return to list of speakers

'Is it just me?'
Second-wave feminism and agony aunt advice in women's magazines

Nicole Westmarland

This paper presents the findings of a historical comparative study of problem pages in women's magazines in relation to Second Wave Feminism. More specifically, the year 1975 is used here as an example of the ambiguous and increasingly contradictory relationship between Second Wave feminism and the 'problems' and advice in women's magazines. Qualitative content analysis of both 'problems' and 'answers' shows that women's magazines in 1975, as in other years, promoted a hegemonic feminine ideology, defined not in terms of what women were, but what they were in opposition to (i.e. a hegemonic masculinity).

Supportive of past research (see for example Ballaster et al., 1991) advice tended to be personalised, with no reference made to the wider social position of women. Women sought to ascertain confirmation of their 'normality', and questions such as 'are all men like this?', 'is it just me?' and 'don't all women…?' were frequent. Furthermore, women's problems were often minimised or 'unproblematised', with the suggestion that the problem was one internal to the woman rather than being attributable to men or masculinity per se.

return to conference