Girl Talk

Girl Talk: Adolescent Magazines and Their Readers

DAWN H. CURRIE
Copyright Date: 1999
Pages: 416
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/9781442675346
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  • Book Info
    Girl Talk
    Book Description:

    Challenging assumptions about women?s magazines, Currie looks at young readers and how they interpret the message of magazines in their everyday lives. A fascinating, sometimes surprising study of young women and their relationship with print media.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7534-6
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. INTRODUCTION ‘Girls Doing Girl Things’: A Study of Girls Becoming Women
    (pp. 3-21)

    This book is about the activities of Margaret and Pauline: it explores young women’s development of gendered identities, and the place of fashion and beauty magazines in this process. ‘Gendering’ as a concept draws attention to de Beauvoir’s dictum that ‘one is not born, but rather becomes a woman’ (1961: 9). The implication of her claim is that our core identities are social projects, not biological destiny. As commonplace as this claim appears today, before the emergence of feminist studies little attention was paid to the fact that being women or men is a product of how we orient ourselves...

  5. 1 Just Looking: Exploring Our Point of Entry
    (pp. 22-54)

    As noted in the introduction, women’s magazines are the point of entry intoGirl Talk. One reason that we begin by looking at the content of these texts is because women’s magazines are encountered by women as an already accomplished system of meaning. While the ways in which they are subsequently read will determine how this codified system of meaning is taken up, these texts are ‘raw data’ that both everyday readers and researchers ‘work up.’ We thus begin by examining the content of women’s magazines as documented by previous researchers and media commentators. What might we see when we...

  6. 2 Materialist Feminism: The Ideology of Women’s Magazines
    (pp. 55-90)

    Chapter 1 directed our attention to debates about the role which cultural imagery plays in women’s lives and the stand which feminism should take on women’s magazines. As framed in the current research, these debates are based on differing assumptions about power, agency, and the cultural construction of the social. Discussion of these issues moves us from descriptions of images to explanations of how images work. Only the latter analysis will help us understand the social significance (rather than content) of women’s magazines, allowing us to resolve the political debates which this content has raised. While debates concerning the ‘value’...

  7. 3 Materialism Revisited: Doing Girl Talk
    (pp. 91-115)

    Historically, sociologists distinguish between social texts – such as women’s magazines – and their reading Subjects. Because texts (like discourses) are typically seen as vehicles of meaning which express ideas, they are treated as ‘things’ in themselves. This is not to say that sociologists do not look for the effects which texts may have on their readers (or vice versa): huge literatures, on pornography and television violence, for example, attempt to establish causal relations between social texts and human behaviour.¹ Rather, it is safe to say that texts, as objects of sociological investigation, occupy an ontological category apart from their...

  8. 4 From Text as Specimen to Text as Process: Reading as Everyday Practice
    (pp. 116-145)

    Smith (1990b) warns against treating the text as a ‘specimen’ or ‘sample,’ a strategy common in cultural criticism. ‘Specimen,’ refers to ‘working from within the textual, from this side, the reading and writing, seeing, hearing side of textual surfaces,’ reading the actualities of people’s lives off the text (p. 4). Clearly, this way of working reflects the legacy of cultural critique grounded in the analysis of texts as instances of literary ‘works,’ although, as we saw in chapter 2, it can also be found in ‘scientific’ analysis of texts. As McRobbie (1991b) notes, one of the problems which this way...

  9. 5 Teenzine Reading: The Social Life of Texts
    (pp. 146-168)

    In chapter 4 we saw the importance of taking our analytical problematic from everyday rather than researcher readings of social texts, since everyday reading directs the cultural critic to processes and effects which remain repressed when theoreticians read Subjects and the social world ‘off the text.’ In the conclusion we confront the dilemma that all research, including that by social scientists, is a cultural practice that engages academics in the reading and rewriting of the social. In this chapter we enter the world of teenzine reading through analysis of girls’ interviews. We do so in order to explore what adolescent...

  10. 6 From Pleasure to Knowledge: The Power of the Text
    (pp. 169-207)

    In chapter 5, the study of everyday reading helped us to identify the question-and- answer format, prominent in advice columns, as a teenzine text with reader appeal. The purpose of this chapter is to further explore advice columns by taking as our problematic the claim by girls that these columns address real-life problems and situations. In taking teenzine constructions as ‘real,’ however, we are not mistaking the cultural world of adolescence for the social world of our readers. Instead, we question the ways in which teenzine reading brings together the discursive and everyday worlds of being a teenage woman. As...

  11. 7 Doing and Undoing: The Everyday Experience of Subject-ivity
    (pp. 208-246)

    Although a time of drastic physiological change, the primary tasks of adolescence are psychosocial: to integrate the components of identity into a coherent whole as the basis for adult sense of Self. John Mitchell (1986: 15) lists these components of identity as including a sense of personal importance; continuity of experience; and solidarity with family, community, and society. He notes that the integration of these diverse elements into a coherent unity presents an enormous challenge to today’s youth. Because teenagers are not valued as important by society and because they do not do much of importance in their everyday life,...

  12. 8 Calling Cultural Constructions into Question
    (pp. 247-283)

    As noted by the girls in chapter 7, society does not offer adolescent girls a sense of belonging through provision of a specific social ‘place.’ In the absence of positive definitions of adolescence, many girls feel that they exist in a state of limbo, ‘between’ childhood and adulthood, with few guidelines or clear boundaries. The absence of positive definitions and sense of social place can make it difficult for girls to find a voice to name their experiences of adolescence. From this perspective teenzines are significant to the process of becoming a woman because they offer a discourse which speaks...

  13. CONCLUSION Towards a Materialist Analysis of Texts: Reading Sociologically
    (pp. 284-312)

    As argued in the introduction,Girl Talkmaintains an analytical distinction between the cultural and the social realms of adolescent femininity. While the notion of a cultural realm refers to objects and practices which engage girls in meaning-making, ‘the social’ evokes the lived experiences of teenage girls.Girl Talktakes as its problematic the nature of the relationship between the cultural and the social worlds of adolescent identity; in doing so, the study of texts is not a study of culture. Rather,Girl Talkadopts the realist epistemology of historical materialism in order to answer sociological questions about social texts....

  14. APPENDIX A: Description of Participants (with pseudonyms)
    (pp. 313-316)
  15. APPENDIX B: ‘Counting’ Meaning
    (pp. 317-322)
  16. APPENDIX C: Advertisements Used in Girl Talk
    (pp. 323-324)
  17. Notes
    (pp. 325-336)
  18. References
    (pp. 337-354)
  19. Author Index
    (pp. 355-356)
  20. Subject Index
    (pp. 357-362)