Periodicals found today on news stands differ greatly from those of the late nineteenth century. While periodicals of the nineteenth century such as "The Girl's Own Paper" focus on self-improvement in terms of living up to societies expectations, today's magazines tend to focus on the individuals self-improvement. Although "The Girl's Own Paper" highlights ways in which the young reader can improve one's self intellectually, the intended outcome is for the young girl to learn how to be a good future wife and an overall proper lady in society. While it appears that modern magazines such as "Cosmo Girl" promote superficial standards of society, the magazine provides a message of self improvement for the individuals sole benefit and not for an intended group of people like that of the nineteenth century periodicals.
The intended purpose for each magazine is to improve one's self, however each periodical differs in terms of benefiting one's self rather than society. In the nineteenth century periodical "The Girl's Own Paper", the emphasis was on the impending outcome of proper ladies of society. Articles found in the periodical centre around domestic preparation such as cooking, sewing and child rearing. These aspects are a clear indication of the underlining patriarchal interest of the times.
The underlining message to young girls is to be the best future wife to the man who will choose to marry them. Marriage and later motherhood are presented as the ambition and fulfilment of every 'normal' girl. However girls were often dissuaded from initiating any contact with the opposite sex be it for platonic or romantic purposes. "It is ironic that although girls had to secure a husband they were not expected or encouraged to take any positive steps to initiate or maintain a relationship.
(Tinkler pg. 137) This contrasts greatly from the modern magazines of today. "Cosmo Girl" on the other hand offers advice on how to pursue the opposite sex and successfully maintain a relationship. Aside from the stories and excerpts of novels found in the periodical, most of the articles reflect the common theme of domestic duty.
Learning how to make children's clothes and providing tips for domestic work help define the intended purpose of the magazine. Combining domestic elements with preserving one's beauty are clever ways to subtly teach young girls what society and a future husband will expect of them. Tips found in the article that focus on these two aspects are as follows; "Who does not know the ill-effects of hand water on delicate skin?" and "A drop to each basinful, and our digits and brows and wrists will be like satin." (pg. 29 No.
876) Although the tips offered are of good merit, they are not examples of ways a young lady can improve herself as a person. Overall the periodicals main focus is the betterment of an individual as part of society as a whole. Importance is not placed on the individual's need for self-improvement, instead it is placed on future endeavours. By contrast today's magazine "Cosmo Girl" focuses on the way an individual can better themselves, which later would benefit society as a whole. At first glance the magazine cover offers superficial headlines such as " Jerk Alert! Three ways to know if your guy is serious... or just messing around." (Cosmo Girl October/November 1999) However when looking more closely, the headline addresses the women as someone who is willing to direct the issue of how she should be treated.
This varies greatly from the nineteenth century articles that do not deal or offer any advice on issues related to relationships. Stating that the girl is already in a relationship with no future plan to marry establishes the girl's right to be an independent. Articles on how to become a good housewife are not present in the magazine. Instead there are articles which focus on the improvement of health as seen in "Diagnosis? Healthy!" (October/November 1999) Advice on healthy eating habits is presented as well as answers to questions that many young girls face. The main idea of the magazine is to help young women through the tumultuous years of puberty and help deal with the issues surrounding it.
Like "The Girl's Own Paper" articles in "Cosmo Girl" address ways in which to improve one's outer appearance. The beauty articles found in "Cosmo Girl" are less subtly provided than those found in the nineteenth century periodical. The emphasis is on physical beauty rather than domestic qualities. One would argue that these articles do not serve a purpose in bettering one's self. However looking closer one can see that although these articles are superficial in nature the aim is to help the young girl feel better in her own skin and not to worry about being a proper wife when married. The message being conveyed is to be happy with one's self and not worry about the opinions of the opposite sex.
The ultimate goal is to achieve the best possible appearance that is attainable to the individual. Articles such as "Miracle Makeovers" (October/November 1999) address issues not only based on bettering one's outward appearance, but also use reaffirming phrases to compliment the readers. "Yummy and unique-just like you!" (Cosmo Girl pg. 52) The emphasis is not necessarily on becoming a better person for others to accept you, but becoming better for your own well being. By following the messages hidden in the articles, a young girl can begin to improve herself and feel more confident. Whereas in the late nineteenth century periodicals, the emphasis is on improving one's self in order to please another person or people and not for the one's own benefit.
The intended audience is another factor that distinguishes the two periodicals. The apparent target audience is obviously young girls, however when comparing the two periodical's differences can be seen. Issues of financial status are addressed in both magazines. In "The Girl's Own Paper" the middle class and families with disposable incomes are targeted. Subtle advertisement in the periodical is seen through the pictures depicting young ladies in fashionable clothing.
An article addressing "Hats of Today" target young woman to want to buy what is shown and adhere to the pictures shown in the magazine. (pg. 20 No. 876) Although it was assumed that magazines did not employ class labels, one way to determine social class of the intended reader is to examine the similarities between the magazine content and the different social groups. (Tinkler pg. 47) The various pictures of young ladies wearing modern clothes and sporting the latest hairstyles provide a basis of the intended readership of the magazine.
Financial stability was definitely a factor of the intended audience. Another issue of finance was education. Lower class families were not able to provide their children with an education comparable to that of the higher classes. Therefore the differences are most evident in the style of writing found in "The Girl's Own Paper." Popular contemporary writers including Angela Brazil and Elinor Brent Dyer wrote articles found in the periodicals.
(Tinkler pg. 48) These writers would write in a sophisticated style reflecting the assumed education of the readers. Readers also had to be aware of literary symbolism and allegorical references found in the stories provided for the magazine. Articles about famous writers like Sir Walter Scott would lose significance if the readers were not already familiar with their works. Reflecting the times "The Girl's Own Paper" adheres to the middle class or those who had access to an education. Those who did not have such access would not be able to relate or comprehend the issues presented in the magazine.
Articles such as " My School-Days " (pg. 28 No. 876) address issues pertaining to school related instances. The level of education the young reader received was an important factor, which distinguished the intended audience.
While it appears that "Cosmo Girl" also distinguishes financial status of its intended audience in terms of advertisement, the issue of education is not evident. A basic level of education is all that is needed for the magazine's readership. The style of writing does not discriminate between the level of education its readers receive. The articles are written in a manor familiar to the teenage audience. Words and phrases such as 'cool' and 'killer jobs' appeal to the young girls because they do not differentiate between classes since all teens use them.
A student with a grade eight education compared to one with an Ivy league education can both appreciate and understand aim of the articles in the magazines. The sophistication of the language in "The Girl's Own Paper" separates certain readers who are not as highly educated. Whereas in "Cosmo Girl" the language and style of writing reflect the universal slang and language young girls use with friends, family and in school. Furthermore the articles are written in a simplistic and condensed manner so as to keep the readers attention. An example of the easy and straight to the point writing can be seen in the following; "No matter what, there are bound to be a few things that will surprise you about college; that's what makes it so exciting." (October/November 1999) This contrasts with "The Girl's Own Paper" articles, in that some of the articles can be up to four pages long and written in a highly refined way. The articles and stories found in "Cosmo Girl" are short and to the point, as well as straight forward.
Pictures and various colourful headlines are also an indication of intended audience. The various graphics included in the magazine are not geared to a specific group. Fancy portrait pictures common in upper class homes are not present in "Cosmo Girl", instead universal elements are incorporated into the pages of the magazine. "Cosmo Girl" in contrast with "The Girl's Own Paper" does not discriminate against its readers in terms of education, which is a reflection of financial status as seen in the nineteenth century periodical. Present day periodicals that target young girls such as "Cosmo Girl" help promote individual improvement, where as the late nineteenth century periodical "The Girl's Own Paper" focuses on the betterment of one's self in order to serve society.
Although both magazines provide articles containing ways to improve one's self intellectually, physically and in relationships with others there is a distinction between the two. While "Cosmo Girl" promotes and encourages self-identity, "The Girl's Own Paper" places emphasis on societies expectations of what a girl should become. Works Cited "Cosmo Girl." October/November 1999, Volume 1 Issue 2. "The Girl's Own Paper." 3 October.
1896, Volume XVIII No. 875. "The Girl's Own Paper." 10 October. 1896, Volume XVIII No. 876. Tinkler, Penny.
Constructing Girlhood: Popular Magazines for Girls Growing Up in England 1920-1950. London: Taylor & Francis Ltd, 1995.