Women's magazines: tools for women's empowerment?
The aim of this PhD project is to investigate how the concept of empowerment, taken from Gender Theories, is reflected on the pages of current women’s magazines. This idea comes from the understanding that many of these publications describe themselves as empowering tools for their target audience (women), and even define their own work by using the word “empowerment”. However, a number of investigations from past decades indicate that the role of women’s magazines could be far removed from the definition that this concept has in Gender Theories, since most of the content in these publications deals with topics related to the private sphere, whereas one of the meanings of “empowerment” under the Gender Theories’ perspective is the presence of women in all spheres of society. Therefore, this study will address not only some of the theories on public and private spheres, but also the concept at the root of “empowerment”, i.e. “power” (Foucault, 1979). Since the idea of empowerment is a wide and complex one, this PhD project intends to cover its emergence in Gender Studies, considering both its origins in the Theories of Development and its main meanings: the collective one (the need to increase the participation of women in all spheres of society) and the personal one (the processes that lead people to perceive themselves as able to make decisions) (Rowlands, 1997; Lagarde y de los Ríos, 2000). Additionally, this research will treat the role of women’s magazines in the mass media in the construction of their own audience (Winship, 1987, Gallego Ayala, 1990; Castells, 2001; Lipovetsky, 2002; McRobbie, 2004). Methodologically, this project will comprise a mix of quantitative and qualitative approaches, using the Spanish editions of international publications as well as nationally published magazines from Brazil, Mexico, Portugal and Spain. The period covered by the study will be the years between 2005 and 2010. With this investigation, we will try to connect women’s magazines - the only women-oriented sector of the print media - with the concept of empowerment, which has become widespread since it was proposed by the United Nations at the 1995 World Conference on Women in Beijing as one of the strategies to follow in working towards gender equality in modern societies.