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Constructions of womanhood in women's magazines during the 'age of austerity': a cross-cultural study of the UK and Greece

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posted on 2020-07-27, 14:08 authored by Rafaela Orphanides
Periods of economic and social crisis are often moments when established social structures and relations are challenged, and social understandings of gender and identity discussed and renegotiated (Maier, 2011; Smith, 2009; Jepsen & Leschke, 2011). As a consequence, the profound economic crisis which hit contemporary western countries such as the United Kingdom and Greece in recent years, stimulates social scientists not only to question the economic, political and social conditions that precipitated and accompanied it, but also from the perspective of gender and cultural studies, to interrogate the impact of the crisis on representations and perceptions of gender. Given their focus on the evaluation of collective symbolic environments and representational culture, media and gender studies provide a unique analytical pathway for interpreting recessionary culture. Therefore, any account of the current ‘age of austerity’ will be incomplete without considering firstly, the ways in which womanhood and its mediated articulations are reciprocally constructed in popular media forms, and secondly, the ways in which the target audience of these media forms perceive and interpret these constructions. An examination of extant scholarly literature indicated, a substantial gap in the ways womanhood is constructed in glossy women’s magazines produced during the ‘age of austerity’. This thesis addresses the identified research gap through a cross-cultural examination of widely consumed women’s magazines produced during the 2012-2016 period within the UK and Greece - two western contexts in which experiences of austerity differ substantially. The thesis discusses discursive constructions of womanhood in women’s glossy magazines via textual repertoire analysis. This thesis also uses reception analysis to explore readers’ interpretation of articles obtained from the glossy magazines and examines whether readers find the discourses circulated within the glossy forms relevant to their everyday life experiences.

For actualising this study, a total of eighty issues of British and Greek versions of the Marie Claire and Cosmopolitan women’s glossy magazines produced between 2012-2018 were collected. From these issues, a total of 575 articles were analysed through quantitative content analysis. Through the content analysis, the primary themes and subthemes women’s magazines are concerned with were unravelled. Based on these findings, a smaller sample of 80 British and Greek articles comprised by the most recurrent themes and sub-themes invoked in the women’s magazines was established. This sample was analysed through qualitative repertoire analysis which enabled the identification of the main ways in which womanhood is constructed in the women’s forms during the ‘age of austerity’. This analysis was complemented by the analysis of eight focus groups in which British and Greek participants were prompted to discuss and interpret representative articles of the sampled magazines.

This thesis contributes to media and cultural research scholarship by addressing the identified research gap concerning constructions and perceptions of womanhood in women’s magazines during the ‘age of austerity’. The original contribution to knowledge of this thesis is three-fold. Firstly, through the identification and development of four original interpretative repertoires, namely ‘The ‘authentic self’’, the ‘superwoman’, the ‘women-ology’ and the ‘dynamics of exclusion’, this research address the gap in literature regarding constructions of womanhood in British and Greek magazines during austerity. Secondly, this study addresses the gap in knowledge regarding the ways British and Greek audiences of the magazines interpret popular discourses found in them during the ‘age of austerity’. Lastly, through the introduction of a concept I refer to as triple entanglement, this thesis contributes to feminism and media scholarship by arguing that constructions of womanhood during the ‘age of austerity’ has shifted from what has been described as postfeminism (Gill, 2007; 2009; McRobbie, 2004a; 2009; Tasker & Negra, 2007) to a complex entanglement of ideas deriving from third wave feminism, postfeminism and neoliberalism.



  • Social Sciences and Humanities


  • Communication and Media


Loughborough University

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© Rafaela Orphanides

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A doctoral thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.


  • en


Line Nyhagen ; Emily Keightley

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  • PhD

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  • Doctoral

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