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The Ever Entangling Web: A Study of Ideologies and Discourses in Advertising to Women

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The Ever Entangling Web: A Study of Ideologies and Discourses in Advertising to Women
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  The Ever Entangling Web: A Study of Ideologies and Discourses in Advertising to WomenAuthor(s): Steven M. Kates and Glenda Shaw-GarlockSource: Journal of Advertising, Vol. 28, No. 2 (Summer, 1999), pp. 33-49Published by: M.E. Sharpe, Inc.Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4189108 Accessed: 17/04/2010 01:29 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, available athttp://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp. JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unlessyou have obtained prior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and youmay use content in the JSTOR archive only for your personal, non-commercial use.Please contact the publisher regarding any further use of this work. Publisher contact information may be obtained athttp://www.jstor.org/action/showPublisher?publisherCode=mes.Each copy of any part of a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the screen or printedpage of such transmission.JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new formsof scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org.  M.E. Sharpe, Inc. is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to  Journal of  Advertising. http://www.jstor.org  TheEverEntanglingWeb:AStudyofIdeologiesandDiscoursesinAdvertisingtoWomenStevenM. KatesandGlenda Shaw-GarlockTheauthors combinediscursivetextualanalysisandthefindings fromlonginterviews to understand andtheorizeabout theideological representationsofwomen in aspecificdiscursivefield ofadvertising:ads inwomen'smagazines.They synthesize findingsofpreviousresearch with theirfindingstoproposerevisions tothecurrent communicationmodelof advertising, explicitly incorporatinghistoricalperspectiveofmeaning(s)construction.StevenM.Kates,CA.(Ph.D.,YorkUniversity,Toronto,Canada)is aLecturerat GriffithUniversity,GoldCoastCampus,Queensland,Australia.GlendaShaw-Garlockis anUndergraduateStudentat theUniversityof NorthernBritishColumbia,Canada.<<When I use aword,"Humpty Dumptysaid,in a rather scornfultone,"itmeansjustwhat I choose it tomean?neither more nor less.""Thequestionis,"saidAlice,"whetheryoucan make wordsmean somanydifferentthings.""Thequestionis,"saidHumpty Dumpty,"which isto bemaster?that's all."(LewisCarroll,ThroughtheLookingGlass)AdvertisingasRepresentationRepresentationinvolves the connection betweenthingsinthephenom-enalworld,concepts,andsigns(Hall 1997).Amagazineadvertisementconsistingof a two-dimensionalimagecombined with textfrom which wecan derive aparticularmeaningis theveryessenceofrepresentation. Throughculture,we learn that aphotograph signifies somethingthat exists in therealworld,an abstractconcept,oranimaginary thing.Wecandecodeanadby usingcues foundinrepresentative systemsoflanguagesuch asphysicalgestures,clothing,set,lighting, tropes,andtext.Themeaningsderived canbe assimpleasthe identification of anobjectsuch as a toothbrush or chair oras abstract as the notion ofthegoodlife or love.Adinterpretationispartofalargersystemcalled "the circuit ofculture"(Hall 1997).Indeed,to discussrepresentation requiresthatit beplacedinthe context of conventions andlinguistic tropesthathelpus make sense ofour social worlds(seeThompsonandHaytko1997).Werepresent somethingwhen we desire to share orexpresssomeidea,feeling,orconceptthatwecarryinour heads.Looselyspeaking,individuals aresaid tobelongtothesame culturewhenthey interprettheworldinabroadlysimilarwayandcanexpress thoughtsandfeelingsinsuchawayas to beunderstood. Cul-ture also includes theorganizationandregulationof socialpractices,and itinfluences conductby settingout therules,norms,andconventions of socialorder(Foucault 1980).Overtime,ideologicalcodes tend to fixandnaturalizetherelationshipsbetweenconceptualmapsandlanguagesystemsand en-able members of a culture tocommunicateeffectively.Thesystemofrepre-sentation thus becomes a stable culturalconventionthat istaughtandlearnedbymembers of asociety.As aresult,thepreferredmeaning(Hall1980)of a cultural text such as an admay"bethis,butnotthe other."Wearguethatdespiterecentimportantrevisions tothe traditional adver-tisingcommunication model(Lasswell1948;Stern1994),it is stilldeficient,Journalof Advertising,VolumeXXVIII,Number 2Summerl999  34TheJournalofAdvertisingforit does notexplicitlyincorporatethe critical di-mensions ofdiscoursesandconventions thatinflu-ence consumers'decoding processes(Stern1994,p.9).Examiningthe currentmodel,we make twospe-cific criticisms.First,the consumerispresumedtointerpretthead astextseeminglyintheabsenceofrepresentationalcodesand,conventionsimplyingtex-tual determinism.Second,themodeldoesnot incor-poratethenotion thattexts invitemultiple readings,andconsumersarelikelytoforgetheirownnegoti-atedmeanings,albeitinfluencedbybroad sociocul-turelviewpoints(seeByars1991;HirschmanandThompson1997;Thompson1996;ThompsonandHaytko1997).Overall,weexplorethe natureandimportanceofdiscoursesinmediatingadinterpreta-tion;further,weproposerevisions to themodel,plac-ingadinterpretationwithin broadersocialandhis-toricalcontexts.Thus,we contendthat cultural stud-ies(Hall1980, 1982;Turner1996)?adiversebodyofthoughtthathasextensivelyaddressedissues circum-scribingideology,discourse,representation,and inter-pretation?canmakeacontributiontoourdiscipline.AsHumptyDumpty'spresumptionsuggests(seeHall1997;Mick1986),languageisnot a neutral me-dium(Stern1996a).Itmaybe describedassocialpractice:"ourprivateintendedmeanings,howeverpersonaltous,havetoenterinto therules,codes andconventionsoflanguagetobeshared andunderstood...neitherthingsinthemselvesnor theindividual usersoflanguagecanfixmeaninginlanguage..."(Hall1997,p.25).Weexplicitlyacknowledgethe discursiveas-pectsofads asrepresentation(Dreyfusand Rabinow1982;Foucault1970, 1980;Hall1997)anddrawuponBritishandAmericanbranchesofculturalstudies,whichinturnhavebeeninfluencedby poststructuralism(Foucault1970,1977,1980;Hall1997).TheImportanceofHistorical andIdeologicalContext:AnIllustrativeDiscursiveAnalysisofthe AdRepresentationsof the"Lone WomanffAnacceptedcriticismis thatadvertisingisan im-portantandpervasiveculturalinstitutionthatrepre-sents womenin aproblematicandunacceptableway(Bordo1993;Douglas1994;Ferguson,Kreshel,andTinkham1990;HirschmanandThompson1997;Richins1991;Stern1993;Wolf1991).Further,itisnotparticularlyradicaltoarguethatcertain adshaveco-optedfeministthemesin order tomarketto women.Forillustration,weprovideasamplediscursiveanaly-sisof an adbyreferringtothe Evian adin theAppen-dix. Itportraysawomanalonein theframe,poten-tially suggestingthemesofautonomy,arguablyim-portantto thefeminist movement. Thewoman isnotshownleaningon aman orsurroundedbyotherwomen,depictionswhichmightimplythat she re-quiresthecompanyof otherstolegitimateheriden-tity(seeStern1993).The ad isgoodexemplarofmanyfound inwomen'smagazinessuch asVogue,SelfElle,andMademoiselle.Whatisthesrcinof the "lonewoman" field ofdiscourse?Traditionally,women havebeenpositionedwithin discourse asrelegatedto the home(EhrenreichandEnglish1979;Thompson1996).Yetduringthelast fewdecades,feministcritiqueof the domesticrole has entered mainstream socialdiscourse. Aswomen have crossed theboundaryfromthe domesticsphereto theprofessionalarena,expectationsandrepresentationsofwomen havechangedas well.Fur-ther,insomediscourses,theStereotypiecharactertraitsattributedto womenhave shifted from weakanddependenttostrongandautonomous. The mar-ket for women'smagazineshasfragmentedaccord-ingly, movingfrom the massappealof theolder,moretraditionalmagazinessuch as GoodHousekeepingtothe nichedappealofmore recent entries such as Cos-mopolitan,broadeningtherepresentationsof women'spastimes(McCracken1993).Ads nowincorporateas-pectsof the broad sociocultural shiftsinwomen's lives.The lone womanembodies,physicallyandfiguratively,thecultural and historicalshift from the home totheoutside world.Perhapsshe is thepostmodernwomanwho constructsheridentity "througheclecticborrow-ingof thefragmentsavailable in consumer culture.Womenof this era are trained forgrowthandchange;theyareencouragedtodevelop wings,not roots"(Fournier1998,p.360).The transformed socialpositioning(s)of women inNorth Americansocietyisperhapsthe mostimpor-tantsocialdevelopmentof thiscentury.Wearguethatadrepresentationsof the so-called "liberated"womanprovidea rich discursiveapplicationand aspringboardfor a theoreticalexpansionof the adver-tisingcommunication model.Further,webelievethatouradexemplaris constitutedbydiscourses relatedto womeninpubliclifebeyondthe domesticsphere.Buthow is the transformed woman madeintelligiblebydiscourse?We drawperspectiveand substancefrom cultural studies(seeHall1980,1997)andfemi-nistfilmcriticism(seeByars1991;Penley1988;Pribram1988)todevelopa theoretical framework forinterpretingthemeaningsofadswiththelone woman.Important previousresearch hasaddressed thesamerelated set oftopics;however,we offer amodeofinterpretingadvertisingthatexplicitlyincorporates  Summer1999 36NameTable1ListofInformantsAgeOccupationInterestsMaritalStatusTerry26GraphicDesignerPolly33DieticianDenise25ClerkJean33Public RelationsMeena20Student/CosmetianLorna30Owns FashionAgencyMarilyn28FundraisingConsultantArt,readingComputersClothes,animalsSkiing,gardeningFashion,readingSports,readingGardening,motorcyclingMarriedSingleMarriedMarried,oneSonSingleDivorced,onedaughterSingletheimportantissues:theproblematicconstructionandpositioningofthewomansubject,thenegotia-tionofmeanings,thedialogicprocessofreading,andtheproblemofideology.MethodOneobjectiveof ourstudywas tosynthesizerel-evant researchintheadvertisingandconsumer lit-eratureswithworkinculturalstudiesto buildontheadvertisingcommunication model.Another was toidentifywomenconsumers'interpretivestrategies,whiledemonstratingthattheadinterpretationsthatemergeareinformeddiscursivelywithinaspecificideologicalcontext. Wedeterminedthatqualitativedatafroman actualconsumptioncontext wouldbestserve ourpurpose.Wechose theconsumptionofwomen'sspecialinterestmagazines,afrequentandeverydayeventinmanywomen'slives(Ferguson,Kreshel,andTinkham1990;McCracken1993;Wolf1991).Anotherstrongargumentthatreinforced ourchoice is that almostallsuchmagazines carrynu-merous advertisementsforawidearrayofproductstargetedto femaleconsumers.We followedMcCracken's(1988)guidelinesforlonginterviews,andthereforerequestedandreceivedtheco-opera-tionofeightwomen whoagreedtotakepartintape-recordedinterviewslastingoneto twohours.Themajorityof theinformants,virtualstrangerstous,wereformer clientsof acommunityagencythatprovidescounselingandtrainingcoursesforlocalbusi-nesses andentrepreneurs.Twoinformantswerestu-dents atthelocaluniversity.Theagesofthewomenrangedfrom20 to33years.Sevenoftheeightworkedfull-time outsidethehome.Theeighthwoman,Meena,workedpart-timeas acosmeticianandtookuniversitycoursesparttime. Table1reportsthe women'snames,ages,occupations,and someof theirleisureinterests.Fortheinterviews,thewomenbroughtsomeoftheir favoritemagazines.We askedthem toflipthroughthemagazinesasthoughtheywerereadingthemwithafriend,which isnot an uncommonevent,as themajorityofinformantsreportedthattheyocca-sionallyreadmagazineswithfriends. Whentheystoppedatan adthatcaughttheirattention,we askedthemtotalk about whattheyliked ordisliked andwhattheythoughtandfeltabouttheproductsandmodelsfeatured.Interviews werefluid,phenomeno-logical,and ratherunstructured,forinformantssettheagendawheninspired bytheads.AmongthemagazinesreadwereCosmopolitan,Woman'sDay,Us,Shape,Self,Elle,andVogue.We tookspecialcare to letthedata'speak'whenidentifying interpretive strategiesandcorrespondingadreadings.First,wefollowedestablishedprotocolsinprotectinginformants'privacyandidentities,tran-scribingtapes,andaskingbroadquestionsaboutin-formants' livestoopentheinterviews. Ourmethod-ologicalapproachwasbased ongroundedtheory(Geertz1979;Lincoln andGuba1985;StraussandCorbin1994),for ourprimarypurposewas elabora-tionoftheorythroughsystematicanalysisofempiri-caldata(GlaserandStrauss1967).Ourapproachwastorelate thethemesderivedfromthedata toliteratureand atheoreticalframework,anilluminat-ingandusefulapproachthathasbeenemployedbe-fore(cf.Holt1997;ThompsonandHaytko1997;Th-ompsonandHirschman1995).Weindependentlyandjointlyreadthroughthedata,seekingexpressionsofcommonthematiccategoriesandimportantdiffer-encesamong informants,andsubsequentlyemployedinterpretivetackingtounderstandinformants'in-  36TheJournalofAdvertisingFigure1RevisedAdvertisingCommunicationModel-SPONSOR-AUTHOR-PERSONAE-FASHION-ADS-CONSUMPTION,ETC.ADMarketer(Source)CommercialDiscoursesINTERDISCURSIVITY<-?SocialDiscourses\/HistoricallySituatedINTERPRETER?READINGSTRATEGIESNegotiatedAdMeanings-Gender-Race-Sexuality-SexualOrientations,etc.TEXTUALSHIFTERS-Women'smovement-Civilrightsmovement-Environmentalmovement-Gayandlesbianmovement-Postmodernity-Post-Fordism-OtherAdoptedandsynthesizedfromStern(1994),ThompsonandHaytko(1997),HirschmanandThompson(1997),and(Scott1994a,b).terpretivestrategies(cf.HirschmanandThompson1997).Thisstudywasconductedinthespiritof bothdiscoveryandjustification(Deshpande1983).Whereastheetic,theoreticalcategorieswhichcomposethere-vised admodeldonot flowdirectlyfromthedata,wehave taken careinourargumentbelow todemon-strate that thedataillustratesinstantiatedmanifes-tationsofbroadculturalviewpoints,ideologies,ordiscourses(seeThompson,Pollio,and Locander1994)andthat therearelinkagesbetween theeticconceptsof the modeland the ernieperspectivesoftheinfor-mants(cf.ThompsonandHirschman1995).TheUnstable,'Leaky*andDynamicText:TheorizingIdeologicalContextandtheSignifyingPotentialofAdvertisementsAlthoughmanyofusmaydisagreewithHumptyDumptys philosophicalassertionthatmeaningis nec-essarilytheproductofthehistoricalsubject'sinten-tion,hedoesprovokeanimportantquestion:Whydoes anad"meanthis butnot that?"Inotherwords,how isit thatcertaininterpretationsof anadgarnermore "culturalweight"(Turner1996)thanothers?Togaininsighttothequestion,weturntothecentralcontributionof culturalstudies: itsconceptualizationsandapplicationsofideology.Interms of therevisedadcommunicationmodelFigure1,the constructs weexplorebelowprovideamodeofunderstandingtheextratextualideologicalcontext(Figure2)inwhichadinterpretationtakesplace.AWorkingConceptualization ofIdeologyIdeologyisthe centralconstructaddressedbyculturalstudies(Turner 1996).Further,givenrecentworkinadvertisingresearch andotherdisciplineswhichhasproductivelyandcriticallyincorporatedit(seeEagleton1991;Hirschman1993;Hirschman andThompson1997;ThompsonandHaytko1997;J.Thompson1984;Warlaumont1995),itappearsto
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