‘Taking charge of your health’: discourses of responsibility in English-Canadian women's magazines


Address for correspondence; Stephannie C. Roy, Office of the Vice President and Provost, University of Toronto, Room 240 Simcoe Hall, 27 King's College Circle, Toronto, Ontario M5S 1A1, Canada
e-mail: stephannie.roy@utoronto.ca


This article presents an examination of the ways in which responsibility for health is constructed in popular English-Canadian women's magazines. Women's magazines are a unique media form, acting as guidebooks for women on matters relating to feminine gender roles and are important to examine as part of the corpus of societal discourses which frame our understandings of what it means to be healthy and how good health is achieved. Using discourse analysis several techniques were found which reinforce women's individual responsibility to create and maintain good health for themselves and their families. The magazines instruct women/readers directly about their health-related responsibilities and outline the negative consequences of inaction or incorrect action. The magazines also use the traditional discursive technique of women's personal accounts as both cautionary tales and inspirational stories to encourage readers to actively pursue healthy behaviours. Reflecting and reinforcing the discourse of healthism, women's magazines consistently present health as an important individual responsibility and a moral imperative which creates an entrepreneurial subject position for women. The article concludes by discussing the implications for women's magazine audiences within the ongoing feminist debate about this cultural industry.