Older Women's Reading(s) of Women's Magazines

Saturday, 21 July 2018: 14:50
Oral Presentation
Dana SAWCHUK, Wilfrid Laurier University, Canada
Older women in Canada are often faced with challenges relating to both ageism and sexism, along with a resulting social, economic, and cultural marginalization. In our media-saturated culture, moreover, how we view and treat older women is related in part to how we see them represented in the mass media. On this note, women’s magazines have been critiqued for conveying an anti-aging message through their images, stories, and advertisements. Cognizant of the rich scholarly tradition of content analyses exploring such media representations, this paper reports on a study that begins from a different vantage point – the magazine reader herself. We already know what scholars argue about representations of older women in magazines, but what do older women who read these magazines for non-academic purposes think? And, especially significant given that magazine portrayals are argued to influence not only how others see older women but also how they see themselves, how important are magazines and magazine reading to older women in the first place? Based on semi-structured interviews with Canadian women over the age of 55, this paper explores when, how, and why these women read women’s magazines, and what they think of the representations of aging these media forms contain. Initial interviews reveal that, although these readers are clearly aware of certain problematic messages about aging contained in the magazines, this awareness interacts with the readers’ instrumental and escapist uses of magazines in complicated and sometimes unexpected ways. The findings are discussed in the context of the broader empirical, theoretical, and methodological characteristics that have informed previous studies of women’s magazines and magazine reading.