In the 300 years since the magazine originated, this mass medium has become synonymous with women and their worlds. Today, publications for, by and about women still dominate the global magazine market, and the selection and circulation of women’s magazines increase annually – indicative of the popularity of this mixed medium of information, instruction and entertainment. Since the 1980s, academics from different human sciences branches, such as Joke Hermes and Marloes Hülsken in the Netherlands and Angela Gough-Yates, Margaret Beetham, Ros Ballaster and Marjorie Ferguson in the United Kingdom, have proven the academic worth of women’s magazines, by using them as information sources about women’s social knowledge, positions and roles, their relationships and consumer behaviour in (amongst others) historical, sociological, psychological, mass media and women’s studies research. In South Africa, however, academic research on women’s magazines is still largely unexploited: apart from a few dissertations, information is mostly limited to single paragraphs in larger mass media studies. Magazines for black women have, for example, not been researched yet. In this study, South African and Dutch magazines from 2006 are studied as sociocultural journals: accounts or collections of the major trains of thought representative of a specific context and time frame. When magazine content is viewed as the textual distillation of the shared consciousness or culture of a particular audience, and discourse as ways of acting and thinking underlying this shared consciousness, magazines, by drawing on different discourses, report on the norms, values and habits particular to a specific era – yielding information that can be applied in reconstructing images of reality. This study aimed to research, within the context of current women’s magazines, the way in which women’s presence in the career world is accepted and legitimised as standard practice, and to explore the influence of the pursuit of a career on other female roles. It was assumed that the range of ‘superwoman’ roles (career woman, mother, wife, homemaker, lover, friend …) resonates in the ‘work discourse’ – and that all women experience similar frustrations, fears, dreams and expectations, irrespective of linguistic, cultural and socio-economic factors. A selection of sixteen magazines – two issues each of four South African and four Dutch magazine titles, aimed at diverse readerships – were singled out as primary research material. Magazine content was subsequently submitted to close reading, in order to examine as closely as possible the approaches towards women’s deployment in the career world, as made evident in the text. Theoretical concepts from mass media studies, cultural studies, discourse analysis and feminist criticism underpinned the identification of textual patterns, leading to the establishment of links between text and reality and meaningful interpretations of eventual findings. The results indicated that the work discourse in all the examined magazines is informed by three interpretative repertoires – that ultimately determine the way in which this discourse is developed and maintained, both in the magazine content and in everyday life. When the findings resulting from the textual analysis of the work discourse represented in these magazines were compared with actual statistics on the career world, it became obvious, however, that magazine content does not necessarily reflect reality – but that internalising the ambitious, larger-than-life dream aspects contained between a magazine’s covers is precisely the aspect from which readers derive pleasure and satisfaction.
Dissertation (MA (Afrikaans))--University of Pretoria, 2007.