Public invited to challenge view of ‘cover girl’ stereotypes

29 January 2020

A University of Derby academic is touring the country to reveal new research which she hopes can change attitudes towards the representation of women in some of the world’s biggest-selling magazines.

Dr Ivana Ebel, Senior Lecturer in Journalism at the University of Derby, has been researching the subject in collaboration with Dr Gabrielle Bittelbrun of Santa Catarina University in Brazil, and now they have made it the subject of UK public lecture tour, titled ‘(Re)presenting cover girls: exploring female diversity in glossy magazines’, which begins in Derby next month (Tuesday 11 February).

The academics will be explaining how their research has provided evidence that magazines misrepresent women through their choice of models on their covers.

Dr Ebel said: “This lecture tour is intended in part to promote the results of our research and help people to understand how magazines portray women in a way that, we argue, is not representative of society, and the impact that this can have.

“We have evidence which we believe supports that view and which we hope will influence not just the public’s demand for these publications, but will force publishers to seriously consider how they more accurately and positively portray women in the future.”

Their research and tour has been sponsored by the Association of Journalism Education and the British Academy’s Newton Fund, following a conference presentation given by Dr Ebel in September last year.

She added: “There is an argument that the misrepresentation of women perpetuates stereotypes that fail to represent society, and this has implications not just for self-perception but for social inequality too."

Dr Bittelbrun said: “In Brazil, for example, the majority of the population is non-white, but magazines frequently display more white and blonde females, reinforcing a colonised Eurocentric idealisation of beauty.

“We will be examining claims that the same ethnic disparity happens in the UK too; that the glossy publications here appear to reinforce exclusively Eurocentric aesthetics and misogynistic behaviour, portraying conservative roles connected to motherhood and heteronormative marriages.

“We will also be considering how cover girls used to represent diversity are also expected to adopt the role of ambassador of a cause, like obesity and health, or racism.”

The tour begins at the University of Derby’s Kedleston Road site on Tuesday 11 February at 5.15pm.

Admission is free, but a donation of female toiletries for local charities – Derby Women’s Centre and Crossroads Derbyshire – is welcomed.

Dr Ebel added: “We all have a responsibility to tackle this issue, and I would urge anyone who has an interest in the representation of women in the media and society in general to come along, to discover and to contribute to what is a vital debate.”

For more information and to book a place at the event, visit the University of Derby website

Further dates on the lecture tour include:


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