Unveiling Stereotypes, Disparity, and Framing: A Critical Analysis of Women’s Representation on Vanitha Magazine Cover Pages

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Unveiling Stereotypes, Disparity, and Framing: A Critical Analysis of Women’s Representation on Vanitha Magazine Cover Pages

Jishnu.D1, Jishnu Nampoothiri P J2, Shamala R3
1Research Scholar, Department of Media and Communication, Central University of Tamil Nadu, Thiruvarur
2Assistant Professor (on contract), Sree Ayyappa College, Eramllikkara, Chengannur
3Assistant Professor, Department of Media and Communication, Central University of Tamil Nadu, Thiruvarur
DOI: https://doi.org/10.51244/IJRSI.2023.10715
Received: 23 June 2023; Accepted: 10 July 2023; Published: 10 August 2023


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Abstract:- This study presents a comprehensive analysis of the representation of women on the cover pages of Vanitha, one of India’s most circulated women’s magazines, spanning from January 2019 to August 2021. Employing a content analysis methodology, we collected and analysed sixty-six cover pages from the magazine, utilising descriptive statistics and visual analysis to gain insights into the portrayal of women. Our findings reveal a pervasive and stereotypical representation of women on the magazine’s cover pages. While females are prominently featured, there remains a significant disparity in age, colour, class, and social status among the featured models. Older women are conspicuously absent from the cover pages, while middle-aged and young women conform to the societal norms dictated by patriarchal structures. Moreover, the cover pages predominantly display single portraits, perpetuating the normalisation of patriarchal ideals surrounding the “ideal” woman. The multidimensionality of the female psyche is primarily overlooked, failing to represent women’s diverse experiences and complexities accurately.

Furthermore, our research highlights the dominance of male and female actors as the primary stars featured on the magazine covers, followed by a limited presence of models, politicians, singers, and authors. Additionally, we observe a tendency for cover photographs to emphasise a seductive effect rather than effectively communicating the magazine’s content. Examining the cover lines, we identify several dominant frames: health, celebrities, beauty, food, relationships, career, festivals, astrology, entrepreneurship, travel, and politics. These frames reflect the magazine’s prioritisation of topics and align with the interests and concerns of its target audience. In conclusion, our study underscores the need for more inclusive and diverse representations of women on Vanitha’s cover pages. By challenging stereotypical portrayals, addressing the disparity in age and social status, and adopting a more nuanced approach to the female experience, the magazine can foster a more empowering and authentic representation of women in its content.

Keywords; Gender Representation, Content Analysis, Women’s Magazines, Kerala

I. Introduction

Media have the power to reinforce, legitimate and naturalise societal norms. Media, especially mass media, play a significant role in projecting, propagating and normalising a constructed view of reality. The construction of reality in media is directly related to social power, cultural dominance and money. Media continually reinforce or establish the norms created by the above-mentioned influential groups’ interests. Also, the media is a vital agent in the cultural transformation of society. Through media representations, the audience perceives themselves and the world(Fong, 2019). All media forms can control consumers’ emotions, thoughts, and social actions. But the degree of media influence will vary according to the media’s form. The same content transferred to a particular audience through different media platforms may impact them differently. An internet-based streaming application can create instantaneous reactions. Still, the in-depth approach and vivid detailing of the same content in a magazine have a different impact on its consumers. A well-researched and organised magazine’s content has more credibility, and thus it has more influential power on its consumers.

Magazines play a significant role in socialising the cultural representation of society. In particular, Women’s magazines can be seen as an essential avenue for gender identity and gender roles in developing nations like India(Das & Das, 2009). Indian periodicals have always raised women’s issues throughout history. For example, Rajaram Mohanray’s Sambath kaumadhi was the voice of the Anti-Sathi movement(Pawar, 2008). In Kerala, women’s magazines have also played a crucial role in educating women and questioning gender distinctions. The first women’s magazine in Kerala was Keraleeya Sugunabodhini, published in 1887 from Thiruvananthapuram. And the first women’s magazine edited by a woman was Sarada. Mahila Ratnam, Lakshmibhai, Mahila, Mangalodhayam, and Mahilamanthiram are some early Malayalam women’s magazines published in Kerala. Women magazines in those days focus on spreading progressive ideas like education, employment, the necessity of ascertaining girls’ desires concerning marriage etc.