The Construction of Beauty: A Cross-Cultural Analysis of Women’s Magazine Advertising

International Communication Association 2005

Katherine Frith
Ping Shaw
Hong Cheng

As a media genre, advertising offers a unique opportunity to study how the beauty ideal is constructed across cultures. This research analyzes the content of advertisements from women’s fashion and beauty magazines in Singapore, Taiwan, and the U.S. to compare how beauty is encoded and found a noticeable difference between the portrayals of women from the U.S. and from the two East Asian societies in terms of sexual portrayal. In addition, Asian ads contained a large proportion of cosmetics and facial beauty products whereas the U.S. ads were dominated by clothing. These findings suggest that beauty in the U.S. may be constructed more in terms of “the body,” whereas in Singapore and Taiwan the defining factor is more related to a pretty face. The article also discusses how feminist critiques of the sexual objectification of women in advertising may need to be considered within their historical, Western context of origin.



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