Rereading women's magazines : the feminist identity of Best, Bella and Take a Break
In this thesis the attraction of women's weekly magazines to their readers was explored. Three bestselling titles in Britain, Best, Bella and Take a Break, were analysed for their production, content and reception using Hall's (1980) encoding/decoding model as a theoretical framework. The production of the magazines was addressed via interviews with the three editors and documentary sources, all placed within an environment of postfeminism which characterised the magazines' launches. The editors claimed their publications were intended to act as more than entertainment to the readers and identified Best, Bella and Take a Break as incorporating feminist elements. This feminism was interpreted as an attempt to support working class women in their struggles with everyday life via two distinct approaches: first, to offer advice, reassurance and information in the editorial (for example health, articles on employment and finance) and second, to give women a voice in the true life stories from which other readers could draw strength. The editors' intentions for Best, Bella and Take a Break were realised (although with different results for each magazine) in the content, which was analysed using both qualitative and quantitative methods. It was found that despite the potential ambiguity of certain content, the magazines nevertheless incorporated a supportive feminist agenda, but this was not always recognised by the readers. Over one hundred women were interviewed individually or in focus groups and it was found that they interpreted the magazines in a number of ways. This finding expanded on Hall's original three decoding positions of accept, negotiate and oppose. Although readers did not necessarily decode the magazines as intended by the editors, further evidence for the supportive feminism was apparent in the community ethos generated by the sharing of magazines amongst readers. It was also found that the trust and mediated interaction between a reader and her magazine further encouraged a sense of community. It was concluded that Best, Bella and Take a Break were offering a supportive feminist agenda to their readers, some of whom recognised and used this content in their everyday lives.