Multimodal constructions of feminism

The transfiguration of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in Vogue

Authored by: Linda McLoughlin

The Routledge Handbook of Language, Gender, and Sexuality

Print publication date:  April  2021
Online publication date:  April  2021

Print ISBN: 9781138200265
eBook ISBN: 9781315514857
Adobe ISBN:

10.4324/9781315514857-40

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Abstract

This chapter examines a technique which lies at the interface of critical discourse analysis and social semiotics. Its focus is on how language and other modes of communication combine to create meaning in women’s lifestyle magazines. The aim is to show how these types of publications play a vital role in the production, reproduction, and transformation of gender and sexuality. Transformations have come about due to growing anger that women are constantly addressed in terms of their appearance, not their achievements. The advent of feminism has generated readers who are sceptical and suspicious of attempts to sell the beauty products and fashion items depicted in the idealised images of feminine desirability in magazines. The brand of feminism on offer is a commodified form, one in which feminist ideas and icons are appropriated for commercial purposes. Since the life blood of magazines is the revenue derived from advertisements for the many commodities promoted, this generates complex discourses. Promoting messages of freedom and choice through features on ‘power dressing’ etc., effectively reduces the political force of feminism. Using frameworks pioneered by Kress and van Leeuwen (2001) the objective is to analyse constructions of female subjectivity in the specific context of women’s magazines.

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