The discourse of femininity constructed by Cosmopolitan magazine through the study of the model reader reveals women to be: skinny, beautiful, blonde, Caucasian, tanned, tall and with an unblemished complexion. Although the ‘ideal’ woman constructed by this magazine mostly consists of physical attributes, Cosmopolitan also asserts them to be independent and upbeat with sex appeal to boot. The predominantly ‘beautiful’ female presented in this very popular magazine is often destructive of women’s self-identity, causing them to be vulnerable to outside approval. The magazine constructs this version of femininity through the cover, editorial and advertising content.
The analysis of Cosmopolitan reveals the way the model reader influences the magazines discourse of femininity. The model reader of this magazine is a 17-25 year old single or in a short term relationship female. She is upbeat, sophisticated and focused on ways of maintaining her independence and is interested in her future career, relationships and happiness. She has sufficient disposable income and a stable job that allows her to spend it on a car, technology, fashion, make-up and recreational activities but seeks to find ways to budget. She is health-conscious and is concerned about her appearance. She seeks to be seen as educated and informed on crisis situations and life skills. The model reader is interested in whatever can give her a more exciting, fun-filled, friend-filled, man loved life. She is ambitious and assertive, wielding her knowledge to seduce men , look good and lead a successful life. She seeks to be seen as sexy, fashionable, beautiful and stable both monetarily and emotionally. Whatever she aspires, desires or represents is mirrored in this magazine, therefore embodying the discourse of femininity.
The cover of the magazine uses words and pictures to gain the model reader’s attention. They do this by incorporating the main desires of the model reader. On the front of the February 2005 edition of Cosmopolitan, the magazine absorbs the readers’ attention with a bright, bold and very large; “Beauty tips, tricks and fixes; new looks for under $100.” This statement is obviously very important for its large writing. It positions the model reader to become interested as the article guarantees the reader a cheap, easy and quick way to change your appearance for a more appealing look. The magazine also promises to provide you with ‘Skin secrets to make you glow’ and “409 fashion and beauty fixes” as well as numerous other beauty articles.
It also promotes dieting and weight obsession by the brightly expressed; “BONUS, 2 week gym membership” and ‘Feelin’ fat, broke and toxic?”. These articles reflect the model reader’s infatuation with aesthetic appearances. Although the magazine is centered on exterior ‘beauty’, it becomes contradictory in its feminist content; “How to make peace with the body you’ve got” and articles regarding reality-reads addressing the negatives of cosmetic surgery and eating disorders. The image on the front of the magazine is of a prototype of this ‘ideal’ woman. She symbols all the discourses of femininity this magazine has to offer, primarily ‘beauty’. She is an image of perfection and a role model for the audience, influencing them to aspire to be or even more importantly; look, like her. Simple, vibrant, naughty and descriptive words are used to construct the headings of the magazine to portray a visual effect to the reader, also to portray a sense of youth. Symbols, visual aspects and language choices are used in constructing the model reader and therefore the discourse of femininity that this magazine possesses.
The use of visual and verbal language of the Cosmopolitan in the editorial content continues to construct this model reader, therefore the discourse of femininity within this magazine. The most prominent portrayal of a woman within the editorial content is a narrow version. In the entire magazine, there was only 4 “normal” girls shown. This reflects the prominent discourse of femininity. The magazine has used images of ‘beauty’ to represent this. This is an unrealistic ideal of the feminine form. This model reader reveals artificial expectations put on femininity today. It plays on women’s insecurities and pressurises them into forming the ‘ideal’ body shape. The effects of this can be detrimental. It increases the possibility of eating disorders and the pursuit of cosmetic surgery and shopping purging. This is a destructive form of femininity and prey upon women’s vulnerable identity. The editorial content of this magazine address the issues on; fashion, sex and relationships, beauty, diet, opinions but is also committed to issues like domestic violence, sexual and self abuse. These topics empower and inspire our generation of women both in positive and negative ways. The model reader who embodies this woman is a result of the discourse of femininity privileged within the magazine.
The advertising content within Cosmopolitan also embodies the discourse of femininity and its model reader through the verbal and visual content. Advertisements fill the magazines with products. These products are marketed through the image of a stunning female; it subconsciously sends the message of the belief that one should take care of one’s appearance by buying beauty products. Throughout the magazine, the woman is shown as an object of beauty and sexual lust. Also the idea of vanity is strong, this is all reflected by the numerous advertisements and the magazines obsession with the discourse of femininity being centered around aesthetic appearances. The advertisements portray a narrow type of female, exerting the discourse of femininity that beauty is only skin deep and that your image is extremely important; both for yourself and your acceptance into society. The models stance in the advertisements usually consists of them posing actively. The majority of pictures sees the woman in a stance of activeness, sexuality or dominance. These portrayals of women show the discourse of femininity; obsession with appearance and sexuality.
The predominant discourse of femininity found in Cosmopolitan represents females to be predominately beautiful, sex objects Although this discourse is firmly rooted within the magazine, traces of a woman desiring independence, sophistication and the thirst for education can be found. This is all constructed by the representation of the model reader. The use of language, visual and subconscious elements are all used to construct meaning within the text focusing on the model reader and how she represents the version of femininity that this magazine embraces.