What is representation?

Think about the word itself...


To take 'something' and re-present it.
That 'something' is re-packaged/tweeked/modified/mediated according to whoever is doing the 'presenting' and according to the perceived interpretation of the 'receiver' or audience.
Complicated? Not really, once you get your head around it.
But here is a more academic explanation from Stuart Hall:


"Men do, women appear" is largely the dominant ideology of femininity as defined by John Berger and his comment seems particularly fitting for our examination of women and men in magazines.

Theories of Representation

Richard Dyer has explored the process by which representations are created in the media and he evolved three main stages: selection, magnification and reduction. in essence what this means is that the producer of a text selects particular aspects of a 'real life' woman such as physical attributes such as blonde hair, height, weight, age as well as 'value' attributes such as, in our patriarchal society, passiveness, innocence, sexuality, deference to men, and in relation to their target audience either magnifies these characteristics to create the sterotype or reduces characteristics to create the stereotype e.g. by omission - leaving out anyone above a size 10, with brown or grey hair, over the age of 22 years, under 5 foot 2 inches and, by this process the sterotype is re-packaged (re-presented) within the media product.


This is a scary word but basically it means is well answered by a definition from Wikipedia:
Hegemony (UK: /hɨˈdʒɛməni/ or /hɨˈgɛməni/; US: /ˈhɛdʒɨmoʊni/; Greek: ἡγεμονία hēgemonía, "leadership" or "hegemon" for "leader") is the political, economic, ideological or cultural power exerted by a dominant group over other groups. It requires the consent of the majority to keep the dominant group in power. While initially referring to the political dominance of certain ancient Greek city-states over their neighbors, the term has come to be used in a variety of other contexts, in particular Marxist philosopher Antonio Gramsci's theory of cultural hegemony. The term is often mistakenly used to suggest brute power or dominance, when it is better defined as emphasizing how control is achieved through consensus not force.

One of the really interesting aspects of representation is how it supports and drives (culturally) the dominant hegemony within a society. So, if we apply this to New Zealand, the dominant hegemony is the values, beliefs and appearances of the New Zealand Pakeha or European, mainly as a result of our rather violent historic past in terms of New Zealand's settlement by immigrants from Britain and the dominance they established over the indigineous race of Maori. One of the ways that hemgemony is signalled visually (or semiotically) in advertisements is by using the construct of 'relative size'. The layout and design of the advertisement makes the the female appear smaller than the male to visually and semotically signal to the reader one of the dominant values of the hegemony in New Zealand and the Western world first power countries thatn the male has the power culturally in our society. Additionally, the male is often placed in the dominant left hand visual field (because we read left to right) and th female in the subordinate right, as can be seen in these advertisements below:



In some cases this emphasis on hegemony in nrelation to the place of women in society and the dominance of men in patriachal society has provoked audience raction as in the advertisement below:


The audience antagonism to this type of stereotypical avetising and the reinforcement of the hegemonic value of male dominance is easily demonstrated here.

dSo, in part, this answers the 'why' of using hegemonic patriarchal values in advertising - it reinforces th prevailing hegemonic balance of power; that the male hols the control in this type of western society and our reprresentqtion of women in magazine advertising supports this prevailing view. In some cases it goes further to actively reinforce the stereotype of the sex symbol by selling a message of the 'dumb blonde', as below:

These advertisements, as part of a Diesel jeans advertising campaign in the USA, are pretty insulting to women in reinforcing the sterotype that women are dumb.

And a few documents that may be useful:

Some interesting links to Lady Gaga's thinking on religion...

Analysis of Bonnie Tyler's 'Total Eclipse of the Heart..'

The links here are all valuable in understanding and exploring the representation of women in the media:

and this
and this
and this
and this