Constructions of Gender in Computer Magazine Advertisements: Confronting the Literature
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Previous studies (Sofia, 1998; 2002; Turner & Hovenden, 1997; Weinstein, 1998) discussed the power relations surrounding the advertisements for computers in computing magazines, in particular deconstructing the imagery and text which manifested the dominant digital discourse of power (Millar, 1998). In these studies, the authors found that women were positioned as incapable and impotent users of computers. The authors examined a number of New Zealand and Australian home computing magazines published in 2003 and 2004, looking for evidence of the gendered nature of technology or examples of any form which would constitute discrimination against women or other identity categories. The purpose of this research was to determine whether previous arguments were still relevant and current, or whether advertisements had changed to accommodate populist understandings of gender and cultural equity, or reflect improved power relations between the sexes. In this paper we have explored the findings of a study, which, although small in scale, raises larger questions concerning the 'new' ways in which issues of gender influence advertising focused on computers. Whilst there has been a significant reduction in overtly sexist texts, hegemonic understandings of masculinity and femininity nevertheless continue to structure mainstream advertisements with women routinely positioned in passive, non-expert or very limited kinds of roles. The extent to which this imagery reflects broader social patterns regarding the re-emergence of traditional portrayals of women and men in the media more generally will be the subject of future studies.