New sexism?: Readers' responses to the use of irony in men's magazines



Benwell B (2007) New sexism?: Readers' responses to the use of irony in men's magazines. Journalism Studies, 8 (4), pp. 539-549.

A common motif of “new” forms of masculinity in recent years has been the adoption of what have been termed “new sexism” discourses. This involves the legitimation of male power in new and creative ways, often by the strategic accommodation or negotiation of liberal, progressive or feminist discourses. This paper examines one particular “new sexism” device—irony. Irony is a versatile device in men's magazines which allows a speaker to articulate both anti-feminist sentiments as well as engage in discourses of femininity, whilst disclaiming responsibility for or ownership of both. This strategic use of irony in relation to the expression of sexist or homophobic views is a common device in the “new lad” magazines examined in this paper. Compounding the slipperiness of the ironic utterance is the acknowledgement that it may be read variously by different audiences. For this reason, my analysis attempts to move beyond the rather narrow textual focus normally favoured in language analysis, to consider the multiple, often contradictory responses produced by audiences. The paper examines firstly, the reading habits and dispositions of two groups of dedicated readers of men's magazines. Then the paper considers detailed responses to the texts under discussion and specifically the meaning of the ironic utterance. The lack of consensus elicited by such an exercise arguably problematises our initial reading of irony as a device of “new sexism”.

audience response; irony; lad mags; masculinity; sexism

Journalism Studies: Volume 8, Issue 4

Publication date31/12/2007
PublisherTaylor and Francis

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Dr Bethan Benwell

Dr Bethan Benwell

Senior Lecturer, English Studies