Women's magazines and sensationalisation of slenderness


Chapter 1: Introduction and Background

"Historical analyses of images of women have reported that the preferred women's body has become consistently smaller over the past century" (Ogden 2003 p.71). In the middle ages, rounder, plumper figures were seen as erotic and fashionable. In art, paintings of women were depicted as having rounded hips and full breasts. (Grogan 1999)

However this changed in the 1920's with the introduction of the flapper look. This is when the idealisation of slimness first occurred. Silverstone et al (1986) reported that women at this time women used starvation diets and bound their breasts in order to achieve the ideal body. The ideal body image changed again to a more curvaceous one following the 1950s with actresses such as Marilyn Monroe who was famous for her large hips and breasts. However, this was short lived and the body size seen in the 1920's returned during the 1960's. Fashion, particularly demanded a very thin body. This can be personified with models like Twiggy and Jean Shrimpton. This trend to have an extremely thin body in fashion has continued to the present day, exploding in the late 1990's with the media's coverage of the size zero phenomenon. In a report by BEAT (2007), the UK's leading charity for people with eating disorders and their families, they found that "The hysteria that surrounded the so-called 'size zero' debate did little to enlighten opinion, or challenge entrenched misconceptions. It deflected attention from the substantive issue of an unhealthily thin aesthetic."

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Size zero is an American women's clothing size equivalent to a United Kingdom size 4. However, this was then adopted to refer to extremely thin women and the trends associated with them. The women's magazine industry has given size zero extensive coverage and therefore made it more prolific. In 2005, Heat magazine published an issue featuring the "20 skinniest celebrities" (Byrne 2005). In 2001, Frost stated that the media portrayal of celebrities might be linked to the body dissatisfaction shown by young women with their weight and the alleged rise in eating disorders among young women.

This research examines magazines that are predominantly read by women and the discourse and imagery within them surrounding the size zero phenomenon. The study will observe whether or not the magazine content glamourises a slender body and therefore puts pressure on young women to aspire to be thin. The magazines that will be examined will have a high readership of women aged 17-25.

The magazine industry is a multi-million pound business within the United Kingdom. Magazines have become even more popular since publishers have realised that they could produce and print magazines for niche groups profitably. (McKay 2006) Magazines that are produced especially for women are successful and exist very profitably.

However, in recent years, magazines in the women's market have come under increasing scrutiny for producing a thin ideal that is unreachable for most women. Maggie Wykes and Barrie Gunter (2006) comment that at the end of the twentieth century a "moral panic" was apparent in the news media. The image of health and strength that was seen throughout the 1980's was being replaced with "frail femininity". Heroin chic dominated the fashion industry. This imagery was associated with young models that were emaciated and sunken eyed. This look then proliferated into women's fashion magazines. (Wykes and Gunter 2006 p.65-66) This led to the UK Women's minister Tessa Jowell, organising a body summit at Downing street with a top modelling agency, Storm, and a teenage magazine, Jump, to discuss the pre-occupation that women have with "feeling that they don't look right, that they don't meet the standards of thin models in young women's magazines" (BBC News 2000).

However, in 2009 and at the start of 2010, perhaps there has been a change in women's magazines. Firstly, Alexandra Shulman, editor of the United Kingdom edition of Vogue, wrote a letter to some of the worlds leading designers. This accused them of "pushing ever thinner models into fashion magazines despite widespread public concern over 'size-zero' models". Shulman feels that magazines have to hire models with "jutting bones and no breasts or hips" through supplying very small sample size garments for photo shoots. (Pavia 2009) In an interview with the telegraph Shulman notes, "There is a real feeling that an appreciation of more diverse shapes is what people want. I think it will change but slower that I would like." (Nikkhah 2009)

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Also, Brigette, Germany's most popular magazine vowed to use only real women in the photo shoots within the magazine. The editor of the magazine has said that this move is due to complaints from readers who felt no connection with the women portrayed in magazines. (Connolly 2009) This is not the first time that reader's thoughts on size zero have influenced a magazine editor. Cindi Leive editor of US Glamour, recently blogged that her magazine is committing to featuring a greater range of body types within the pages after receiving letters of praise after featuring a model with a "naturally curvy tummy" in the September 2009 issue. (Leive 2009)


It has been said that one of the strongest communicators to women is the mass media. Now more than ever the media, and especially magazines targeting women, are accused of influencing women in terms of appearance and body image (Lokken et al 2004). In the United Kingdom alone, 1.6 million people are affected by eating disorders (BEAT 2010). Although this is seen as a psychological issue, it is important to look at the influence that the media, in particular women's magazines, have on women's body image.

However, the United Kingdom is a predominantly obese culture. It is important to look at whether these women do still feel that magazines effect how they look at their own bodies and pressurise them to attain an ideal size or whether they feel indifference to the images being presented.

Aims and objectives

The aim of the research is to look at the broad spectrum of women's magazines and to examine the attitudes that they have towards size zero and too thin body types.

The objectives to fulfil this aim are as follows:

  1. To examine women's magazines, their portrayal of thin women and the discourse surrounding the size zero phenomenon.
  2. To explore whether women's magazines do encourage young women to aspire to a thin body size or if it is society and culture in general.
  3. To evaluate the effects that magazines have on young women (17-25 year olds) and their idea of perfect body size and image.
  4. To explore whether consumption of women's magazines has an effect on why some women aspire to be thin and others do not seem to have the same aspirations.

Chapter 2 Methodology

This chapter aims to explain the methods that were utilized when carrying out this study into women's magazines and the sensationalisation of slenderness.

Research approach

In order to fulfil the objectives that were set out, extensive primary, secondary, quantitive and qualitative research was carried out.

To provide more convincing results, it was important to carry out different methods of research to substantiate the results that were found. In order to do this, methodological triangulation was drawn upon. Denzin (2006) defined this as using more than one method to gather data, such as interviews, observations, questionnaires, and documents. In this case, the triangulation used academic literature, quantitative content analysis and qualitative focus groups. A triangulation diagram is placed in appendix A of the study. This method allowed the researcher to obtain a greater understanding of the topic, whilst also producing results that were more valid and reliable.

Primary Research

Primary research can be defined as original research that is carried out first hand by the researcher (Stokes 2003). It includes both quantitative and qualitative methods. This research used content analysis and focus groups as the primary research methods.

Content Analysis

The primary focus of the research is to analyse the level and type of coverage that women's magazines give to the idealisation of a thin and slender body. The research method chosen to do this was through content analysis. "The purpose of the method is to identify and count the occurrence of specified characterisations or dimensions of texts, and through this, to be able to say something about the messages, images, representations of such texts ad their wider social significance" (Hansen et al 1998). One advantage of content analysis is that although it is a quantitative method, it can also be used to provide qualitative results (Stokes 2003). Although content analysis does also have negatives, they are usually overcome through careful consideration of the categories of analysis that are defined.

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Instead of carrying out an analysis with a very precise focus, where individual words are used as a sampling unit, it was decided to use a themes analysis. This type of analysis "relies on the coder to use certain themes or ideas in the text and then to allocate these to predetermined categories" (Deacon et al 2007 p.121).

The texts on which the analysis took place, other wise known as the primary sources, are a variety of magazines marketed towards women. For the purpose of the study the target age group established was women aged between 17 and 25. For each of the magazines, 2 issues of a range of six magazines were analysed from February and April 2010. All of the issues that were used will be found within the references of this report.

The content analysis was split into three subject areas; magazine articles, fashion features and magazine advertising. It was then examined to look at the number of thin women found in advertising images, thin fashion images and to look at the number of thin messages that were found within the articles. Articles that did not promote a thin ideal or have any messages regarding weight were not included in the study. Once this was carried out, calculations then occurred to show the percentage of coverage that each magazine gives to the thin ideal, the percentage of each type of coverage be it images or words and also allowed for a comparison of the broad spectrum of magazines that were studied. The coding sheets that were used to carry out the analysis are placed as appendix B of this report. A glossary of terms that were used when carrying out the analysis can be found in appendix C.

It would have been preferred to carry out a longer analysis of content in order to look at the historical change of magazines since the size zero phenomena occurred. However, due to time constraints and also issues of availability this was not possible.

The Primary Sources

The primary sources that were used in the analysis were magazines that had a high readership of women aged between 17 and 25. The magazines were both weekly and monthly publications from February and April 2010. Monthly publications are marked as March and April due to how magazines are printed and published. The research aims to quantify the content of magazines that are marketed at women in order to fulfil objective 1, to examine women's magazines, their portrayal of size zero women and the discourse surrounding the phenomenon, and also objective 2, to explore whether women's magazines do encourage young women to aspire to size zero or if it is society and culture in general. The magazine choices are justified in appendix D.

Focus Groups

In order to fulfill objective three, to evaluate the effects that magazines have on young women (17-25 year olds) and their idea of perfect body size and image and also objective four, to explore whether consumption of women's magazines has an effect on why some women aspire to be thin and others do not seem to have the same aspirations, it was required to use a more qualitative research method.

The method that was chosen was to carry out focus groups. Focus groups allow an understanding of audience attitudes and behaviours to be researched. Carrying out a focus group is where "6 to 12 people are interviewed simultaneously, with a moderator leading the respondents in relatively unstructured discussion about the focal topic." (Wimmer and Dominick 2006 p128). The method for fulfilling objectives three and four changed from the proposal. When writing the proposal it was decided to carry out interviews, however in order to get a wider range and more diverse views on the topic this changed to focus groups. The main reasons for changing to use this method are outlined in Hansen et al (1998 p.258) who gave 2 advantages of focus groups:

" (i) group interviews are more cost efficient than individual interviews- a wider range of people can be interviewed within the same limitations of time, resources, and research money; and (ii) groups allow the researcher to observe how audiences make sense of media through conversation and interaction with each other."

The researcher is very important when carrying out focus group research. The discussion must be monitored and no bias must be formed. The researcher has to remain impartial throughout. Ward and Hansen (1987) feel that "the moderator of a focus group lets the discussion range while it is moving productively and producing useful comment. Tasks include making certain that main points are covered, being receptive to new points that arise, and making sure that each respondent has a chance to talk." (Ward and Hansen 1987 p.178)

For this research, two focus group interviews were carried out with six participants in each. This allowed the researcher to control the discussion so that it did not deviate too far from the topic in hand. In Hansen et al (1998) it is felt that the consensus for focus group size is between six to ten participants because if the group was larger it would allow less vocal and less confident participants to hide behind those that are more out spoken and out going. Smaller groups allow all of the participants to be involved and therefore the researcher gathers more diverse opinions. However, in one of the focus groups, only five participants were available as one participant was unable to come.

The Participants

As the research is focused on females, specifically in the 17-25 age range, all of the participants of the focus groups fell into this category. The sample of participants was wide and covered a wide range of backgrounds and varied body types and shapes. The sample featured one seventeen year old, two eighteen year olds, one nineteen year old, one 20 year old, one twenty-one year olds, two twenty-two year olds, one twenty-three year old, one twenty-four year olds and a twenty-five year old. The participants came mainly form Aberdeen but also Aberdeenshire, Edinburgh and Saint Andrews. The participants were both students and in full-time work and included law students, management students, college students, fashion retail assistants and nurses. This meant that results from the focus group were more varied.


Using focus groups can have ethical implications as sensitive and sometimes private issues are being discussed amongst a group of individuals. To resolve this, an introduction to the topic was given along with a notification of confidentiality and how it was going to be achieved was read out at the commencement of each focus group. This can be found as appendix E of this report. Oral permission was already gained from the participants but to ensure that the participants understood what was expected of them, written consent was also obtained before the focus group was carried out. An example of this form can be found as appendix F. This also allowed for any relevant details about the participants to be obtained. This topic of this study deals with nothing that can be considered harmful or damaging and an ethical considerations declaration was filled out when writing the proposal for the research.

Question Themes

The questions that were asked in the focus groups are found in appendix G. Alongside these, a range of magazine articles and images were used to demonstrate the topic being studied and also to keep the group on the topic more easily.

Having pre-determined questions meant that each focus group and also any future research could be more easily replicated.

Secondary Research

Secondary research is the collection of work that has already been completed by other authors. It is used to help understand the research that has already occurred and to gain a broader knowledge of the topic.

Having already established a preliminary literature review in the research proposal, the author continued to locate and explore resources both in the university library and also through online sources. The secondary research that was gathered came from a variety of sources both academic and other including books, journal articles and newspaper articles.

The main strategy for uncovering secondary sources has been through splitting the topic into main areas and related themes. The keywords were then substituted with synonyms, acronyms and plurals in searches. The list of synonyms and search words will be placed in appendix A. The main searches have taken place on journal databases, the Robert Gordon University library search engine, Google Books and also on Amazon. Another strategy for finding relevant secondary sources was through the women and media module at university. This covered magazines and how they disseminate feminine ideals.

As the topic deals with communication and media studies, the main journal databases that have been searched are Sage journals and Emerald because this is where the most relevant academic journals will be found. ASSIA Net has also been searched because the topic that is being studied is also linked to social sciences and psychology. Another strategy for finding appropriate journal articles was that any references used in them were searched for and reviewed for appropriateness. The main journals that have yielded any articles of interest include the journal of Communication Research, the European Journal of Communication and the Journal of Communication. Within psychology the main journals that appeared were Sex Roles, Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology and Media Psychology.

The literature studied covered a wide subject area. It was important to look at how the depiction of the female body has changed within the media over time, the effect that this depiction in the media has on women with a focus on women's magazines and also to look at other areas that may influence young women when looking at their body image.

Research Requirements

The nature of the research meant that a number of magazines had to be purchased. This was not bothersome as magazines were already purchased by the researcher on a regular basis.

Some of the secondary literary research was not available in local libraries and therefore had to be purchased. The use of the interlibrary loan was not needed as it was felt that the any books required through this would be needed for an extended period of time and therefore were purchased.

In order to record the focus groups, a Dictaphone was required. This was obtained from The Robert Gordon University. The focus groups were carried out in a neutral and comfortable environment within the university.

Chapter 3: Literature Review

A detailed study of relevant literature has been undertaken in order to further knowledge of women's magazines, the thin ideal that they contain and also the supposed effects that they have on young women's body image. A review of the influence that society and culture as a whole has on female body image has also been carried out, as women's magazines cannot be blamed entirely for the fixation with thinness that young women are said to have.

Body Image

Body image was first defined as "The picture of our own body which we form in our mind, that is to say, the way in which the body appears to ourselves." (Schlinder 1950 p.11). However, since this term was coined in 1950, it has become rather outdated. Since this term was coined, researchers have developed this to consider body image as perception of ones body attractiveness, distortion of body size, ideas of body boundaries and also perception of bodily sensations (Fisher 1990). Therefore, perhaps a more advanced definition comes from Sarah Grogan (1999) who says that body image can now be defined as "A person's perceptions, thoughts or feelings about his or her own body" (Grogan 1999 p.1). This definition is the working definition that body image will refer to throughout this research paper.

Research has found that body image is linked to self-esteem, emotional stability, eating habits, the perpetuation of eating disorders and other related psychological health problems. (Gunther and Wykes 1999)

Body image is said to develop as a function of culture as a response to cultural aesthetic ideals (Rudd and Lennon 2001) Derenne and Beresinc (2006) agree with this saying that culture itself helps to create body image through relationships with family, friends and partners, public figures and celebrities and perhaps most importantly the media. The media at present are said to perpetuate and glorify unrealistic standards of beauty and body image. Kristen Harrison (2000 p 121) defines thin ideal media as "portrayals of thinness as a desirable trait in and of itself or at least a trait which accompanies other desirable traits as the most beautiful, desirable and successful" It has been shown that magazines fail to present a diverse range of body types and promote thinness as desired and as the norm for women (Harper and Tiggemann 2008). Posovac et al (1998) also agree with this view and describe that the current media images of ideal female beauty emphasize thinness.

Wolf (1991) also emphasized that the ideal that the media constructs is impossible to attain for the majority of women and may lead to them having feelings of inadequacy. Research has shown that body image is a large concern for women. A survey carried out in the United States, found that in 1985 three out of ten of the female participants said that they felt unhappy with their appearance, in 1993 this had risen to nearly one in two (Cash and Henry 1995). Although this study is rather outdated, the results have been replicated many times. in one study, 15% of participants said that they would sacrifice 5 years of their lives to be the ideal weight for them. Theses studies focused on American women. Wykes and Gunter (2006) give an overview of the evidence of the body dissatisfaction occurrence within the United Kingdom. These are mostly carried out in women's magazines. The studies found that half of the sample of 5000 women classified themselves as being overweight and more than eight in ten said that they felt self-conscious of their bodies and that their life would improve if they felt happy with their body. This study was carried out in 2000 and is therefore timelier.

Culture, Society and Body Image

Although women's magazines are often criticized for their role in creating a thin ideal body image for women, it is important to examine other areas such as the cultural influences and society in the Western world and the effect that they have on women's body image.

"In western societies especially, a general preference for a thin body shape has become established as the norm...For over 30 years in Western societies young females have reported more positive attitudes towards a small body size and a thin physique" (Wykes and Gunter 2006 p6). This viewpoint has been backed up with various studies that have occurred over many years.

In 1978, Hilde Bruch found that a thin body shape is associated with success personally, professionally and socially. She argued that women are expected to have successful careers, intelligence, be competent and ambitious yet at the same time desirable and feminine. Bruch is a renowned university professor who has published many books and journal articles about eating disorders. Therefore this book focused primarily on eating disorders, how they begin, and focuses on case studies of patients suffering from anorexia and bulimia.

Sarah Grogan (1999) also writes about the cultural stereotypes of fat and thin that exist within the west. Grogan is a known academic within the psychology and mental health field. The book also looks at the dissatisfaction that men and children have with their bodies, which is irrelevant for the research being undertaken. The book is written from many perspectives. This makes the research less biased.

Grogan hypothesises that "poorer cultures (where thinness may signify negative factors such as poverty and/or disease) are more likely to value plumpness; whereas affluent cultures (where thinness may be associated with self-control and self-denial in the face of plenty) are more likely to value slenderness." (Grogan 1999 p.20) This would therefore account for the idolisation of thin that occurs within the generally affluent United Kingdom. Grogan also points out that slenderness is generally associated with happiness, success, youthfulness and social acceptability. All of these have positive connotations, whereas being over-weight is linked to laziness, lack of will power and being out of control. She states that being overweight is seen as unattractive and associated with other negative characteristics.

This research can be supported with the many academic studies that have been carried out around this topic. This includes the study carried out by Marika Tiggemann and Esther Rothblum (1988). This study was carried out on groups of American and Australian college students. The problem with this study is that it only takes into account college students and not the general population and also the research into women's magazines that is being carried out is taking place within the United Kingdom. However, both Australia and America are affluent and have a similar culture that can be found within the United Kingdom. The research also included both male and female participants, rather than this research, which is focusing on just females. In the study, the researchers found that both male and female participants from both cultures had negative stereotypes of fat; less-happy, more self-indulgent, less self-confident, less self-disciplined, lazier and less attractive than thin people. They also found that these negative stereotypes were more marked for judgements of fat women rather than fat males. They also found that all of the participants whether overweight or thin had negative stereotypes of fat.

In Helen Malson, The Thin Woman (1998 p.104), she describes the way that the "female body is discursively constructed and regulated in contemporary Western culture through the social significations accorded to body weight and shape". The Thin Woman is written from a feminist and post-structuralist view. Malson discusses how fat and thin bodies have cultural meanings. Through numerous interviews that she conducted, she divided the personal characteristics into negative fat characteristics and positive thin characteristics. The participants noted that a fat self was constructed as ugly, unattractive and shameful whereas a thin self was seen as highly desirable and associated with happiness. However, the participants that she interviewed were all diagnosed as anorexic therefore not giving a real insight into the broad spectrum of females in the western culture. This shows the idealisation of thinness that occurs within the western world. Most women in the west see fat as ugly and this as beautiful. Malson goes on to discuss that the construction of a thin body is "firmly embedded within a romantic cultural narrative. Within a romantic discourse, a slim body is needed to attract a man to save the woman; this can be seen in various fairytales and romantic fictions. Malson states "being thin is thus constructed as a signifier of romantic femininity." (Malson 1998 p.107). When looking at magazines that are placed in the female market, the same theories can be applied.

Many researchers have also theorised that in the western world, being overweight has connotations of a lack of control. Helen Malson found that the participants that she surveyed felt that a "thin-anorexic body" is a controlled body whereas on the other hand, being overweight "signifies a lack of control". She says that being thin is "construed as part of the 'perfection ideal' of being in control." A thin body means more than just being in control of body weight but also "being in control of your life." her participants noted that "the thin body is valued...not so much for its beauty as for its being the product, the proof, of self-control." (Malson 1998 p.121-122) However, as said before, Malson only surveyed women who were diagnosed as being anorexic. Therefore, this positive connotation of being in control may only resound with women who are in possession of a thin body; they may feel that they are in control when not eating. Women who do not have this "ideal" thin body may feel that they do not have to be in control of what they eat to be in control if their life.

The effect that the western culture has on body image can be demonstrated with the spread of eating disorders and body dysmorphia through the rest of the world. Susan Bordo (2003), in Unbearable Weight, recalls a study carried out by Anne Becker. In this Becker studies the Fiji Islands. Before 1995, Fiji had no television access. A single channel was introduced broadcasting programs from the United Kingdom, the United States and Australia. Before television was introduced, Fiji had no reported cases of anorexia and most females there were comfortable in their bodies no matter what shape or size that they were. Three years after the station was introduced, over half of the females surveyed reported that they had dieted in the previous months and 11 percent reported that they had vomited to try to control their weight. This study may have more to do with the effect that the media in the west has on body ideals rather than the culture that exists.

In 1980, Garner et al carried out a study into the cultural expectations of thinness in women. This looked at the cultural stereotypes of feminine beauty; Miss America winners and Playboy models. In the research, the researchers looked at the reported height and weight measurements of Miss America pageant winners from 1960 to 1978. This indicated that the weights of winners had decreased over time. Prior to 1970, the mean weight of the contestants was approximately 88% of the population norm. Following 1970, mean weight of the contestants had decreased to 85%. The findings were also similar for Playboy centrefolds. They also found that whilst female models had been becoming thinner, the average American had become heavier. In an updated study into this by Wiseman et al (1990), they found that this trend continued from 1979 to 1988. The sources of information are both credible academic sources, however the studies focused on women who are expected to have a slender body type. The pressure for pageant girls and playboy models does not only come from societies expectations and stereotypes of the body type that these girls must have but also from within the media industry.

Media Effect on Body Image

"The cultural standard of beauty in relation to body shape is promulgated, to a significant degree, via the major mass media." (Wykes and Gunter 2006 p.8). Many studies point the finger at the mass media for the numbers of females within the western world who are dissatisfied with their body, perceive themselves to be overweight and want to be thinner. Hesse-Biber (2007) estimates that around 56% of women feel dissatisfied with their bodies.

The media heavily emphasises that a thin body is beautiful and is seen as ideal. A study carried out by Raphael and Lacey (1992) found that television portrays a thin body as being normal. More shockingly they found that a large number of female characters (69%) had a body type that could be said as being thin and anorexic. More recently, a study carried out by Greenberg et al (2003) examined 56 television series from 1999 and 2000. They found that thin women were over-represented, a third of American television characters are underweight compared to 5 percent of the American population. Although both studies are American, many popular sitcoms and television series that are shown in the United Kingdom are imported from the United States.

Hawkins et al carried out another study into the media and the portrayal of a thin body ideal in 2004. This is more recent and has similar findings to the study carried out by Raphael and Lacey. However, this research looks at media as a whole rather than focusing just on one media outlet. They established that the images of women presented throughout the media are typically 15% below the recommended average weight for women. They found that women are usually tall, with narrow hips, long legs and thin thighs. Hawkins et al also theorize that the thin-ideal weight women seen within the media have also become ever thinner. This can be seen in a study carried out by Percy and Lautman (1994). This was found within Advertising, Weight Loss, and Eating Disorders by E. Clark, T. Brock, and D. Stewart. They found that in 1894, the ideal body that featured in an advert was five foot four inches and weighed 140lb, had a 37 inch bust and 38 inch waist. This then slimmed down in 1947 and again in 1970 to being five foot eight inches and weighing just 118lb. Although there was no further research after 1970, the models on Storm Model Agency's website are at least five foot ten and usually have a 23 inch waist and a 34 inch bust. Silverstein et al (1986) found that the body shape in television is slimmer for women than men. Participants also rated 69% of female characters as thin. The same applied to women's magazines, which featured more messages to stay slim than men's magazines. Although this study is over 20 years old, it shows that the media (whether magazines, television, advertising or film) continuously portray a thin body shape and ideal.

In a study carried out by Heinberg and Thomson (1992), they found that women are more likely to use celebrities more than groups such as family, classmates, students, and celebrities to compare their body image. This is an example of social comparison theory where an individual establishes their personal identity, through comparing themselves with others. (Festinger 1954). In this case the attribute being compared is body image. This study was carried out in the United States not in Great Britain and the participants were all undergraduate students, which does not give a true representation of society. Also, although this study took place over ten years ago, celebrity culture and the obsession with celebrities that exists has intensified therefore the body comparison that exists may have intensified.

The fact that the media is presenting an ever-thinner ideal and that research shows young women do compare their body image to the representations seen within the media can be dangerous. In 2006, Gayle Bessenoff carried out a study into the social comparison that women make with the media and the effect that this has. She described this as upward social comparison theory; comparison with others that are deemed to be socially better which then leads to a negative mood and negative image. Bessenoff found that comparison with the thin ideal seen in the media can lead to higher levels of feelings of dejection, low self-esteem particularly with appearance, increased levels of depressive thoughts and also a general decrease in body satisfaction. Bessenoff is an American professor who has carried out multiple studies in this field. The study came from a sociological and psychological perspective. These negative effects that Bessenoff found have been replicated in many other academic studies adding further credibility to the findings.

Harper and Tiggemann (2008) carried out research into the effect of thin ideal media images on women's self-objectification, mood and body image. The study examined the effects that media image had on the self-objectification of 90 Australian undergraduate women aged 18-35. The participants were all from a first year class studying psychology within the same university. This may mean that the results would be narrow as the participants may all have similar backgrounds and cultures. Participants were split into 3 groups and each viewed a set of images. One viewed magazine advertisements featuring a thin woman, another featured a thin woman with at least one attractive man and the final group viewed advertisements in which no people were featured. The participants who viewed the images that contained a thin woman reported a higher level of self-objectification, weight related anxiety, higher levels of body dissatisfaction and low mood. This shows that the thin-ideal image does not just have to focus on the woman's body in order to have a negative effect on women. This is important as many advertisements and images seen in woman's magazines reduce women's bodies to parts for example, a thin arm or wrist may be shown to promote a watch. It has been found that these "body-isms" (Hall and Crum 1994) can often promote a higher level of body dissatisfaction in women than viewing an image of a full thin body (Tiggemann and McGill 2004). Again, this was an Australian study. Tiggemann has written many articles looking at the media and body image and is an academic within the psychology field.

In a study carried out by Harrison and Cantor (1997), they looked at college women's media use and the relationship with disordered eating symptomatology, body dissatisfaction and drive for thinness. They also looked at males and their approval of thinness for themselves and for women. Although this study is not interested in males media use and effects, the attitudes that males have towards women is valid and has been examined within the culture and society section of this literature review. The researchers found that media use did predict negative effects such as eating-disorder symptoms, drive for a thin body and body dissatisfaction. They also found that magazine reading was a more constant predictor than television viewing. This has also been found in studies such as Kim and Lennon (2007). This study looked specifically at thinness-depicting ad thinness-promoting media. The study had a large number of participants (232). However, the participants were all undergraduate students from communication courses at the same university. The students were dispersed through the 4 years of the courses and the majority were white and middle-class. Harrison then replicated this study on 366 adolescents (2000). This was not relevant to this study as it was deemed to be unethical to use minors in the research.

Harrison carried out a further study with Taylor and Marske (2006). This study looked at the effect that thin-ideal images and text have on women and men's eating behaviour. Again this study does not look at men so this area of research is not relevant. The 222 female participants viewed slides depicting images of slender female models with no text, images of thin female models with exercise and diet related text, irrelevant text and also no slides as a control measure. The participants for this study were more dispersed coming from 2 universities not just the one. The study found that women, who already had a body image discrepancy with perceptions of their own body and the body of same gender peers, ate less in front of female peers after viewing both images alone and images with text. Although the study looked at the effect on eating, which does not relate to the research being carried out, it just adds to the negative effects that the media are said to have on young women.

Vaughan and Fouts (2003) also looked at effect that television viewing and magazine reading have on adolescent girls and eating disorder symptomatology. This was done at two times, 16 months apart. They found that the girls who increased their exposure to fashion magazines but decreased the number of hours that they viewed television increased eating disorder symptomatology. When decreasing both, the symptomatology also decreased. This study only examined school age girls which is not relevant to the study but this shows that magazine reading has more of an effect than television viewing for this age group. The researchers believe that this is because magazine reading "involves more emotional investment, closer examination of thin models...and social comparisons than television viewing. The findings here are similar to those found by Harrison and Cantor (1997).

Malkin, Wornian and Chrisler (1999) carried out a content analysis looking specifically at magazines and the gendered messages relating to body appearance within them. However, the focus was not only on women's magazines but also on men's magazines. They results regarding men's magazines are not needed. The researchers found that 78% of the 69 women's magazine covers that they examined contained a message about bodily appearance, 94% of the covers showed a thin female model or celebrity, 25% contained conflicting messages about weight loss and dietary habits and the positioning of weight related messages also suggested that weight loss would lead to an improved life. Although this study looked at magazines and the content within them, it did not look at how this would affect readers.

A further content analysis study was carried out by Gunther and Wykes (2006). This analysed six popular women's magazines and also magazines that appeal to young teenage girls from 2003. The research was broken down to look at the advertisements, beauty and fashion sections, articles and images that featured in each magazine. They found that the magazines pages were overloaded with advertisements. They also noted that all of the magazines featured thin celebrities and all contained articles that told the reader how to fix problem figures. They suggest that magazines are implying that if the reader does not have the same body shape that the celebrity possesses then they have a problem that should be dealt with. This was to be done through buying one of the many products that featured in the beauty advertisements. This study provided a framework on which to base the current research and also allowed for a comparison of some of the results. However, the analysis tended to be more narrative based.

A study, which did look at the negative affects that magazines have on young women, was carried out in 2007 by Kim and Lennon. They studied whether the level of exposure to fashion or beauty magazines is related to self-esteem, body image and eating disorder tendencies. They found a positive correlation between this. They also looked at television viewing but found that there was no connection. However, all participants were from an undergraduate textiles and clothing course. The fashion industry is known for its preoccupation with the thin body therefore the participant's studies may also have effected how they construct their body image. Another problem is that the majority of the participants were normal or underweight with only 14% in the overweight category. This could also have affected the results as body image could affect women of different sizes in different ways.

One theorist who has carried out many studies in this field is R.A. Botta. This researcher is, however, more concerned with the effect that media has on young girls attitudes towards body image. Many of the studies focus on the effect that television has however one study carried out in 2003 does focus on magazine reading. This study looked at 400 participants, both boys and girls and the mean age of participants was 18.94 adding to the relevance of this study. This study found that in girls, increased consumption of fashion magazines and health and fitness magazines correlated with an increase in bulimic behaviour. They also found that girls who said they did not internalize the body size images in magazines had a greater deal of body satisfaction and a decreased drive to be thin. This study may account for why some women are not affected by the thin ideal perpetuated in magazines.

In a similar study, carried out by Levine, Smolak and Hayden (1994). However, this studied focused on younger (aged 10-14) female only participants. This stuffy focused on the socio-cultural factors and participants were questioned about eating behavior, body satisfaction, concern with being slender, and cues from parents, peers, and magazine reading. The findings showed that the majority of participants felt that magazines gave a clear message about the importance of being thin. They also found that a drive for thinness for this group came both from weight/shape-related teasing and criticism by family and also reading magazines that contain information and ideas about an attractive body shape and about weight management. Although this does focus on young children, which this research does not look at due to ethical issues, it does show evidence that media effect on women's body image is present at this age. Levine is a psychological researcher with an interest in this field.

It was also important to look at the paradox that occurs when it is argued that a presumed media influence is apparent. If a magazine does make a woman feel unhappy about herself and her body then why does she continue to read it or buy magazines? A study by Wilcox and Laird (2000) say that the answer to this question is that "only some women are dissatisfied by the media depictions, while others find them enjoyable or at least indifferent." In the research they set out to find out which women would be affected and why. Wilcox and Laird carried out research using participants aged 18-35. They showed the women pictures of advertisements for clothing. One group viewed images of thin women and the other images of women that were more robust. They found that woman who were more inclined towards social comparison were more likely to report reduced self-esteem, and women inclined towards identification were more happy with their bodies as they imagine that they too could be as slim and attractive as the model in the image. However, the link that they present seems to be rather weak, not helped by the fact that only 41 participants were used. This small sample size means that the results and the effect that they found does not give a broad representation of society.

Media Commentator Views

The media has provided a lot of commentary on magazines and the effect that they have on women and the body image that they contain. They have also provided discourse on the size zero debate, which has intensified over time. The opinions within the media are diverse and although many are one-sided and not truly academic, it was felt important to examine some of the ideas and views that were being put forward.

The size zero debate really came to the forefront after the death of Luisa Ramos, a young model in 2006. Although the cause of death was said to be heart failure, her father said that she had fasted for days. (Kay 2006) The media picked up on this and ran countless stories about the fashion industry and the effect that they may have on women and their body image. One article by Karen Kay (2006) asked if size zero models were too thin for the catwalk. This took into account the reactions of the British Fashion Council who said that "It is not a question about size specifically; it is a question about health". The article also contained the views of a couple of fashion designers who agreed that they would not use a model who looked ill. However, one designer who only spoke anonymously pushed the blame onto fashion magazines, "I have to make my samples in a size eight...if I make them any bigger...no-one will use the samples in fashion magazines."

This can be contrasted to the view of Alexandra Shulman, the editor of British Vogue, who in 2009 sent a letter to designers blaming them for the ever thinner models that are found in magazines saying that editors "had no choice but to hire models that fitted the clothes." (Adetunji 2009). Although, Shulman says that magazines should take some of the blame for the thin culture, in an interview with Frontline in 1999 she said "Not many people have actually said to me that they have looked at my magazine and decided to become anorexic." This was quoted in Susan Bordo (2003). Lorraine Candy, editor and chief of Elle magazine in the United Kingdom, also shares this view. In an interview with Ben Dowell in the Guardian (2010), Candy said "Anorexia is a mental illness. It is driven by many, many things. I cannot change a girls life (which is) as much a contributing factor as possibly looking at a magazine and saying I want to be thin". The negative effects that magazine have on women has been outlined in studies by Botta, 2003; Vaughan and Fouts, 2003 and Kim and Lennon 2007. The study carried out by Kim and Lennon even looked at the effect that magazines have on eating disorder tendencies.

After the death of Luisa Ramos, an article in the Daily Mail blamed models for younger and younger girls becoming anorexic. Jenny Hope (2006) interviewed DR Jon Goldin, a Doctor from Great Ormond Street hospital in London. The fact that this article details medical opinion gives it credibility although the source is not academic. Goldins view is that the glamorisation of the thin women in magazines and television could have dangerous effects on some children. This was also seen in many academic studies (Levine, Smolak, and Hayden, 1994; Botta, 1999; and Harrison 2000). However, a study carried out in 2009, by Ian Frampton, a paediatric psychologist at Great Ormond Street hospital, and his colleagues have found that girls are predisposed to anorexia because of how the brain developed I the womb (Campbell, 2009). This study could perhaps flaw the argument that "social factors" pressure girls to lose weight and can cause eating disorders. Again, this is a medical argument so does have some validity, however, this finding is very recent and therefore will have to be developed and tested further to be conclusive. This is not the only media view that is relatively conflicting.

In 2009, there were many newspaper articles proclaiming that we were beginning to see the end of size zero especially in women's magazines. This started with the letter written by Alexandra Shulman. Then, Brigette a German woman's magazine decided to ban professional models (Connolly 2009a). However, this led to Karl Lagerfeld, a designer for the high fashion brand Chanel, said that the decision was driven by overweight women who did not like to be reminded of their own weight issues (Connolly, 2009b). This controversial view can be compared with the plus sized photo shoot, in which Lagerfeld was a part of, in V magazines size issue in which models of all shapes and sizes were used. This again was said to add to the 'death of size zero' that was occurring in 2009. This is also contradicted with the fact that in 2007, Lagerfeld sent away three models because he felt that they were too skinny (Alexander 2007). The view that the designer has on size zero is very conflicting. The death of size zero was not only contributed to magazines in the media, it was also being said that designers were perhaps changing when Mark Fast, used models up to a size 14.

However, not all media commentators believe that this is a positive change. Jezebel, a celebrity and fashion blog argues that "much like when Italian Vogue did an 'all-black issue,' the flipside of highlighting one kind of model in a 'special' issue is that they're actually being segregated, placed in a ghetto, away from the other 'real' models" (Jezebel 2009). Again, this source has no academic credibility and as the author is unknown it further adds to this.

In March 2010, Kira Cochrane, a writer for the Guardian argued, that the supposed change seemed to have stopped. She commented that at Paris Fashion week "jutting collar bones were ubiquitous" and that "there were a couple of shows...where healthier bodies were on show...they weren't a political statement, they were simply an aesthetic choice. Her criticism is not only of the fashion industry but also the magazine industry, commenting that after Alexandra Shulman voiced her worries last year the debate has became silent. This article is very subjective and perhaps it is too early to see if there really has been a change or if there is change at all. As Alexandra Shulman commented, "I think it will change, but slower that I would like to see it change" (Nikkhah 2009). Another criticism of this is that this can be seen in the media previously.

The first time this was seen was in 2006 when after the death of the model previously mentioned, fashions shows in Madrid and Milan decided to ban very thin models (Johnston 2006). However, in January 2007, The Daily Mail ran a story with the headline "Founder of London Fashion Week says 'Size Zero' battle is not over after the British Fashion Council refused to ban ultra skinny models as had occurred in Madrid and Milan (Constantinou 2007). This backwards and forwards can be seen being played out up until the current. In June 2008, the observer reported that Size Zero was back (Davies 2008) and just months later in October, The Sunday Times reported that "signs of a curvy, sexy and confident future are here" with "The Death of Size Zero" (Spicer 2008). The complexity of the issue and argument may mean that in order to understand if 2010 really does see the end of size zero, we will have to wait longer for the results.

Another complexity seen in media commentary is that not all of the views that are being put forward are negative about size zero. The most recent criticism comes from Lisa Hilton (2010). In her subjective article, she argues that women are not stupid and are able to distinguish the fantasy of the thin ideal and the realities of their own bodies. However, this is an argumentative piece written by one author. Women do now know that almost all magazine images are digitally enhanced and manipulated but still the images affect self-esteem and body image in young women.

Another criticism, although again coming completely from the authors point of view is an article from the Daily Telegraph by Bryony Gordon (2009). "Magazines, television films...people often ask why they aren't more reflective of real life, but the reason is that more often than not, they are an escape from it. Are we so stupid that we really believe we have to look like a supermodel?" She also says that women should just accept that it is normal to be unhappy about their body image.

Chapter 4 Content Analysis Results

This chapter details the primary research that was undertaken. Firstly, there is a general overview of the trends that were found when the research was carried out. This will than be followed by the specific findings from each magazine that was studied. This will look at the types of articles surrounding the thin ideal, the words used within them, the images that were used and how the content is distributed. This will all highlight the amount and type of coverage that magazines give to the thin ideal and will look at whether magazines do encourage women to aspire to be thin.

General Findings

For the purposes of this research Vogue, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, More, and Heat magazines were analysed, with two issues of each magazine being examined. As the magazines all have differing amounts of pages, it was essential to quantify this before being able to analyse the true amount of coverage that the magazines gave to promoting thin messages and a thin body type.

Therefore Vogue has the greatest number of pages with 377 in the March 2010 issue. The April edition of Glamour with 306 pages then followed this. The April 2010 issue of Vogue had 293 pages. Both editions of Vogue magazine featured an advertising pullout at the front of the magazine, which accounts for the odd number of pages. This was then followed by Cosmopolitan, which featured 252 pages in each of the issues. March's Glamour came next with 218 pages in the March issue, Heat then had 132 pages within the issue that came out between the 6th and 12th of February and 128 pages in the 3rd-9th April edition. Finally both editions of More! 108 pages.

With this quantified, it was then possible to analyse the coverage that each of these magazines gave to the thin ideal. This included and page that had an image that glamourised thinness, any article that had commentary on body shape or weight and advertising that promoted a slender appearance. With the raw data compared, it appeared that the number of page number correlated with the number of times a thin ideal message or image appeared. For example, Vogue had 204 appearances and More! magazine had 30.

However, when this is taken as a percentage of coverage within the magazine, there are some discrepancies. Vogue contains the highest percentage of thin ideal messages, advertisements and images with both issues having over 50% of the magazine coverage containing this. Suprisingly, the issue of More! from the 5th of April has 47% of the magazine containing a thin ideal. 36% of the April 2010 issue of Glamour contains an example of the thin ideal. Cosmopolitan, Glamour and the Februarty example of More! have around a 30% of the magazine coverage having a thin ideal significance. Heat magazine has the lowest coverage with just 17% of the magazine containing a thin ideal message, advertisement or image. This was then broken down further to look at the amount of coverage that each magazine had on each type of coverage that was found surrounding the thin ideal. This includes magazine articles, fashion spreads, advertisements and thin ideal images.

Women's Magazines and Thin Ideal Articles

Although it was expected that there would be plenty of magazine articles that could be said to contain the thin ideal, there were a lot less than was thought.

Therefore, in total the number of articles that detailed a discourse that could be described as a thin ideal within the magazines that were analysed totalled 29. The articles that were found will be scrutinized further within the analysis of each individual magazine.

Women's Magazines and Thin Ideal Fashion Spreads

Fashion coverage within women's magazines is an area that is almost expected to highlight the thin ideal that they portray. In the content analysis it was found that in the magazines studied a large amount of the material within the magazines was dedicated to fashion coverage. In all of the magazines, the clothing featured was modelled on a thin or in some cases extremely thin body. The table below demonstrates the number of pages that each of the magazines dedicated to fashion features. The features within them will be analysed further in the breakdown of all of the individual magazines.

Women's Magazines and Thin Ideal Advertisements

Another area in magazines that gives a huge amount of coverage to the thin ideal is advertising. Although the magazine has no real control over the body shape that is used within the advertising space that they sell, with the discourse and articles within the magazine it intensifies the message that a thin body is the only body that is deemed okay. Some of the magazines also advertised diet foods, products to increase weight loss and the majority also contained a number of adverts for cosmetic surgery firms which all supported the idea that in order to be beautiful, a thin body is needed and in some cases drastic measures are needed to obtain this. The advertisements that are quantified here will be analysed further within the individual magazine analysis.

Magazine Content Analysis

The next section of the analysis will examine each individual magazine and the content within them comprehensively.

Content Analysis of Vogue Magazine

Julie Burchill, as sited in Wykes and Gunther (2006) commented in 2000 that "The Daily Mail has created thousands more anorexics than Vogue, because Vogue simply shows thin women while the Daily Mail keeps up a non-stop commentary on the weight gain of famous women and links it to their sexual orientation and success."

This is still relevant as in both the March and April editions of Vogue over half of the pages within the magazines contained an image that could be said to be promoting the thin ideal. Also, the advertising within Vogue magazine heavily features a thin or extremely thin body shape. Again, around 50% of the advertising has emphasis on a thin body. This may be because most of the advertising space is bought by high fashion retailers who tend to use thin bodies as they feel that this will show the clothing off in a more flattering manner. Burchill however stated that women who are just viewing images are perhaps not as effected as those associating it with sexual orientation and success. However studies have found that the positive associations with slenderness in the western world are ingrained into the culture. Also, studies carried out by Harper and Tiggemann (2008) showed that thin ideal images do affect young women's self-objectification, mood and body image.

Burchill also commented that there is no commentary on size within magazines. However, within the content analysis carried out, four articles were found between both the March and April editions. Within the March edition, a fashion piece on how to wear the bra top concludes with "Should you dare to bare, it's key your stomach is toned...only a glimpse at the most slender part of the waist" (Vogue, March 2010 p130). The words toned and slender are both associated with positive connotations of thinness. The article almost says that to be fashionable and able to wear this new trend, one has to be thin. The second article that featured within the March issue of Vogue that was said to have an ideal weight depiction was a feature on denim modelled by Alexa Chung, who was also the cover model for this issue. This was found on page 284. There is no real description of an ideal weight apart from the term "muffin top" which has negative associations of fat rolls overhanging due to too tight trousers. The main reason this was seen as being a thin ideal article is that in other media and one of the magazines analysed, Alexa Chung is described as underweight and as a "twiglet" (Heat Magazine 2010) but in this article, she is glamourised and made a spokesperson for denim. Her body is sexualised and the reader can see her thin arm, the side of her breast, her entire shape which all adds to the thin ideal this article contains.

Within the April issue of Vogue, two other articles were analysed as containing the thin ideal. The first, is a feature on the new jacket shapes features the words "womanliness" and "something that shays more about a shape - everybody wants to have a waist". This is perhaps promoting a more curvy body shape. Although, the words perhaps suggest that a woman should have a figure, all of the models that are pictured with the figure are runway models that are a size eight at the most. This conflicting ideal happens frequently within magazines. (Vogue April 2010 p53-55).

The second article containing a thin ideal was a fashion diary column called Miss V. Within one entry the writer notes "Thank goodness the bakery has taken us fashion girls into c