The Construction of Beauty: A Cross-Cultural Analysis of Women's Magazine Advertising

Authors

  • Katherine Frith,

    1. Katherine T. Frith (EdD, University of Massachusetts) is an associate professor in the School of Communication and Information at Nanyang Technological University. Ping Shaw (PhD, Pennsylvania State University) is an associate professor in the Institute of Communications Management, National Sun Yat-Sen University. Hong Cheng (PhD, Pennsylvania State University) is an associate professor in the E. W. Scripps School of Journalism, Ohio University
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  • Ping Shaw,

    1. Katherine T. Frith (EdD, University of Massachusetts) is an associate professor in the School of Communication and Information at Nanyang Technological University. Ping Shaw (PhD, Pennsylvania State University) is an associate professor in the Institute of Communications Management, National Sun Yat-Sen University. Hong Cheng (PhD, Pennsylvania State University) is an associate professor in the E. W. Scripps School of Journalism, Ohio University
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  • Hong Cheng

    1. Katherine T. Frith (EdD, University of Massachusetts) is an associate professor in the School of Communication and Information at Nanyang Technological University. Ping Shaw (PhD, Pennsylvania State University) is an associate professor in the Institute of Communications Management, National Sun Yat-Sen University. Hong Cheng (PhD, Pennsylvania State University) is an associate professor in the E. W. Scripps School of Journalism, Ohio University
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Abstract

As a media genre, advertising offers a unique opportunity to study how the beauty ideal is constructed across cultures. This research analyzes the content of advertisements from women's fashion and beauty magazines in Singapore, Taiwan, and the U.S. to compare how beauty is encoded and found a noticeable difference between the portrayals of women from the U.S. and from the two East Asian societies in terms of sexual portrayal. In addition, Asian ads contained a large proportion of cosmetics and facial beauty products whereas the U.S. ads were dominated by clothing. These findings suggest that beauty in the U.S. may be constructed more in terms of “the body,” whereas in Singapore and Taiwan the defining factor is more related to a pretty face. The article also discusses how feminist critiques of the sexual objectification of women in advertising may need to be considered within their historical, Western context of origin.

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