Beefcake, Breadwinner, or Babysitter
His name is Lucky, and he is known to the world as the Diet Coke guy. He is a
man to be admired by many: physically fit, attractive, employed _ and
mercilessly ogled by every woman in what seems to be an all-female office. If
only more men were that lucky.
Lucky the Diet Coke guy may be only one image provided by one advertising
campaign from the early 1990s, but a new impression of male images in
advertising seems to be evolving. In this case, a strong male component
exists-not in a stereotypically powerful role, but instead a stereotypically
sexist role. Other roles for men in advertisements have recently surfaced as
well. Many advertisements show a family situation in which the father only knows
what to do based on printed instructions left by the mother, or chores are
completed by the father-but they are done all wrong and must be fixed by the
mother. The existence of sex stereotypes in advertising has stirred controversy
for decades, but the focus of that controversy has usually been on the depiction
of females. Now, a role-reversal has taken place. Whether it is the beefcake
or the bimbo, images of men in advertising are seemingly becoming more and more
unflattering (Ingrassia, 1994; Lippert, 1997; Foote, 1988).
Despite the changing roles of men in society and the changing portrayals that
seem to be reflected in the media, the bulk of the research focusing on role
portrayals in advertising deals primarily and almost exclusively with images of
females. A large body of literature exists addressing the professional and
non-professional roles fulfilled by females, body orientation, physical
attributes, positioning in relation to males, and levels of sexism (Ford &
LaTour, 1993; Jaffe, 1991; Lanis & Covell, 1995; Sullivan & O'Connor, 1988).
Many researchers suggest that the preponderance of studies that have been
conducted on this topic stem from the women's movement and an attempt to
redefine the limited set of roles portrayed by females in the media (Skelly &
Lundstrom, 1981; Fejes, 1994; Kolbe & Albanese, 1996). In response to the
overwhelming number of studies conducted on female role portrayals, Andrew
Wernick (1987) suggests:
To round out the picture it is also important to consider how modern advertising
depicts and addresses men. For men themselves, indeed, this question has become
quite timely. For the sexual shake-up of the sixties and seventies has not only
put in question prevailing notions of masculinity; it has also changed the
relation of men to advertising itself (p. 278).
But an examination of the literature regarding male roles in print advertising
in this country reveals only four content analyses that focus on male images-and
three of these studies are more than a decade old (Skelly & Lundstrom, 1981;
Soley & Kurzbard, 1986; Wolheter & Lammers, 1980; Kolbe & Albanese, 1996). This
acknowledgment of changing roles-and the subsequent dearth of information about
it-has led to the undertaking of the current study. This study will fill a void
in the analysis of male depictions in magazine advertising, extending this
research to include female-audience magazines in recent decades. This analysis
investigates the images of males in four female-targeted publications (Vogue,
Ladies' Home Journal, Better Homes and Gardens, Seventeen), assessing
differences in these images over a 20-year time span (1978 to 1998). According
The paucity of empirical media research on masculinity at this point represents
a challenge and an opportunity to media researchers to contributed not only to a
growing new area of research, but also to the examination and redefinition of
one of the fundamental ways we define and act out our reality (1992, p. 22)
The "Diet Coke Break" campaign was seen as just one example of new methods
advertisers were using to appeal to females (Ingrassia, 1994). Other industry
observers noted the rising numbers of ads featuring men as sexual stimuli
(Lippert, 1997) and to other insulting depictions of men in ads (Goldberg, 1989;
Foote, 1988). However, empirical research is not as abundant as these anecdotal
evaluations provided by general and trade publications. The handful of studies
on male images in advertising will be reviewed briefly, starting with the
Historically, research on the role of the male in advertising has primarily been
addressed in its relation to the female image. A content analysis that compared
male and female images in television advertising in the 1970s found that men
were portrayed as more autonomous than women, were more often shown in
occupational roles or advertising big ticket products, and were more often shown
in a business setting (Fejes, 1992). However, another content analysis of 1986
network television ads indicated some change in the 1980s. Ferrante, Haynes, and
Kingsley (1988) found that although the stereotypically traditional male role of
businessman was still heavily represented, the relatively new portrayal of man
as father and husband was increasing significantly.
Bretl and Cantor (1988) found similar results when they examined 397 television
advertisements from 1985. They found that men were more likely than in previous
studies to be seen in domestic settings with no other apparent occupation.
According to the researchers, "advertisements seem to be presenting a less
sexist and more equal view of the roles of men and women in society" (p. 607).
Although the role portrayals of males in broadcast advertising seemed to be
changing in the 1980s, the picture is less clear for the 1990s, when no formal
analysis has emerged. Early in the decade, Kanner (1990) suggested that men
were being depicted in "contradictory ways in the nineties:"
Still, men aren't willing to sacrifice their authoritarian style to become
domesticated wimps. 'Macho' may be gone (or, more likely, repressed), but
'masculine' remains synonymous with strong, and men by and large still want
products that are 'tough,' even to the point of pain-after-shave stings because
men like that" (p. 20).
Content analysis of roles portrayed by males in print advertising also are few
and far between-especially in the latter half of the 1980s and into the 1990s.
Wolheter and Lammers (1980) examined print advertising from three years-1958,
1968, and 1978-in eight general interest publications: Life, Look, Newsweek, The
New Yorker, Reader's Digest, Saturday Review, Time, and U.S. News and World
Report. In examining occupational roles depicted by men, they discovered that
men moved from filling primarily traditionally stereotyped roles of businessman
and military man into the more non-traditional roles of sports figure and
entertainer by 1978. Men also were found to serve a more decorative role (with
no functional role related to the product) and fill a greater number of
non-working roles in the 1970s than in previous decades. The researchers noted
another intriguing trend: Though women were filling more and more
non-traditional roles (working outside of the household), men were not found to
appear more in a family role.
Skelly and Lundstrom (1981) conducted a content analysis of male images
depicted in male-targeted magazines (Esquire, Field & Stream, Sports
Illustrated), female-targeted publications (Cosmopolitan, House Beautiful,
Redbook), and general-interest magazines (The New Yorker, Reader's Digest, Time)
during 1959, 1969, and 1979. This study included a five-point scale measuring
level of sexism, which noted whether men were used in purely decorative roles
(Level 1 - the highest level of sexism) or portrayed so that evaluations of the
male sex role based on capability (Level 5 - the lowest level of sexism). Of
the 660 ads in nine magazines examined, no advertisements were coded at Level 5.
Instead, researchers noted a doubling of decorative roles portrayed by males in
advertising in all types of publications and a decrease in representations of
working roles over time. With only 2% of the ads portraying men in either
Levels 3 or 4, the researchers concluded: "Advertising featuring men appears to
be gradually moving toward a decrease in sex-role stereotyping, although the
progress is obviously slow" (Skelly & Lundstrom, 1981, p. 56). In examining the
differences in portrayal for magazine type, the researchers found that
publications with a male target depicted men in "manly" activities (Level 2)
more often than in women's or general interest magazines.
Lysonski (1983) sampled general interest, male-targeted and female-targeted
publications during 1974 and 1979 to determined the occurrence of
family-oriented, non-traditional (non-sex stereotyped, like doing laundry or
washing dishes) and career-oriented roles. He found that the depiction of males
in non-traditional roles was the only increase that revealed statistical
significance, jumping from 0.5% of the images coded in 1974 to 2.5% of the
images in 1979. The occurrences of family-oriented and career-oriented roles
also increased over time, but these tests did not yield statistical
significance. Further, in examining differences between magazine types,
Lysonski found that publications that were targeted to a male audience revealed
significant increases in the depiction of males in all three investigated roles.
Research from other countries parallels findings about advertising evaluations
in the United States. Zhou and Chen (1997), investigating Canada's 10 largest
magazines in 1990, found that under the category of sex appeal, males were more
than twice as likely than females to be portrayed in a purely decorative role,
serving an attention-getting function only.
Two recent studies conducted by Kolbe and Albanese (1996, 1997) provide the only
evidence of continuing research on male role portrayals in magazine advertising.
The first study investigated sole-male images in male-audience magazines.
Advertisements from six 1993 male-audience magazines (GQ, Business Week,
Esquire, Playboy, Rolling Stone, and Sports Illustrated) were coded for physical
characteristics such as facial hair and body type as well as adornments, dress,
and camera angle. Among the findings: The camera angles used in the majority of
the advertisements in the sample did not convey the traditional impressions of
competency and physical domination. However, the researchers determined that
the males in the sample were sometimes "objectified" and the images often
implied a sense of "aloofness and detachment conveyed by the turned heads and
averted eyes of many of the male models" (p. 17). The study also found that
advertisers tailored ad images to coincide with editorial focus and target of
The second study undertaken by Kolbe and Albanese (1997) investigated some of
the more popular units of analysis researched in the earlier studies, this time
focusing on the roles of males in advertising in 1993. Using the same
publications as in the previous study, the investigators looked specifically for
occupational role portrayals, decorative versus functional role portrayals, and
the incorporation of the male image into the execution of the advertisement.
The authors examined the construct of "decorative presentation function," making
a distinction between "decorative related to the product" and "decorative
unrelated to the product." The latter category provides "images [that are]
considered exploitative because the model is objectified and dehumanized" (p.
829). The researchers found that decorative role portrayals where the male
served simply as a sexual stimulus were most common in Business Week and Rolling
Stone. The study also documented a paucity of occupational role portrayals
throughout all sampled publications, although there were significant differences
across titles. The magazine containing the most occupations depicted within
advertisements was Business Week, of which 47.5% fell into the "Executive,
administrative, managerial" category. Further findings suggested a high
percentage of depictions of males as athletes and cowboys, both stereotypic role
While the studies conducted by Kolbe and Albanese (1996, 1997) extended the
earlier research on males in print advertising into the 1990s, they did not
investigate changing depictions of males over time. This study aims to fill that
gap by posing the following research questions:
1. What do the images of males in female-audience magazine advertising look like
over the 20-year time span investigated? What types of models are used? Does
the occurrence of sole-male or mixed-gender advertising vary over time or by
magazine title? Does the percentage of advertisements containing a male
component increase or decrease over time or magazine title?
2. Are male images in advertisements from female-audience magazines depicted in
such a way as to suggest a specific role portrayal? Does the role
representation of males in these magazines vary over time or by magazine title?
3. What are the decorative presentation functions served by males in
advertisements from female-audience magazines? Specifically, do males serve a
merely decorative role, providing ornamental support to the product, or are they
decorative and depicted as having a direct relationship with the product? Do
presentation functions vary over time or by magazine type?
The sample advertisements for this study were drawn from four female-targeted
consumer publications (Ladies' Home Journal, Vogue, Seventeen, and Better Homes
and Gardens). These monthly magazines were selected because they have a large
and predominantly female readership. Better Homes and Gardens averages 7.6
million readers; Ladies' Home Journal, 5 million; Vogue, 1.14 million;
Seventeen, 1.9 million; and Life, 1.5 million (Writer's Market, 1998). The four
titles also were selected to achieve diversity of content and reader
demographics. Better Homes and Gardens, which provides home service information,
has an average reader age of 42; Ladies' Home Journal is for "active empowered
women" and targets women between 30 and 45; Seventeen covers fashion and a
variety of topics for women in their teens and early 20s; Vogue reaches a median
reader age of 32 and focuses on the changing roles of women by covering
evolution in fashion, as well as the arts, health care, and world affairs (Holm,
1998, p. 476).
Magazines published in 1978, 1988, and 1998 were studied. Researchers have
suggested that to accurately reflect any given year in content analysis
research, about a quarter of the population to be studied must be coded (Riffe,
Lacy, & Drager, 1996; Lacy, Riffe, & Randle, 1998). Therefore, three months were
selected using a stratified sampling technique. One issue was chosen from the
first, second and last third of the year. This technique yielded April, August,
and October, and these months were used for each publication in each of the
years (1978, 1988, and 1998) investigated in this study for a total of 36
Following the method of previous studies, only full-page ads were included in
the sample, and a male or identifiable male body part (legs or hands) must have
appeared in the ad. Advertisements that exhibited both males and females also
were included in the study. Also consistent with past content analyses, if an
advertisement was found to appear more than one time within the same magazine,
it was included in the analysis only once. However, if a duplicate
advertisement was found under another magazine title, each advertisement was
coded and included in the study. One researcher was primarily responsible for
coding, but two other coders each examined 50 ads (about 10% of the sample).
Intercoder reliability scores ranged from 89% to 100% with and average of 93%.
The independent variables examined in this study included magazine type,
operationalized by the four magazine titles described above, and time,
conceptualized by one year in each decade under study (1978, 1988, 1998). The
time frame was considered of interest because of the paucity of comparative
content analyses between these decades in recent years and because of the
changes of male roles in society over that time period. Surveys suggest that men
have moved away from the stereotypical roles of primary breadwinners toward a
more egalitarian role, sharing household and child rearing duties (Blood &
Wolfe, 1960; Gerstl, 1961; Moore, 1997).
Dependent measures coded were occupational role portrayal and presentation
function (decorative related to the product versus decorative unrelated to the
product). The coding schemes are largely replications or extensions of those
used in earlier content analyses of gender images. The scheme for occupational
role portrayal was suggested by Zhou and Chen (1997), who investigated the
depiction of domestic and non-domestic roles illustrated in advertisements. The
Domestic occupations include cooking, house cleaning, taking care of children at
home, etc. Non-domestic occupations include high level (top manager,
professional, entertainer, etc.), middle level (middle level white collar
occupation, etc.) and low level (service, clerical, construction worker,
student, etc)" (Zhou & Chen, 1997, p. 489).
To determine occupational, the coder looked to see if it was mentioned in the
advertisement, if a task was performed, if a tool was used, if the occupation
provided the surrounding or background image for the model in the depiction, or
if the model was in relation to others involving these criteria in the
advertisement. The occupational role portrayals evaluated in this study
included "domestic role," "non-domestic occupation," "non-domestic and
non-occupational," and "cannot tell."
The coding scheme for presentation function was borrowed from research
conducted by Kolbe and Albanese (1997), who created the categories of
"decorative related to the product" and "decorative unrelated to the product."
An example of the first category would include a muscular man posing in a
fitness advertisement, whereas a depiction would fall into the second category
if, for example, a muscular man was presented in a travel destination
Of the 36 publications in the sample, the total number of full-page
advertisements within the publications ranged from 26 to 217. In total, 517 ads
were included in the sample-202 from 1978 (39.1%), 159 from 1988 (30.8%), and
156 from 1998 (30.2%). Of these, 130 contained a sole-male component (25.1%),
compared to 387 mixed-gender advertisements (74.9% of the sample). The mean
number of males within the ads was 1.79. Vogue had the largest number of
full-page ads featuring men at 147. Seventeen had 142 ads; Better Homes and
Gardens had 136 ads; and Ladies' Home Journal had 92 ads.
Research Question 1: The Advertising Picture. What do the images of males in
female-audience magazine advertising look like over the 20-year time span
investigated? Specifically, what types of models are used? Does the occurrence
of sole-male or mixed-gender advertising vary over time or by magazine title?
Does the percentage of advertisements containing a male component increase or
decrease over time or magazine title?
For the purposes of this study, the male models in the advertisements
investigated were coded as either "human" or "fictional." Of the 517 ads
studied, an overwhelming 490 ads (94.8% of the sample) contained human males,
with only 27 (5.2%) containing a depiction of males as fictional. Despite the
low occurrence of fictional males, a crosstabulation comparing year of
publication with type of male model was conducted, resulting in significant
differences. Table 1-1 illustrates these findings.
Table 1-1: Crosstabulation of Year of Publication with Model Type
Year of Publication
expected: 94.8 %
expected: 5.2 %
(2 = 6.42, df = 2, p < .041
As this table illustrates, the overall trend in the publications under
investigation is toward not using fictional characters in advertisements. The
Chi square analysis revealed statistically significant differences ((2 = 6.42,
df = 2, p < .041), with 1978 representing a small but discernable over-reliance
(based on expected values for the column) on fictional character advertising and
a subsequent under-reliance (again based on expected values) on human
characters. The expected and actual values for human and fictional characters
in 1988 were about equal. And in 1998, the evident trend was toward more human
male models and fewer fictional male models. No significant differences were
found when examining type of model used by magazine title.
In examining the use of sole-male and mixed-gender images, the 517 ads were
broken down into sole-male ads (130, or 25.1% or the sample) and mixed-gender
ads (387, or 74.9% of the sample). A Chi square analysis of the crosstabulation
of this variable by year of publication revealed no statistically significant
differences over time. However, differences were seen when comparing magazine
titles. A Chi square analysis revealed statistically significant differences ((2
= 26.90, df = 3, p < .001), with one interesting twist: As table 1-2 shows, the
values for Ladies' Home Journal and Vogue almost exactly equaled the expected
values, while the actual values for Better Homes and Gardens and Seventeen
revealed a variance of at least 13% between expected and actual values. The
advertisements investigated within Better Homes and Gardens emphasized a
depiction of sole-male advertisements with a lesser use of mixed-gender ads,
whereas Seventeen clearly underrepresented depictions of sole-males
advertisements and overrepresented mixed-gender ads, again based on expected
values for the columns.
Table 1-2: Crosstabulation of Magazine Title and Sole-Male / Mixed-Gender
Ladies' Home Journal
(2 = 26.90, df = 3, p < .001
To address the final element of Research Question 1, the percent of ads with
men in each publication was calculated. Within the 36 female-targeted
publications investigated in this study, the average percentage of all
advertisements containing a male presence was 15.8%, illustrating that about one
in six advertisements contained a male image. Table 1-3 represents the mean
percentages of all ads containing a male within publications studied over the 20
Table 1-3: Average Percent of Ads Featuring Males by Magazine Title and Year
Ladies' Home Journal
An ANOVA revealed a significant main effect for magazine title (F = 2.95, df =
3, p < .05). Post-hoc analyses found that Seventeen and Better Homes and Gardens
had a significantly larger portion of ads containing male images than the other
titles. No significant difference was discovered in comparing the presence of
males in ads across the years studied, although the trend appeared to be toward
using fewer male-image ads. No significant interactions were discovered when
examining publication type or time together.
Research Question 2: Occupational Role: Are male images in advertisements from
female-audience magazines depicted in such a way as to suggest a specific role
portrayal? Does the role representation of males in these magazines vary over
time or by magazine title?
Four occupational roles were defined and coded for: "domestic," "non-domestic
occupation," "non-domestic and non-occupational," and "cannot tell." Of the 517
ads, 251 (48.5% of the sample) depicted a male in a non-domestic and
non-occupational environment; 127 ads (24.6%) were coded into the "cannot tell"
category, usually because of a lack of background to the illustration; 108 ads
(20.9%) depicted a male in a non-domestic occupation; and 31 ads (6%) depicted a
male in a domestic role. To examine whether this occupational representation of
males varied over time, a crosstabulation was run comparing year of publication
with role portrayal of the male in the advertisement. Table 2-1 represents the
breakdown of this crosstabulation.
Table 2-1: Crosstabulation of Publication Year and Role Portrayal
(2 = 17.00, df = 6, p < .01
A Chi square test revealed significant differences between year of publication
and role portrayal ((2 = 17.00, df = 6, p < .01). Compared to the values
expected based on the numbers in the overall sample, both domestic roles and
non-domestic occupations were over-represented in 1978, whereas the rather
ambiguous "non-domestic and non-occupational" classification occurred slightly
less than expected. In 1988, however, a large shift in portrayals occurred,
with both domestic roles and non-domestic occupations vastly under-represented.
The seemingly role-less classifications of "non-domestic/non-occupational" and
"cannot tell" occurred less than expected in this year. However, 1998 saw
domestic roles and non-domestic/non-occupational roles emphasized slightly more
than would be expected, non-domestic occupations almost equal to expected
values, and the "cannot tell" category occurring less than expected.
To provide further analysis of the role portrayal of males in magazine
advertising over the three decades, the columns of "domestic role" and
"non-domestic occupation" were collapsed to comprise an "any role clearly
identified" heading. This heading was then compared with the data from
"non-domestic and non-occupational" and "cannot tell," both categories that
illustrated males in unclear role categories. Table 2-2 represents the results
from this crosstabulation.
Table 2-2: Crosstabulation of Year and Role Portrayal (collapsed)
Year of Publication
Any Role Clearly Identified
No Clear Role Identified
(2 = 11.72, df = 2, p < .01
This data, too, revealed significant differences from expected values after
conducting a Chi square analysis ((2 = 11.72, df = 2, p < .01). The year 1978
provided an over-representative depiction of males in a role, be it domestic or
occupational. The year 1988 illustrated males by and large without a specific
role, as the "any role clearly identified" category was underrepresented and the
"no clear role" category occurred more often than expected. In 1998, males were
both depicted within a role and outside of a role, very close to the expected
The final element of Research Question 2 asked whether the role portrayal of
males varied by magazine. Table 2-3 represents the data of interest comparing
role portrayal and magazine name.
Table 2-3: Crosstabulation of Magazine Title and Role Portrayal
Ladies' Home Journal
(2 = 45.54, df = 9, p < .01
The role portrayal of males in female-targeted publications was seen to vary
significantly by magazine name ((2 = 45.54, df = 9, p < .01). Compared with
their expected values, Ladies' Home Journal represented many more men in
domestic roles and fewer in "non-domestic/non-occupational"; Better Homes and
Gardens over-represented men in domestic roles and non-domestic occupations;
Vogue had significantly fewer men in domestic roles; and Seventeen vastly
underrepresented men in domestic roles (no men were coded in a domestic role in
A crosstabulation also was conducted comparing magazine with the presence of a
clear role or no clear role in an advertisement. Table 2-4 illustrates the
Table 2-4: Crosstabulation of Magazine Title and Role Portrayal (collapsed)
Any Role Identified
No Role Identified
Ladies' Home Journal
(2 = 15.73, df = 3, p < .01
From this data, significant statistical differences were found among role
portrayals based on publication ((2 = 15.73, df = 3, p < .01). Specifically,
Ladies' Home Journal exhibited little difference between actual and expected
values; Better Homes and Gardens portrayed men in a role-either domestic or
occupational-more often than expected; and Vogue and Seventeen depicted men in
more ambiguous roles, less often filling a domestic or occupational role.
Research Question 3: Decorative Function. What are the decorative presentation
functions served by males in advertisements from female-audience magazines?
Specifically, do males serve a merely decorative role, providing ornamental
support to the product, or are they decorative and depicted as having a direct
relationship with the product? Do presentation functions vary over time or by
The 517 advertisements coded in this study revealed an exact split in decorative
presentation functions-259 (50.1%) portrayed a male as decorative and related to
the product, while 258 (49.9%) depicted a male as decorative and unrelated to
A crosstabulation was run investigating the decorative presentation function of
males in the advertisements across the dimension of year. Table 3-1 illustrates
Table 3-1: Crosstabulation of Year and Decorative Presentation Function
Year of Publication
Decorative Unrelated to Product
(2 = 13.13, df = 2, p < .001
This Chi square analysis revealed statistically significant differences across
year of publication ((2 = 13.13, df = 2, p < .001). In 1978, many more men were
pictured in a decorative relationship in which the model was somehow related to
the product, whereas decorative unrelated to the product depictions were
underrepresented. For 1988, the exact opposite was discovered: Males were
depicted as decorative and related to the product less frequently and decorative
and unrelated to the product more frequently. An analysis of 1998 revealed
expected values and actual values that were more equal in representation than
previous years, but the trends indicated that more men were depicted as
decorative and related to the product than expected and fewer were depicted as
decorative and unrelated to the product.
The final element of Research Question 3 addressed the relationship between
decorative presentation functions and magazine title. The results are
illustrated in Table 3-2.
Table 3-2: Magazine Title and Decorative Presentation Function
Decorative Related to Product
Decorative Unrelated to Product
Ladies' Home Journal
(2 = 44.80, df = 3, p < .001
Through a Chi Square analysis, statistically significant differences were
reported of decorative presentation function across magazine titles ((2 = 44.80,
df = 3, p < .001). No anomalies were discovered in the presentation functions
of males in Ladies' Home Journal. Better Homes and Gardens, however, depicted a
disproportionate number of males in decorative and related to the product
characterizations, and the magazine vastly under-represented males in decorative
and unrelated to the product portrayals. The exact opposite was the case for
both Vogue and Seventeen: Portrayals of males as decorative and related to the
product were underrepresented, and portrayals of males as decorative and
unrelated to the product were over-represented.
The general advertising picture suggested by this study indicates that
mixed-gender advertising is more popular in female-targeted publications than
sole-male advertising. An overwhelming 75% of the advertising investigated
found depictions of a male with at least one female. Thus, it seems that
advertisers are not willing to spend as much money on sole-male advertising
representations as they are on mixed gender advertising when they place ads in
When addressing the question of occupational representation, the picture seems
to suggest that males in female-targeted publications are by-and-large not
represented in a clearly identified role. A large majority of the
advertisements studied-73%-depicted men in no clear role, while only 21%
depicted men in an occupation and a mere 6% depicted men in a domestic role.
The time variable
Examining characteristics by the years of publication revealed statistically
significant differences. The greatest disparity between years seemed to occur
between 1978 and 1988, with 1998 almost serving as a middle point in the
swinging pendulum of representations. Advertising from 1978 over-represented
men in a clear role (domestic or occupational), whereas advertising from 1988
over-represented men in the "no clear role identified" category. Advertising
from 1978 also portrayed more men in decorative depictions with some
relationship to the advertised item and fewer decorative-unrelated depictions,
whereas-again-the exact opposite was discovered for 1988: fewer men in
"decorative and related to the product" portrayals and more in
decorative-unrelated situations. These results could be a direct outgrowth of
the women's movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Because the movement
may have awakened women to their potential roles in society in the earlier parts
of the decade of the 1970s, the portrayals through 1978 advertising of more men
in family roles and in fewer decorative-unrelated depictions could have been a
result of this increasing awareness. Perhaps the advertisers, in communicating
to women through these publications, were attempting to keep up with the
shifting paradigms in society, and were therefore more likely to over-represent
men in these socially advanced roles. It is possible that the advertising
representations of the 1970s could have had an effect on the number of women
moving into the workforce and subsequently on the number of men moving into the
home to take on domestic roles.
However, this same movement may have awakened women in the later part of the
1970s and early 1980s to the representation of women in advertising portrayals:
The overwhelming amount of research on women in decorative (and some would
contend, sexist) roles took place during this time frame, possibly resulting in
a backlash effect that was discovered through an analysis of the advertising in
1988. Perhaps advertisers now were attempting to relate to the female target by
essentially "putting down" the male element, placing them in similar roles to
which women had been relegated for so long.
If the swinging pendulum image is accepted as an accurate representation of
these decades, then it is clear to see that the decade of the 1990s may be a
middle point between these two extremes. Because the onslaught of the women's
movement is 30 years in the past, it is possible that the initial push toward
equality and the subsequent backlash toward the depiction of males has given way
to a more equal, less extreme approach to the portrayal of the male gender.
Advertisers may be recognizing shifts from elements in society that are
attempting to view both males and females on equal planes, becoming more aware
that the extremely un-stereotyped approach in the 1970s and the diametrically
opposed and largely stereotyped approach in the 1980s both depicted men in
inaccurate representations reflected in society.
The magazine title variable
Significant differences also were found by magazine title, and patterns often
emerged. To understand these patterns, it is important to keep in mind the
demographic targets of the publications investigated in this study. Both Better
Homes and Gardens and Ladies' Home Journal target women in their late 30s and
40s; Vogue's target is women in their early 30s; and Seventeen targets women in
their teens and early 20s. Often, the advertising in Vogue and Seventeen
revealed a consistent depiction of males. The two publications consistently
depicted men as decorative and unrelated to the product, under-representing the
decorative and related to the product category. The unrelated decorative
image, according to Kolbe and Albanese (1997), is "the male equivalent of the
bikini-clad woman in tool ads. These decorative images are considered
exploitative because the model is objectified and dehumanized" (p. 829). In
contrast, Better Homes and Gardens over-represented males in decorative-related
to the product images. No differences from the expected values were found for
Ladies' Home Journal. Thus, clear differences exist between the two
fashion-oriented publications and the two publications with an older demographic
Further similarities between Vogue and Seventeen were found in assessing the
roles portrayed by males in advertising. Whereas Ladies' Home Journal
over-represented men in domestic roles and Better Homes and Gardens
over-represented men in both domestic roles and occupations, Seventeen and Vogue
consistently underrepresented men in these roles. In fact, no males were found
in domestic roles in any of the nine issues of Seventeen examined. Through
further analysis of the role construct, Seventeen and Vogue again consistently
portrayed men without a clear role (often with no background to the
illustration), whereas Better Homes and Gardens over-represented the existence
of a male in a clear role.
Both Better Homes and Gardens and Vogue were found to consistently include
advertising that featured males over the years studied, whereas Ladies Home
Journal and Seventeen's percentages decreased over the 20-year time frame.
Better Homes and Gardens also was found to over-represent sole-male images,
whereas Seventeen over-represented mixed-gender advertisements. Overall, it
seems that the two publications targeting older females (Better Homes and
Gardens and Ladies' Home Journal) depicted men in more egalitarian roles than
the younger-audience magazines.
The results of this content analysis suggest that the demographic targets of
these publications may have a great deal to do with the advertising depictions
presented within the pages. With a considerably older target audience, and less
of a concern with fashion and beauty, Better Homes and Gardens and Ladies' Home
Journal produced relatively consistent results. With its emphasis on
homeowners-and therefore a desired appeal to the male and the female
reader-Better Homes and Gardens provided perhaps the least pejorative depiction
of males within its pages. An analysis of this publication revealed more males
presented in decorative-related depictions, more males in a clearly defined
role, more sole-male images, and more men pictured in advertising for
non-domestic products. These findings are consistent with the demographic
targets of its audience, with an emphasis on female issues without offending the
potential male market. Therefore, Better Homes and Gardens was decidedly more
"male" in orientation than the other publications, leading to results that paint
a more flattering and diverse picture of the male than those found in the other
Though Ladies' Home Journal also is directed at the older female demographic
segment, its content is inherently less "male-oriented" than Better Homes and
Gardens, explaining its reliance on depicting men in more domestic product
advertising. This publication also was found to vary significantly from Better
Homes and Gardens through an analysis of the use of males in advertising over
the 20 years investigated: Ladies' Home Journal has relied less on male images
in advertising as the years have progressed than has Better Homes and Gardens.
In the 1998 edition of Writer's Market, the entry describing Ladies' Home
Journal's editorial content explained that the publication was for "active,
empowered women" (Holm, p. 790). This description may explain the decreased use
of men in advertising over the years, as the editorial content is focusing on a
strictly female content-as opposed to Better Homes and Garden's attempt to
attract both male and female homeowners. Many of the other elements of interest
in this investigation found the advertising in Ladies' Home Journal not
producing statistically significant differences from the other publications'
Vogue and Seventeen, however, through their younger targets and fashion
orientation, depicted men in considerably less flattering and more stereotypical
ways. In fact, much of the advertising observed in these magazines depicted a
man in a strictly admiring stance, serving as an observer or someone engaged in
a romantic act with the female. These advertising depictions may serve to
devalue the status of women in society, suggesting that they are only "worthy"
when being admired by a man. Further support for this stereotyped depiction of
males in Seventeen and Vogue can be found in the results that suggested men are
more often depicted in decorative and unrelated to the product images in these
publications. These publications consistently depicted men with little
relationship to the product and merely serving as an attention-getting and often
sexually stimulating device to lure female consumers.
The advertising devices discovered in these two publications can be seen to have
possibly detrimental effects on the female targets of the magazines. Because
men are often seen in merely decorative roles, the female readers may
unconsciously be perceiving the stereotyped functions of males-as romantic
partners, as decorative devices, as individuals without clear roles
identified-and may be creating expectations based on these perceptions. These
claims are consistent with the assertions made by researchers investigating
female role portrayals in magazines. Researchers often emphasized that the
roles filled by females in advertising needed to be revised before women were
allowed equal status to men in society. Again, it seems that these publications
are outwardly backlashing against the male element of society, portraying them
in similar images as popular advertising has portrayed women for years: Men are
seen as having little value outside of being a romantic partner, a decorative
object, or someone instrumental in admiring the females in the ad. The danger
is more evident for readers of Seventeen, whose youth and inexperience may be
contributing to an outright belief in the roles presented within the advertising
of this publication.
The intention of this study was to highlight trends throughout popular women's
magazines, attempting to determine if the portrayals of males within these
publications has changed as have the roles filled by males in society. The
answer, it seems, is yes-in some ways-and no, in some ways. Though this
research doesn't prove that advertisers are responding to social pressures, it
does suggest that the depictions of males in print advertising in
female-targeted publications have changed over the 20-year time frame
However, this analysis is bound by the publications chosen for this study.
Because not all female-targeted publications were studied, the assertion cannot
be made that these trends are consistent across women's magazines. Perhaps
studying a broader sample of female-targeted publications could have revealed
more evidence of a trend toward these changing depictions-or more evidence of a
lack of trends in the depiction of males in women's magazines.
Further limitations evident in this study include the concept of coding
elements. The choice to borrow coding schemes for this investigation from
previous research resulted in using single items to measure each variable.
Because, for example, Kolbe and Albanese only investigated the decorative
construct by addressing whether the image was related or unrelated to the
product advertised, this was determined to answer the question of decorative
depiction for this investigation. However, a more sensitive scheme that used
multi-item measures to define the same variable might have revealed different
trends in the publications under investigation.
Other methods of investigation-an experimental design or survey research-could
shed light on the perceptions gained from advertising portrayals. These
methods, in contrast to content analysis, are more likely to yield causal links
between advertising and impressions in society. Conducting an experiment
investigating both males' and females' perceptions gained from viewing
stereotyped male advertising could extend this research into further areas of
interest. It also may be of interest to survey advertising executives, asking
them about their intention in the depiction of the genders and the trends they
see in the industry. Asking these same questions of the advertising
representatives of the publications that print the advertisements may also be in
A further call for research based on this study would be for more content
analyses of the print medium. Though past research has been conducted on
male-targeted publications, this research has not been adequately brought into
the current decade. A broader investigation comparing trends in
female-targeted, male-targeted, and general-interest publications could reveal
tendencies in advertising over the last few years. Comparing the advertising in
print publications with that in other types of print-like newspapers-may also
reveal significant trends, suggesting whether these depictions are limited to
periodicals. It also would be of interest to apply some of the techniques used
in this and in previous studies to broadcast advertising. Through the
literature review on male portrayals in broadcast advertising, no studies were
discovered that expressly centered on investigating male roles. In an age where
television advertisements portray men in seemingly more and more unflattering
ways, research conducted on the broadcast advertising industry could reveal
important trends in the portrayal of males.
This study does suggest the possibility of advertising trends in the depiction
of males in the print medium. Content analysis research, however, cannot
attempt to determine what is causing these trends and how consumers are reacting
to them. Advertising over the time frame investigated has portrayed men as
beefcakes, breadwinners, and babysitters-among other things. The effects on
society are unknown, but Goffman would suggest that these impressions are
internalized and lead to the development of a set of beliefs about the male
gender. Over the past 20 years, the portrayal of males in advertising in the
publications investigated has seemed to go from one extreme in 1978 to the other
in 1988, with the depictions in 1998 serving as somewhat of a middle point.
Whether the pendulum is still swinging-and if it is, which direction it will
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