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How does the media represent female bodies?

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Sociology Coursework How does the media represent female bodies? My Rationale Aim - I intend to examine how the media represents female bodies. I chose this area of sociology to study because I found the recent debate about the media's portrayal of women and the decision of the Madrid Fashion Week in October 2006 to ban size zero (UK size four) models very interesting. Media empires such as those controlled by the Murdock family and EMAP have become increasingly powerful and their focus on celebrities and their promotion of a western ideal of beauty have only become recent topics of research. Personally, I hold the view that the overemphasis on body size by the media can have a very negative affect on women's body image. This could be a factor in the development of eating disorders and low self confidence in those most vulnerable. As a teenager I have grown up in an era in which celebrity magazines commend slim bodies and ridicule anything that does not fit that image with red circles of shame pointing out any imperfections. However even though I have a strong personal view on this topic I will try to minimise bias when undertaking this study. I have decided to use content analysis as my method because I think it will be simple and effective to do and I can obtain clear results with minimal bias. However unlike interviews it will be difficult to achieve in-depth information. If I was to do this piece of research as an individual piece of work I would use more than one method (combined methods research) but due to time and financial constraints and a word limit this is not possible. Therefore I feel content analysis of magazines is the best method. Surveys to find out people's feelings and opinions on this topic could be problematical because it may be difficult to find a selection of participants who are comfortable and uninhibited about going into detail about their feelings on this topic. ...read more.


A pilot study is a small scale study which is used to test validity (truth value) and reliability and can be used to iron out any unseen problems before the main study is carried out. This could come in very useful as I have never carried out content analysis before and it may take me more than one attempt to get accurate unbiased result. Also I can establish whether my categories are correct or whether I might need to add or change existing categories to get a better fit. I encountered a problem with my choice of magazines as there were so many on the market. I wanted to use women's magazines guideline there were many types of magazines. Vogue is very different in price, quality of paper, images and content to a gossipy magazine such as Heat. In the end I decided I would look at the low price end of the women's magazines market and buy magazines only under 2 pounds. So I wouldn't be biased in choosing the magazines I like to read, I sent a relative who does not read these magazines to pick out 3 magazines for me. She came back with Heat, More and Closer these were my sources of evidence I would use to analyse content and construct a grid. I then planned my categories. This was harder than I originally thought. After I had done this I then carefully studied the images on each page of the magazine and put a tally in the appropriate category, if one did not fit I made a note of it so I could consider whether I should add another category in which it would fit. For the results of my pilot study please refer to the appendix. Evidence The aim of this piece of research was to examine how the media represents female bodies, in this section I will describe, explain and analyse my results and state any problems I had and how I solved them. ...read more.


The results have in fact reinforced my initial thoughts on the topic, which women are still represented in an old fashioned, stereotypical way and that although things have changed in wider society it is yet to fully filter through into the media. I have noticed that being sexually independent is really encouraged by women's magazines particularly the emphasis on casual sex, which was not present in any of the findings of McRobbie or Tuchman's research. Sexual independence for mature women is a positive development but many very young girls in the UK feel overly pressured to engage in underage sex, due to peer pressure and emphasis on sex in young women's magazines. One point to make is that my research was selective because in my categories in my content analysis grid I would ask for certain things I was looking for. This therefore leads to the imposition problem which means could mean I am only finding these results because it's what I want to discover rather than it being a true reflection of the wider situation. I think this is very true in my research because I kept my categories very linked to what I wanted to find out rather than having some unlinked categories which may have given me a truer picture. Overall I think my research is valid and representative of the content and representation of women in magazines today however I think the reliability may be an issue because even though I tried to limit my opinion and bias there is no way to eliminate it completely. Also I carried out a small scale piece of research which could affect the representativeness but I tried my best to balance this out by choosing different types of women's magazines. However I could improve the reliability, validity and representativeness of this piece of research by carrying out the research again on a much large scale over a longer period of time accompanied by other methods of research to reinforce my conclusions. Ferguson, M. (1983) Forever Feminine: Women's Magazines and the Cult of Femininity. ...read more.

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