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Masculinity And Sexism In Men's Lifestyle Magazines

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It is important to highlight that the imagined reader is an abstract conceptual category, and that the reading goals of the real readers are always broader that what characterises the imaginary addressee. Therefore, it is not necessary for the real reader to unrestrainedly recognise himself in this created reader. The negotiating competence between the reader and the magazine, through the communication contract, is more vast. This includes order of desire and the imaginary, so that, potentially, any subject is able to recognise the basic elements of the contract and negotiate directions with the publication for their specific reading interests.

The characters that appear on the pages of men’s lifestyle magazines , such as FHM and loaded, are representations of the imaginary addressee’s values and characteristics. Editors and producers ‘engage actively in dialogue with readers’ (Benwell, 2003: 154), they choose topics they find relevant and interesting, not only to meet their readers’ expectations, but theirs as well. These editors claim that these magazines, especially loaded, are ‘born of a desire to offer readers a discourse with which they were already familiar’ (Southwell, 1998:2). They write features as if they are only writing it for themselves, their family and friends and not for their wide specific group of people that continues to buy their magazine. They describe and imagine the readers as someone that is like them, a person that reflects the same life experiences and share an equal amount of banter, so they choose to write about ‘topics and issues our readers talk about amongst themselves – and we write about them in their own language’ (ibid.).

The magazines want to be considered the reader’s ‘best friend’ or ‘mate’, to let the reader know they are the ‘same status as the writer’ (Stevenson et al, 2000:369). They will attempt to make the reader keep on buying the magazine, so they will try to ‘offer handy hints, pointing out obvious pitfalls and supplying ‘useful’ advice.’ (ibid.) This advances the ‘idea that the magazine’s producers were no different from its consumers, such policies spoke of (producers’) commitments to seeing themselves as ‘ordinary blokes’ and their attachment to the new journalist ethic’ (Benwell, 2003: 105).

In these men’s magazines’ context, the representations of the imaginary reader’s values and characteristics can be pointed out in two central axes between the characters. These can be linked to male sexuality and represented by females exposing their naked bodies, as well as linked to the values of femininity represented by the women featured in the magazine reports. In the editorial profile of FHM and loaded, the characters that will stand out the most, whether due to the recurrence of the magazines’ editions, or their own editorial history, are the female models. These female models chosen to figure as the magazine’s imaginary addressee’s sexual pattern, as they also highlight female sexuality as the basis of the reader’s masculinity. As an example, the statement of a men’s lifestyle magazine editor, on naked women exposed in these magazines (Guardian, 25 Nov. 1996):

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Peter Howarth (then editor of Esquire) sought to defend his magazine’s reliance on a diet of ‘babes and boobs’ by arguing against the idea that there had been a recent ‘dumbing down of men’s magazines’. Yet he goes on to say that ‘any good magazine must offer a balance of contents, and part of that balance, if it is to reflect the interests of men, will inevitably be articles on beautiful women.’ (Stevenson et al., 2000: 373)

The editorial construction of the imaginary addressee, in this context, makes explicit a particular trait of loaded and FHM magazines’ readers: traditional masculinity, ‘new laddism’, and being straight. Although the thematic interests of the reader are wide (from cars to drinking, from sports to fashion, from films to games, and also from health to beauty), it is always from this heteronormative basis that the imaginary addressee will position himself, as the magazines, mentioned above, are ‘undoubtedly a celebration of white male heterosexuality’ (Stevenson et al. 2000: 372).

But femininity does not only fulfil, in loaded and FHM magazines, the trace of sexuality from the ideal reader. In the imaginary about masculinity , the women play a fundamental role, a relational and/or dual role, which means that hegemonic masculinity presupposes the predominance of a certain configuration of femininity. This will establish a linear bipolarity and generate a difficult and tense dialogue between the polymorphic complexity of female experiences and the authoritarian simplism of guiding patterns.

In conclusion, the data analysed and the topic that was explored about men’s lifestyle magazines and how it represents the traditional masculinity and sexism , describes the ‘new lad’, a prominent media image in the late 1990s. The ‘new lad’ representation is the opposite of the ‘new man’, and was created for the male heterosexual audience that was not ready to let go of the constant irony, anti-heroic and self-deprecating masculinity.

This project also sought to explore the relations between the narrative construction of characters in magazine journalism and the editorial constitution of the ‘ideal reader’.

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Masculinity And Sexism In Men’s Lifestyle Magazines. (2022, February 17). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 8, 2023, from
“Masculinity And Sexism In Men’s Lifestyle Magazines.” Edubirdie, 17 Feb. 2022,
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