Content analysis has become an important method for examining gender representations in the media, and a variety of content analyses have focused on the portrayal of women in advertisements and articles in popular magazines. However, with the exception of one study of the covers of news magazines, we were unable to locate any studies that have examined the covers of popular fashion magazines geared toward a young adult female audience. For the purpose of this research, then, we compared the covers of three years (1996-1998) of magazines with a predominantly white female readership (Cosmopolitan) and a predominantly black female readership (Essence). We examined both the visual images and headlines that appeared on covers. Our examination of trends in the 1990s focused on: (a) the frequency with which white women, women of color, and men were depicted; and (b) the degree of body exposure of individuals depicted on covers. We coded headlines according to the following categories: (a) appearance, (b) intimate relationships, (c) home (e.g., decorating and crafts), (d) self-development, (e) career development, and (f) political or social issues. Our hypotheses were that Essence would be more likely to employ a more diverse array of models, fashion, and articles than Cosmopolitan. Furthermore, we hypothesized that Essence would be more likely to focus on self-development, and Cosmopolitan would be more likely to focus on appearance and intimate relationships.
Kim Boone, ’00 Waynesville, MO
Alissa Miller, ’99 Mount Vernon, IA
Carrie Fox, ’00 Lowden, IA
Sponsor: Carolyn Enns