8 (25.81%) 30 (28.85%)
Cannot be determined 0 0 0 0
Fantasy 18 (36.73%) 9 (37.50%) 15 (48.39%) 42 (40.38%)
Real 12 (24.49%) 6 (25.00%) 2 (6.45%) 20(19.23%)
Neutral 19 (38.78%) 9 (37.50%) 14 (45.16%) 42 (40.48%)
Sexual 9 (18.37%) 4 (16.67%) 10 (32.26%) 23(22.11%)
Non-sexual 33 (67.35%) 14 (58.33%) 17 (54.84%) 64(61.54%)
Over-beautified 7 (14.29%) 6 (25.00%) 4 (12.90%) 17 (16.35%)
Sexual 3 (6.12%) 1 (4.16%) 4 (12.90%) 8 (7.69%)
Non-sexual 38 (77.55%) 19(79.17%) 22 (70.97%) 79 (75.96%)
no message 8(16.33%) 4(16.67%) 5 (16.13%) 17 (16.35%)
Sex of ad subject
One Male 21 (42.86%) 7(29.17%) 8 (25.81%) 36 (34.61%)
One Female 1 (2.04%) 3 (12.50%) 4 (12.90%) 8 (7.69%)
2+ male 3 (6.12%) 1 (4.17%) 2 (6.45%) 6 (5.77%)
2+ female 0 0 0 0
Male + Female 10 (20.41%) 5 (20.83%) 5(16.13%) 20(19.23%)
Non-human 14 (28.57%) 8 (33.33%) 12 (38.71%) 34 (32.69%)

Celebrity 5 (10.20%) 4 (16.67%) 2 (6.45%) 11 (10.58%)
Non-celebrity 30 (61.22%) 12 (50.00%) 17 (54.84%) 59 (56.73%)
non-human 14 (28.57%) 8 (33.33%) 12 (38.71%) 34 (32.69%)
Yes 29 (59.18%) 9 (37.50%) 15 (48.39%) 53 (50.96%)
No 6(12.24%) 7(29.17%) 4 (12.90%) 17 (16.35%)
non-human 14 (28.57%) 8 (33.33%) 12 (38.71%) 34 (32.69%)

Totals 49 (100%) 24(100%) 31 (100%) 104 (100%)

Table 2. New Maxim Totals
New Maxim Maxim No. 92 Aug. 2005 Maxim No. 93 Sept. 2005 Maxim No. 94 Oct. 2005 Totals

Main Focus
Fantasy 48 (69.57%) 36 (56.25%) 37 (54.41%) 121 (60.20%)
Real 21 (30.43%) 28 (43.75%) 31 (45.59%) 80 (39.80%)
Cannot be determined 0 0 0 0
Fantasy 28 (40.58%) 33 (51.56%) 33 (48.53%) 94 (46.77%)
Real 15 (21.74%) 17 (26.56%) 14 (20.59%) 46 (22.87%)
Neutral 26 (37.68%) 14(21.88%) 21 (30.88%) 61 (30.35%)
Sexual 15 (21.74%) 14 (21.88%) 20 (29.41%) 49 (24.38%)
Non-sexual 48 (69.57%) 39 (60.94%) 42 (61.77%) 129 (64.18%)
Over-beautified 6 (8.70%) 11 (17.19%) 6 (8.82%) 23(11.44%)
Sexual 13 (18.84%) 12 (18.75%) 15 (22.06%) 40 (19.90%)
Non-sexual 51 (73.91%) 36 (56.25%) 48 (70.50%) 135 (67.16%)
no message 5 (7.25%) 16(25.00%) 5 (7.35%) 26 (12.94%)
Sex of ad subject
One Male 19 (27.54%) 13 (20.31%) 16 (23.53%) 48 (23.88%)
One Female 5 (7.25%) 6 (9.36%) 9 (13.24%) 20 (9.95%)
2+ male 9 (13.04%) 3 (4.69%) 3 (4.41%) 15 (7.46%)
2+ female 0 2 (3.13%) 1 (1.47%) 3 (1.49%)
Male + Female 16(23.19%) 19 (29.69%) 15 (22.06%) 50 (24.88%)
Non-human 20 (28.99%) 21 (32.82%) 24 (35.29%) 65 (32.34%)

Celebrity 8(11.59%) 6 (9.36%) 8(11.77%) 22 (10.95%)
Non-celebrity 41 (59.42%) 37 (57.82%) 36 (52.94%) 114(56.72%)
non-human 20 (28.99%) 21 (32.82%) 24 (35.29%) 65 (32.34%)
Yes 43 (62.32%) 36 (56.25%) 41 (60.29%) 120 (59.70%)
No 6 (8.70%) 7 (10.93%) 3 (4.41%) 16 (7.96%)
non-human 20 (28.99%) 21 (32.82%) 24 (35.29%) 65 (32.34%)
Totals 69 (100%) 64 (100%) 68 (100%) 201 (100%)

Cosmopolitan vs. Cosmopolitan
When looking at the numbers from the new Cosmopolitans, the results
from the main focus category are closely split between fantasy and real, fantasy
having 50.71% and real having just under half with 48.44%. Cannot be
determined took only .85% of all advertisements. The old Cosmopolitans had a
notably higher main focus fantasy total with 56.90% of advertisements and
42.09% in the real category. The cannot be determined category had 1.01% of all
The new Cosmopolitans had almost twice as many fantasy background
advertisements as the old Cosmopolitans with 27.48% compared to only 14.48%
in the old Cosmopolitans. The realistic background was close in both
Cosmopolitan time periods, new Cosmopolitan having 14.16%, and old
Cosmopolitan having 16.50%. Neutral backgrounds took the majority of
advertisements in both the new and old Cosmopolitans, making up 58.36% in new
Cosmopolitans and 69.02% in old Cosmopolitans.
New Cosmopolitans featured significantly more sexual picture
advertisements than the older Cosmopolitans, with over 1/4 of all advertisements
sexualized totaling 25.78%. Old Cosmopolitans featured only 14.14% of visually
sexual advertisements. Nonsexual advertisements made up more than half in both

Cosmopolitan eras, with 54.39% in the new ones and 56.57% in the old ones.
Over beautified advertisements were nearly 1/5 of all advertisements in the new
Cosmopolitans with 19.83%, considerably less than the 29.29% of all old
Cosmopolitan advertisements.
The totals for sexual message were very low in both magazines. New
Cosmopolitans had 11.46% sexual messages, twice as many as the old
Cosmopolitans with a mere 5.39%. Nonsexual messages were featured the most
in both eras of Cosmopolitan, new Cosmopolitan having 76.20%, and old
Cosmopolitan having an even larger percentage of 86.53%. Advertisements
featuring no message were found in 12.75% of advertisements in new
Cosmopolitan, and only 8.08% of old Cosmopolitan.
Single males were found in only 2.27% of all advertisements seen in new
Cosmopolitans, half as many as seen in old Cosmopolitan, which had 5.39%.
Single females were seen in under half of all new Cosmopolitan advertisements
with 48.72%. This is considerably less than the 54.21% of single females shown
in all old Cosmopolitan ads. Two or more males were the most underrepresented
category in both magazines, making up only .57% in new Cosmopolitans and
1.01% in old Cosmopolitans. Two or more females were represented in 9.06% of
new Cosmopolitan ads, but surprisingly, they were only featured in 2.37% of all
ads in the older Cosmopolitans. Advertisements showing males and females

together were featured about equally in both eras, with 11.33% in new
Cosmopolitans and 11.45% in old Cosmopolitans. Nonhuman advertisements
were also fairly equal between the two eras with 28.04% in the new Cosmopolitan
and 25.59% of old Cosmopolitans.
Celebrities were hardly featured in the new Cosmopolitans, composing
only 8.21% of all advertisements compared to 11.11% in old Cosmopolitans.
Noncelebrities were shown about equally in both new and old Cosmopolitans
with 63.74% and 63.30% respectively. Advertisements featuring nonhuman
subjects were shown in 26.92% of new Cosmopolitan and 25.59% of old
There were slightly less stereotyped advertisements in the new
Cosmopolitans with 60.34% compared to 62.96% of the old Cosmopolitans.
Nonstereotyped ads were about equal between both eras with 11.61% in new
Cosmopolitans and 11.45% in old Cosmopolitans. Again, there were slightly
more nonhuman ads in the new Cosmopolitans with 28.04% compared to the
25.59% in the old ones.

Table 3. Old Cosmopolitan Totals
Old Cosmopolitan Oct-97 Nov-97 Dec-97 Totals

Main Focus
Fantasy 59 (59.59%) 58 (58.59%) 52 (52.53%) 169 (56.90%)
Real 39 (39.40%) 39 (39.40%) 47 (47.47%) 125 (42.09%)
Cannot be determined 1 (1.01%) 2 (2.02%) 0 3 (1.01%)
Fantasy 17(17.17%) 16(16.16%) 10(10.10%) 43 (14.48%)
Real 15(15.15%) 10(10.10%) 24 (24.24%) 49 (16.50%)
Neutral 67 (67.68%) 73 (73.74%) 65 (65.67%) 205 (69.02%)
Sexual 12 (12.12%) 12(12.12%) 18(18.18%) 42 (14.14%)
Non-sexual 55 (55.56%) 63 (63.64%) 50 (50.51%) 168 (56.57%)
Over-beautified 32 (32.32%) 24 (24.24%) 31 (31.31%) 87 (29.29%)
Sexual 6 (6.06%) 4 (4.04%) 6 (6.06%) 16 (5.39%)
Non-sexual 86 (86.87%) 90 (90.91%) 81 (81.82%) 257 (86.53%)
no message 7 (7.07%) 5 (5.05%) 12(12.12%) 24 (8.08%)
Sex of ad subject
One Male 8 (8.08%) 3 (3.03%) 5 (5.05%) 16 (5.39%)
One Female 54 (54.55%) 53 (53.54%) 54 (54.55%) 161 (54.21%)
2+ male 0 0 3 (3.03%) 3 (1.01%)
2+ female 2 (2.02%) 1 (1.01%) 4 (4.04%) 7 (2.36%)
Male + Female 12 (12.12%) 9 (9.09%) 13 (13.13%) 34(11.45%)
Non-human 23 (23.23%) 33 (33.33%) 20 (20.20%) 76 (25.59%)

Celebrity 14(14.14%) 13(13.13%) 6 (6.06%) 33(11.11%)
Non-celebrity 62 (62.63%) 53 (53.54%) 73 (73.74%) 188 (63.30%)
non-human 23 (23.23%) 33 (33.33%) 20 (20.20%) 76 (25.59%)

Yes 65 (65.66%) 56 (56.57%) 66 (66.67%) 187 (62.96%)
No 11 (11.11%) 10(10.10%) 13(13.13%) 34(11.45%)
non-human 23 (23.23%) 33 (33.33%) 20 (20.20%) 76 (25.59%)

Totals 99 (100%) 99 (100%) 99 (100%) 297 (100%)

Table 4. New Cosmopolitan Totals
New Cosmo Aug-05 Sep-05 Oct-05 Totals

Main Focus
Fantasy 44(47.31%) 69 (47.92%) 66 (56.90%) 179 (50.71%)
Real 49 (52.69%) 73 (50.69%) 49 (42.24%) 171 (48.44%)
Cannot be determined 0 2(1.39%) 1 (0.86%) 3 (.85%)
Fantasy 27 (29.03%) 33 (22.92%) 37 (31.90%) 97 (27.48%)
Real 14 (15.055) 22 (15.28%) 14 (12.07%) 50(14.16%)
Neutral 52 (55.91%) 89 (61.81%) 65 (56.03%) 206 (58.36%)
Sexual 22 (23.66%) 36 (25.00%) 33 (28.45%) 91 (25.78%)
Non-sexual 50 (53.76%) 82 (56.95%) 60 (51.72%) 192 (54.39%)
Over-beautified 21 (22.58%) 26 (18.06%) 23 (19.83%) 70 (19.83%)
No picture 0 0 0 0
Sexual 8 (8.60%) 15 (10.42%) 16 (13.79%) 39(11.05%)
Non-sexual 82 (88.17%) 102 (70.83%) 85 (73.28%) 269 (76.20%)
no message 3 (3.23%) 27 (18.75%) 15 (12.93%) 45 (12 75%)
Sex of ad subject
One Male 4 (4.30%) 2(1.39%) 2(1.72%) 8 (2.27%)
One Female 47 (50.54%) 66 (45.83%) 59 (50.86%) 172 (48.72%)
2+ male 0 0 2 (1.72%) 2 (.57%)
2+ female 9 (9.68%) 14 (9.72%) 9 (7.76%) 32 (9.06%)
Male + Female 6 (6.45%) 23 (15.97%) 11 (9.48%) 40(11.43%)
Non-human 27 (29.03%) 39 (27.08%) 33 (28.45%) 99 (28.04%)

Celebrity 3 (3.23%) 15 (10.42%) 11 (9.48%) 29 (8.21%)
Non-celebrity 63 (67.74%) 90 (62.50%) 72 (62.06%) 225 (63 74%)
non-human 27 (29.03%) 39 (27.08%) 33 (28.45%) 99 (28.04%)

Yes 57 (61.29%) 86 (59.72%) 70 (60.35%) 213 (60.34%)
No 9 (9.68%) 19(13.19%) 13(11.21%) 41 (11.61%)
non-human 27 (29.03%) 39 (27.08%) 33 (28.45%) 99 (28.04%)

Totals 93 (100%) 144 (100%) 116(100%) 353 (100%)

Cosmopolitan vs. Maxim
When comparing the overall totals of Cosmopolitan to those of Maxim,
many significant differences are noted. Beginning with the main focus factor,
Maxim has a significantly larger total of fantasy advertisements with 63.94%
compared with 53.54% in Cosmopolitan. Conversely, Cosmopolitan, has a much
larger total of realistic main focus advertisements with a total of 45.54%
compared to only 36.06%. The cannot be determined was barely a noteworthy
category with only .92% of the totals in Cosmopolitan and none in the Maxims.
Maxim also had double the amount of background fantasy advertisements
with 44.59% compared to only 21.54% in the Cosmopolitan. Realistic
backgrounds made up the smallest percentage in the category with only 21.64% in
the Maxims, and 15.23% in the Cosmopolitans. Neutral backgrounds were almost
twice as common in the Cosmopolitan advertisements as they were in Maxim
advertisements with 63.23% and 33.77% respectively.
Sexual pictures were featured only about 3 percent more often in Maxim
ads than they were in Cosmopolitan ads, with Maxim containing 23.61%
compared to the 20.46% of sexual ads in Cosmopolitan. Surprisingly, Maxim
actually contained more nonsexual ads than Cosmopolitan with 63.28% compared
to 55.38% in Cosmopolitan. As expected, Cosmopolitan topped Maxim in the
number of over beautified advertisements 24.15% to 13.11 %

Maxim had a significantly larger number of sexual message ads than
Cosmopolitan with 15.74% compared to only 8.46% in the Cosmopolitan ads.
Cosmopolitan also showed the largest number of nonsexual message ads with
80.92% compared with 70.16% of Maxim ads. No message was featured in only
10.61% of Cosmopolitans and 14.10% of Maxims.
The sex of ad subject factor proved to have the most differences between
the two magazines. Single males were shown in a mere 3.69% of all
Cosmopolitan ads compared with over 1 in 4 of all Maxim ads (27.54%.) Single
females were shown in over half of all Cosmopolitan ads with 51.23% and just
9.18% of all Maxim ads. The next two categories, two or more males and two or
more females, were almost equally inverted. Maxims showed 6.88% of two or
more males and .98% of two or more females, whereas Cosmopolitan shows .77%
of two or more males and 6.00% of two or more females. Male and female were
shown together twice as often in Maxim with 22.95% compared to 11.38% in
Cosmopolitan. Nonhuman subjects were featured far more often in Maxim with
32.46% compared to 26.92% of Cosmopolitans.
Celebrities also appeared slightly more often in Maxim, with 10.82% of all
advertisements compared to 9.54% in Cosmopolitan. Noncelebrities appeared
more often in Cosmopolitan with 63.54% compared with 56.72% noncelebrities
ads featured in Maxim.

Stereotyping was also slightly more common in Cosmopolitan, making up
61.54% of all advertisements whereas Maxim had 56.72% stereotyped ads.
Surprisingly, Cosmopolitan also featured more nonstereotyped ads than Maxim,
although the difference in numbers was very slim. Cosmopolitan had 11.54%
nonstereotyped ads compared to Maxim's 10.82%. The remaining percentages
belonged to nonhuman ads, which was 32.46% in Maxim and 26.92% in Cosmo.

Table 5. Totals for All Magazines
Magazine Totals Maxim Old and New Cosmo Old and New

Main Focus
Fantasy 195 (63.94%) 348 (53.54%)
Real 110(36.06%) 296 (45.54%)
Cannot be determined 0 6 (.92%)
Fantasy 136 (44.59%) 140 (21.54%)
Real 66(21.64%) 99 (15.23%)
Neutral 103 (33.77%) 411 (63.23%)
Sexual ' 72 (23.61%) 133 (20.46%)
Non-sexual 193 (63.28%) 360 (55.38%)
Over-beautified 40(13.11%) 157 (24.15%)
Sexual 48 (15.74%) 55 (8.46%)
Non-sexual 214(70.16%) 526 (80.92%)
no message 43 (14.10%) 69 (10.61%)
Sex of ad subject
One Male 84 (27.54%) 24 (3.69%)
One Female 28 (9.18%) 333 (51.23%)
2+male 21 (6.88%) 5 (.77%)
2+ female 3 (.98%) 39 (6.00%)
Male + Female 70 (22.95%) 74(11.38%)
Non-human 99 (32.46%) 175 (26.92%)

Celebrity 33 (10.82%) 62 (9.54%)
Non-celebrity 173 (56.72%) 413 (63.54%)
non-human 99 (32.46%) 175 (26.92%)

Yes 173 (56.72%) 400 (61.54%)
No 33 (10.82%) 75(11.54%)
non-human 99 (32.46%) 175 (26.92%)

Totals 305 (100%) 550(100%)

In review of the identity theory, Mead (1934) states that society affects
social behavior through its influence on the self. The self, according to symbolic
interactionists like Mead, is a product of social interaction. Advertisements
perpetuate social acceptability by using stereotypes adapted to specific role
identities. According to McCracken (1993) womens magazines exert cultural
leadership in struggles surrounding what it means to be a woman. We all have
role identities for each of the role positions in society that we occupy (Stryker
1968, 1980).
According to the literature, role identities are organized in a hierarchy.
The ones at the top have more emphasis and are more self-defining. Each
magazine is familiar with their audience and they are conscious of the role
identities that their readers occupy. The advertisers are conscious of these same
role identities and tailor their advertisements to those people occupying specific
role identities. The producers of advertisements for both Maxim and Cosmo are
aware that the most dominant role identity for their readers is that of being a man
for the former and a woman for the latter. Readers of these magazines likely have
the highest commitment to these roles because they are at the top of the role
identity hierarchy. In mens magazines, men are portrayed as ultra masculine,

whereas in womens magazines, women are portrayed as ultra-feminine. These
role identities are how we form self-conceptions and definitions of who we are
and where our place is in society. Advertisements show us that a good product is
what is appealing to both self and society.
The results did contain some surprises that I had not originally predicted,
however, I was accurate with a number of my predictions. Maxim showed many
more fantasy advertisements than realistic advertisements in both the main focus
and background. This corresponded to the literature which says that advertising
must be validated, often only in fantasy, by additional meanings. The literature
also said that ultimately, advertising does more than sell products. The cultural
patterns of the system of fantasy begin to take root in society, becoming a system
of communication in their own right. People respond to each others displayed
signals which symbolize ones having made the correct purchases. Consumers
use products as a means of expression and eventually come to depend on the
system of fantasy (Ewen 1976).
Fantasy ads allow the viewers to step out of their traditional role identity
and place themselves into the advertisement. Maxim showed a higher number of
males in their advertisements, which again illustrates the idea that the viewer is
able to insert himself in the advertisement by replacing the male in the ad with
himself. Conversely, Cosmopolitan showed a higher number of females in their

advertisements, which perpetuates the same theory. Non-celebrities were the
more prominent choice in advertising. Using non-celebrities allows the readers to
more easily incorporate themselves into the fantasy. Featuring celebrities in
advertisements is another tactic used by advertisers. These ads work by inspiring
envy and jealousy in the individuals viewing the ads. The celebrity stereotype is
that celebrities live a life of grandeur. There are no money problems, and
everyone is beautiful and successful. By showing celebrities in ads, women and
men alike see what they want to be and what society finds acceptable. We are
reminded of this wonderful celebrity lifestyle, and are again carried away into a
land of fantasy and are convinced that this product they are pushing will bring us
one step closer to their level of success and beauty.
The literature states that women are the principle purchasers of goods.
This point is illustrated by the number of advertisements in Cosmo at 550 vs. the
number in Maxim with only 305. Cosmopolitan had more of an even split
between reality and fantasy advertisements, and most of the backgrounds of these
advertisements were categorized as neutral. A possible reason that Cosmopolitan
magazines may be more equally split between fantasy and reality is because
fantasy may draw female consumers to a product; however, women also need an
equal mix of reality advertisements to show them that a certain product actually
has a practical use in the real world. A fantasy advertisement may be good

enough to get a first time buyer, but if the product has no practical use beyond the
fantasy, women can see through the illusion and will discontinue the use of that
product. There needs to be an equal mix of fantasy and reality in order to give a
product lasting power.
Maxim had slightly higher numbers in the sexual category for both picture
and message than Cosmopolitan. Stereotypically, men find it more socially
acceptable to view women as sex objects. This stereotype is further perpetuated
in the advertising pages of Maxim. I had originally predicted that women in
particular would be over sexualized in an attempt to sell the product. In
Cosmopolitan, I saw much more overbeautifying of advertisements, rather than
sexualizing. I believe this is because as a woman, it is more socially acceptable to
be beautiful than to be portrayed as promiscuous or trashy. This is further
acknowledged by the lack of sexualized advertisements shown in Cosmopolitan.
The literature stated that womens magazines in particular are guilty of
overemphasizing beauty and physical attractiveness in an attempt to sell products.
The literature also said that advertising images are setting unrealistic ideals for
males as well as females and there has been an alarming increase in men and boys
in obsessive weight training and use of anabolic steroids and dietary supplements
that promise bigger muscles or more stamina for lifting (Shallek-Klein 1999).
Research has also found that advertisers purposely normalize unrealistically thin

bodies in order to create an unattainable desire that can drive product
consumption (Hamburg 1998). According to the identity theory, this type of
advertising can be unhealthy for ones view of his or her body image. The
identity theory states that the perception that one is enacting a role satisfactorily
should enhance feelings of self-esteem. This would mean that a person who feels
they look perfect would not have any problem looking at these advertisements and
having feelings of inadequacy. However, the literature tells us that incidence of
eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia, has doubled during the last two
decades and that one of the negative psychological side effects associated with
eating disorders is the patient's distortion of their own body image. Clearly, most
people do not believe they have a perfect body. Conversely, identity theory also
states that perceptions of poor role performance may create doubts about ones
self worth and may even produce symptoms of psychological distress. The
advertisements are sending a message that it is normal to be model-perfect,
unrealistically skinny, and freely sexual. Therefore, it would be easy for a person
to have a skewed self-image if he or she is basing the ideal body image off of the
The small, exploratory nature of this study makes it impossible to
generalize the results to all mens and womens magazines. Furthermore, it is
important that future research look at a variety of different mens and womens

magazines. Future research also should address the portrayal of different races in
magazine advertisements and how identity theory would speak to this.
One of the main limitations of this study was the fact that Maxim is a
newer mens magazine; therefore looking at change over time was very limited.
Another limitation is that only descriptive statistics were used as this is an
exploratory study. Future studies with larger numbers should employ inferential
statistics to assess statistical differences.
Because this was such a small-scale study, I as the researcher was the only
coder. I decided on what factors to study in the advertisements and I defined
those factors. It would be very beneficial in future research to use several coders
and join with a third party to discuss the definitions for the factors so that the
study is less biased.
A strength of this study is that it utilizes a qualitative method and studies
two magazines that have seldom, if ever, been studied together. This research
helps understand the issue men and women have with distorted body image and
helps explain how the media perpetuates this specifically through advertising.

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