Negotiating femininity: SA teenage girls’ interpretation of teen magazine discourse constructed around Seventeen
Thesis (MPhil (Journalism))--University of Stellenbosch, 2009.
Adolescent girls’ passage to womanhood is frequently exposed to a vast array of media products. Mass communication products have become educational devices, guiding young women towards an understanding of femininity and all its accompanying intricacies. We are taught gender lessons throughout our lives, but our teen years are of special significance in this regard. In a society that is becoming all the more media saturated, advertisers are capitalising on different desires and ideals that are being constructed in the media. Initially, only adult women were targeted, but these days a number of mass media products aimed specifically at young women have opened up a whole new market. Until a few years ago, South African teenage girls had only women’s magazines aimed at adult women to refer to. These days, however, a number of teen magazine titles exist locally. The aim of this study was to look at teen magazines as an example of texts that are aimed specifically at adolescent women. More specifically, the study looked at the discourse on femininity within the pages of the text – what is the magazine in essence saying about womanhood? To take the research one step further, it was decided to look at how readers of the magazine engaged and negotiated with the text in order to inform their own understanding of femininity. The goal of the study was to determine how the discourse on femininity played out between the text and the reader. Combining quantitative and qualitative elements, the study was located within a cultural studies framework and referred to Stuart Hall’s encoding/decoding model as a representation of the communication process. It was found that the magazine under scrutiny had twelve specific thematic categories that were most prominent. It was found that the femininity encoded in these texts revolved around consumerism, fashion and boys. The study found that the readers taking part in focus group research possessed a sufficient amount of educational “cultural capital” to be able to resist the dominant messages encoded in the texts, yet they seemingly chose not to. This study also indicated that the femininity that was constructed in the studied text did not take the greater South African context into account, and that it served to entertain readers from higher LSM groups rather than all South African girls.