Gender at Play: A Discursive Analysis of Children and Gender Scripts Within Parents Magazine
Parenting magazines within the U.S. have long been a source of comfort and information for parents. As evidenced by subscription numbers in the millions, parents’ desire for ‘expert’ advice on all aspects of child rearing make them prime consumers for the magazine industry. One study found that when parents seek advice, parenting magazines were second only to friends as a resource, and were consulted more often than professional resources such as doctors or health organizations (Koepke & Williams, 1989). Ultimately, the images and concepts parents retain from their exposure to parenting magazines are conveyed (explicitly or implicitly) to their children. At its very core, gender scripts serve as an institutionalized form of social control, or as Bem believes, “a basic organizing principle for every human culture” (1981). Further, researchers have elaborated, “gender inequalities and sex stereotypes hurt the majority of individuals by limiting their range of experiences, and thus their growth” (Spees & Zimmerman, 2002). This provides an absolute disservice to individuals and to our communities two fold, as gendered messages in parenting magazines can shape (or indeed limit) the experiences and perceptions of both parents and their children. The intention of this study is to examine the ways in which editorial content in Parents magazine has the potential to influence parents’ perception of gender in relation to their children and child rearing practices. It also seeks to explore how these gender messages have changed over the last ten years, as well as what these messages may be communicating to parents about their children. I aim to frame this discussion within a condensed review of literature that supports the importance and influence of parenting magazines in recent history. I will also consider how early on children display an understanding of gender and a few of the many ways gender typing may affect them in childhood and beyond. In this thesis, I approach this issue through the theory of socialization, in which I argue the magazine’s gender messages are communicated to parents, who then convey these messages to their children during childhood. However, this study acknowledges the importance of observing an issue from multiple standpoints and I believe that further research on this topic should be done from both a socialization and a social construction viewpoint. I will then critically analyze, through a feminist theoretical framework, gender implications found among the images and some of the accompanying text in Parents magazine in 2002 and 2012. Through this thesis, I argue that Parents magazine, through its editorial content, provides some unique spaces in which gender equality can be furthered, while it has also become more stereotyped and restricted within other areas in the last ten years.
- Sheldon, Jessica (Author)
- Scheiner, Georganne (Thesis director)
- McGibbney, Michelle (Committee member)
- Katsulis, Yasmina (Committee member)
- Barrett, The Honors College (Contributor)
- College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (Contributor)