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LINGUIST List 19.2136

Thu Jul 03 2008

Diss: Disc Analysis/Socioling: Williams: 'The Textual Construction ...'

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        1.    Tracy Rundstrom Williams, The Textual Construction of Femininity in Women's Fitness Magazines

Message 1: The Textual Construction of Femininity in Women's Fitness Magazines
Date: 02-Jul-2008
From: Tracy Rundstrom Williams <t.williamstcu.edu>
Subject: The Textual Construction of Femininity in Women's Fitness Magazines
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Institution: University of Texas at Arlington
Program: Department of Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2007

Author: Tracy Rundstrom Williams

Dissertation Title: The Textual Construction of Femininity in Women's Fitness Magazines

Linguistic Field(s): Discourse Analysis

Dissertation Director:
Winnie Orr
Don Burquest
Laurel Smith Stvan
David Silva
Charla Markham Shaw

Dissertation Abstract:

Women in the first decade of the 21st century encounter competing
ideologies of traditional femininity and empowered femininity. Language, in
particular Discourse Analysis, provides a means for investigating what
these ideologies, or discourses, are and how they are perpetuated. One
source of language which encodes and perpetuates ideologies of femininity
is women's magazines. As pervasive, monthly texts directed specifically at
women, women's magazines provide a rich source of contemporary ideologies
of femininity. Given the rise of health and fitness magazines over the past
20 years, it appears that one primary focus of contemporary femininity is
the body. Previous research has found that the idealized female body today
- an extremely thin body - encodes traditional femininity in that it
represents social values of beauty, smallness, and others-orientation, but
it also encodes empowered femininity in that it represents will-power,
dedication, and strength.

Using one fitness instructional text from eight different women's fitness
magazines, an analysis of the rhetorical structure, clauses, and lexicon
demonstrates how these texts perpetuate a hybrid discourse which actually
integrates traditional and empowered femininity. This hybrid discourse
appears as a seamless combination of the two 'parent' discourses by placing
itself in the middle of a continuum between traditional femininity and
empowered femininity: emphasizing achievement but to a limited degree, and
celebrating beautification and objectification. The hybrid discourse also
supports a sociological trend of many women wanting to balance competing
demands of portraying highly valued but traditionally male traits while
still being seen as traditionally feminine.

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