Masters Thesis

Advertised identity: a postmodern feminist analysis of food advertisements from women’s magazines during the 1950s, 1960s, and 2000s

Food advertisements represent complex and constant conversations about race, class, gender, and modernity within an American context. Inherently visual, food advertisements suffer from a lack of research that analyzes them in their entirety. By taking a postmodern feminist approach that considers the imagery of food advertisements as a text, this thesis will attempt to unravel the complex messages that food advertisements relay about a person's identity, particularly, what these messages say about gender and gender roles. Present-day food advertisements are shown in comparison with food advertisements from the 1950s and 1960s, seeking to discover whether the messages regarding gender and identity have changed, or if the only the image has changed. Additionally, this thesis examines gender attitudes and beliefs connected to the messages in food advertisements. Food advertisements’ visual components are analyzed as texts, searching for signs, signifiers, and postmodern imagery, while also acknowledging the inherently gendered canvas, on which the advertisements are printed. A content analysis of three women’s magazines, Good Housekeeping (founded in 1885), Ladies Home Journal (founded in 1883), and Better Homes and Gardens (founded in 1922), from three different time periods, 1950-52, 1960-62, and 2009-2013, was used to survey a breadth of food advertisements, while also providing a method to individually examine many of the advertisements. Only magazines geared toward women were utilized with the goal of analyzing the messages food advertisements send to a mostly female audience. This thesis suggests that these advertisements not only harbor American gendered societal requirements and desires but also carry a heavy, influential, gendered anchor.