Reading femininity, beauty and consumption in Russian women's magazines

Porteous, Holly (2014) Reading femininity, beauty and consumption in Russian women's magazines. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Western-origin women’s lifestyle magazines have enjoyed great success in post-Soviet Russia, and represent part of the globalisation of the post-Soviet media landscape. Existing studies of post-Soviet Russian women’s magazines have tended to focus on either magazine content or reader interpretations, their role in the media marketplace, or representations of themes such as glamour culture or conspicuous consumption. Based on a discourse analysis of the three Russian women’s lifestyle magazines Elle, Liza and Cosmopolitan, and interviews with 39 Russian women, the thesis interrogates femininity norms in contemporary Russia. This thesis addresses a gap in the literature in foregrounding a feminist approach to a combined analysis of both the content of the magazines, and how readers decode the magazines.

Portrayals of embodied femininity in women’s magazines are a chief focus, in addition to reader decodings of these portrayals. The thesis shows how certain forms of aesthetic and cultural capital are linked to femininity, and how women’s magazines discursively construct normative femininity via portraying these forms of cultural capital as necessary for women. It also relates particular ways of performing femininity, such as conspicuous consumption and beauty labour, to wider patriarchal discourses in Russian society. Furthermore, the thesis engages with pertinent debates around cultural globalisation in relation to post-Soviet media and culture, and addresses both change and continuity in post-Soviet gender norms; not only from the Soviet era into the present, but across an oft-perceived East/West axis via the horizontalization and glocalisation of culture.

The thesis discusses two main aspects of change: 1) the role now played by conspicuous consumption in social constructions of normative femininity; and 2) the expectation of ever increasing resources women are now expected to devote to beauty labour as part of performing normative femininity. However, I also argue that it is appropriate from a gender studies perspective to highlight Russian society as patriarchal as well as post-socialist. As such, I highlight the cross-cultural experiences women in contemporary Russia women share with women in other parts of the world. Accordingly, the research suggests that women’s lifestyle magazines in the post-Soviet era have drawn on more established gender discourses in Soviet-Russian society as a means of facilitating the introduction of relatively new norms and practices, particularly linked to a culture of conspicuous consumption.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: gender; Russia; beauty; consumption; women's magazines; post-Soviet
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DK Russia. Soviet Union. Former Soviet Republics
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
P Language and Literature > PG Slavic, Baltic, Albanian languages and literature
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Central and East European Studies
Supervisor's Name: Stella, Dr. Francesca and Kay, Professor Rebecca
Date of Award: 2014
Depositing User: Dr Holly Porteous
Unique ID: glathesis:2014-5775
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 26 Nov 2014 10:19
Last Modified: 28 Nov 2017 08:48

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