Talk Little and Know How to Listen’: Women’s Magazines as Moral Judges


Even though women’s magazines do not escape the general malaise affecting journalism today, they have always managed to captivate a large audience of women. One of the keys to their success lies in the fact that women’s magazines try to establish a personal, intimate relationship with their readers, who are addressed as a single community. Talbot (1992) calls this sisterly relationship ‘synthetic sisterhood’, ‘a compensatory tendency to give the impression of treating each of the people ‘handled’ en masse as an individual’. In constructing an implied reader who is treated as an individual, the readers are invited to share the experiences of other readers. As such, women’s magazines also function as resources for cultural citizenship, contributing to people’s sense of community (Ytre-Arne, 2011): women readers find their reflections in the magazine they are reading, which functions as a mirrored room of identities. As a case study, this paper examines how two Flemish women’s magazines from the fifties until the seventies make use of their sisterly relationship with their readers to present certain ideas about women and their (sexual) relationships with men to its community of readers. Both magazines present their advices in a moralizing way, by making use of messages that are formulated as general truths and by making use of the imperative mood. As such, the magazines present themselves as moral judges, by stating what is ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ or what is acceptable and what is not.

Author Information
Maaike Van de Voorde, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium

Paper Information
Conference: ECAH2016
Stream: Humanities - Sexuality, Gender, Families

This paper is part of the ECAH2016 Conference Proceedings (View)
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Posted by James Alexander Gordon