Language and the manipulation of teen women's identity


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Language and the manipulation of teen women's identity creating deficiency, subverting agency and devaluing teen women's personhood on the multiple levels of discourse in teen women's magazines
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vii, 403 leaves : ill. ; 29 cm.
Sayers, Addie L
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Thesis (M.A.)--University of Florida, 2002.
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 397-402).
Statement of Responsibility:
by Addie L. Sayers.
General Note:
General Note:

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University of Florida
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I would first and foremost like to thank Dr. MJ Hardman and Dr. Kesha Fikes for

their support, guidance and patience throughout the process of researching and writing

this thesis and particularly for their flexibility during the hectic time of the defense. It was

an honor and pleasure to have worked on a committee with these two women. I

personally thank Dr. Hardman for teaching me how to perceive, for believing in my work

and for always listening. Dr. Hardman has been my personal inspiration as the standard of

excellence to which I aspire and has selflessly helped me through my entire academic

process. I also am indebted to Dr. Fikes for her constant enthusiasm, energy and

inspiration. Dr. Fikes always guides me in new directions and my work is stronger

because of her.

I am especially grateful to Dr. Diana Boxer and Dr. Tace Hedrick for their

suggestions and encouragement.

I would also like to thank Nicholas Mrozinske and my family for their love,

patience, personal support and encouragement throughout this process. Nicholas spent

hours helping me format and print and provided a much needed personal respite. I owe a

special thanks to my mother, Marjorie Lofts, for teaching me to grasp and be proud of my

own Agency, while never-taking any credit for her hard work.

Lastly, I thank Melissa Gerhard and Anna Mulkey for providing me with loving

and supportive friendships for many years.



ACKNOW LEDGM ENTS ................................ ....................... .......

ABSTRACT....... ............................................................


ONE INTRODUCTION .................... ....... ..................... ........................................1


The Importance of Teenage Magazines.......................................... ....................
Magazines and Youth Culture............................ ... .... ..................9
M magazines and Consumerism............................... ............ ........ ........... .10
Linguistic Analyses of Teen Magazines..........................................................13

THREE THEORY AND METHODOLOGY..............................................17

M ethodological Theory................................................................................. 17
Theories of Agency, Language and Gender .....................................................20
Hardman's Derivational Thinking............................. ..................21
Russ' Notion of Agency...............................................25
M ethodology........... ....... .. ...... ................................... ..........................27

SEM ANTICS.......................... ................... ...29

Teen W omen as Bound Affix.................... ......................................................31
Teen Women as Independent Roots................................ ..........................36
Discourse Community Member--Teen Women as "You".....................37
Asymmetrical Vocabulary--Teen Women as "Girl"...............................38
Other M miscellaneous Root Identities ....... .............................................40
Root identities with positive semantics................................... 41
Root identities with negative semantics.....................................41
Teen Women as Personal Name (PN)..............................................................44

C onclusion............ .................................... ............................ ...................44

H IERARCH IE S.............................................................. ...................... 46

Ranking, Hierarchy and Singularity ................................................................46
Hierarchies within Teen Women's Culture........................................................47
The Ranking of Teen Women against Men............................................49
The Ranking of Teen Women against Each Other....................................53
Ranking and Hierarchy of Magazine over Readers..................................55
C onclusion......................... ........................................................ .............. ..... 62

SIX TEEN WOMEN IN SYNTAX AND DISCOURSE.........................................64

Syntax and Discourse Pattern Data .................................64
Word Order Patterns and Agency.............................................68
Sentence and Discourse Patterns and Teen Women's Agency............................74
Agency and agency....................................................... 74
Denial of Agency by Semantic Role............................................................75
Denial of Agency by Negative Agency.......................................... ................... 79
Denial of Agency through Emulation...............................................................80
Denial of Agency by Sex......................................................................................84
Denial of Agency by M ale Hegemony...........................................................88
O vert D enials of A gency............................................................ .......................94
Denial of Agency by Synecdoche and Instrumentation...........................95
Denial of Agency through Whiteness....................................................97
Denial of Agency by Manipulation...................... ..........................................99
Directive Conditioned Agency........................................................99
Quiz Conditioned Agency..................................................................102
Denial of Agency through Felicity Conditions..................... ........ ................104
Commissives..................................... ..................... 105
D irectives ............ ........ ....... ................................. ...... .......................107
Conclusion............................................................................ ...................... 111

SEVEN CON CLU SION ................................................................ .........................113


A TEEN WOMAN AS SEMANTIC ROLE AGENT......................................... 117

PO SSE SSIV E .................................................................. ...................142

C COM M ISSIVES.................. .. ...................................... ...................147


E D IR E C TIV E S............................... .................................... .................. 160


AND M ALE HEGEM ONY.......................................... ...................254

H TEEN WOMAN AS SEMANTIC ROLE EXPERIENCE .............................258

I MALE SUBJECTS.............. ....... ... ...........................270

J TEEN WOMAN AS SEMANTIC ROLE MODAL......................................... 311

K TEEN WOMAN AS NEGATIVE SUBJECT.............................................320



N QUIZ CONDITIONED DISCOURSE................................. ............ .............333

O STAR SUBJECTS............................... .....................346

P TEEN WOMAN AS SEMANTIC ROLE VOLITIONAL.................................364

Q RANKING AND HIERARCHY DATA...................... ..........................370

R WORD ORDER PATTERNS................................ ........... .................... 393

REFEREN CES ....................................... ....... ............................................................397

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH..............................................403

Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts



Addie L. Sayers

August 2002

Chair: Dr. M. J. Hardman
Major Department: Linguistics

For American teen women, the teen years constitute poignant moments of

gendered identity transformation considered key to the detriment and/or enforcement of

adult subjectivity. Teen women undergo two complementary cultural phenomena at this

time: they suffer the greatest losses of security, self-esteem and self-worth during their

identity formation at this age period, while they also simultaneously become one of

America's most highly sought after and targeted consumer prospects. American teen

magazines relate specifically to these phenomena, as teen magazines are in the teen

identity, and manipulation of identity, business. Because teen magazines are uniquely

marketed for the "community" of American teenage women, teen magazines use language

to formulate and delineate a speech community of teen women readers. It is through

language that teen magazine writers and editors create, mediate and negotiate the ideal

identities of teen women and teen women readers within the pages of their magazines and

it is through language that teen magazines deny full personhood to teen women.

This thesis argues that the language used to construct teen womanhood within

magazines illustrates the fundamental ideologies of teen womanhood held and prescribed

by magazine writers, editors and publishers and embedded in teen magazines, in which

teen women are fundamentally lacking and deficient. This thesis also shows how teen

magazine language on multiple levels of discourse contributes to the processes that

devalue teen women's Agency in order to sell solutions to the very identity problems the

magazines create.


Magazines marketed for American teenage women are a multibillion-dollar

industry. Furthermore, teen magazines are the largest growing subset of the publishing

industry with new teen magazines being created each year (Steil 2001). Since their

creation in 1944, teen magazines have flaunted their influence in the creation and

mediation of teen women's identity and American teen culture (Schrum 1998:157). The

authority of teen magazines is particularly strong, as they are one of the few items of

popular culture specifically marketed for teen women to address their life, culture, wants

and needs. This is particularly important, given that teen years constitute poignant

moments of gendered identity transformation considered key to the detriment and

or/enforcement of adult subjectivity (de Beauvoir 1989, Pipher 1994, Brown and Gilligan


While there have been significant social scientific analyses of the content and

history of teen magazines and the implications of magazine content on teen women

readers, much of this research has come from sociology and history (Currie 1999,

Schrum 1998, Schelnker, Caron and Halteman 1998, Evans, Rutberg, Sather and Turner

1991). As such, most of the current research examines the magazines on a larger and

more global level, analyzing items such as magazine pictures and imagery, consumerism

within magazines, representations of femininity and feminist versus non-feminist content.

Much social scientific research takes the linguistically constructed idealized teen woman

interlocutor spoken to by the magazine in text for granted as one and the same as the

living readers of the magazines and instead analyzes the real, or hypothesizes the

potential, effects and ramifications of magazine themes, signs and imagery on actual teen

women. Yet, because teen magazine text simulates conversation between magazine

writers and teen readers, and magazine writers have no direct access to the actual readers

of the magazines, magazines must necessarily construct an idealized, abstract interlocutor

through their language. In other words, conversations can not be one-sided; they need at

least two participants. By the sheer act of making conversation, magazine writers

produce an illusionary speaker simply because they have no actual speakers available.

With each semantic, lexical and morphological appellation magazines call their ideal

interlocutor into being. It is through this interlocutor that magazines attempt to speak to

teen readers, and it is this identity and subject position that actual teen readers either

interact with, reject or appropriate.

So while there has been some investigation of how the reading of the

metamessages and the viewing the imagery and content of magazines results in teen

women altering their own identities, there has also been relatively little investigation of

the actual identity that the teen woman confronts and interacts with in order to potentially

transform her own. In other words, few researchers have taken a more structural stance of

investigating the internal ideological and ideal constructions of teen reader identity

within magazines, particularly in the language and discourse (notable exceptions include

Garner, Sterk and Adams 1998, Ostermann and Keller-Cohen 1998, Duffy and Gotcher

1996, Talbot 1992, Talbot 1995). I argue, however, that it is crucial to examine the ways

that magazines create and negotiate the illusionary ideal identity of the absent teen

woman interlocutor through language. That is, before examining the possible effects of

teen magazines on teen women's subjectivity as teen women read magazines and interact

with them, it is first necessary to understand exactly what ideal identity teen women are

interacting with in this process. I would argue that the basic ideologies, themes and

images of the magazine are conceptualized through the ideal illusionary identity; as such,

this identity is potentially the most powerful force in actual reader's identity alteration.

When teen women read magazines, it is this identity that meets them and it is interaction

with it that may influence or motivate transformation.

One other final problem often overlooked in either analyses of language and

gender in general, or in analyses of the language of teen magazines in particular, is the

racialization of gender and gendered identity. In other words, many researchers use

"women," "teen women" or "girls" as cover terms without realizing the racialization of

these unmarked forms. A similar usage of unmarked and undefined terms occurs in teen

magazines. In other words, both magazines editors and writers and researchers alike take

a "color blind" stance to the notion of race within magazines; those researchers who do

mention teens constructed within magazine language as "white" often fail to implicate

the results of such whiteness.

By taking a "color blind" approach to race to analyzing magazines and by

constructing a seemingly "colorless" interlocutor within magazines, researchers and

writers, respectively, either assume that race does not matter (as if, for example, all teen

woman share commonalities regardless of race) and/or ignore notions of race under the

presupposition that it is not relevant to their issue at hand. The "color blind" approach

assumes that each racial category is conceptualized the same, so speaking of race is

unimportant (Frankenberg 1995). However, all racial categories are not constructed

through the same processes; whiteness is constructed implicitly by the explicit

construction of racialized Others, making whiteness an invisible normative state

(Mrozinske 2002). This means that forms unmarked for race, such as "teen woman" are

read as white, while all racial terminology exists only as a derivation to an unmarked

white form, as in "African-American teen women."

A "color blind" approach fails because it does nothing to unmask the hidden

unmarked whiteness (Frankenberg 1995). As such, within teen magazines, because the

ideal teen interlocutor is constructed as colorless, she becomes white. Therefore, a "color

blind" approach in teen magazine language reinforces white privilege and notions of

ranked singularity and denies teen women of color the experience of being an "everyday

teen," as ideal interlocutorhood is reserved for whites. Furthermore, a color blind

approach within language and gender research is equally as damaging and as reinforcing

of normative whiteness. An appropriate investigation of the full extent of race and

racialization in teen magazines would take an additional masters thesis and is not the

intent of this thesis. Instead, however, this thesis takes a race-cognizant approach to ideal

interlocutor identity, as failure to do so not only undermines the concept of Agency but

also asserts race hierarchy and privilege.

This thesis deconstructs the basic ideologies of teen womanhood and of teen

readers by analyzing who magazines construct as their ideal teen interlocutor through the

lexicon, semantics, morphology, syntax and discourse' of teen magazine "conversation."

It is this ideological identity that illustrates the basic the basic rails along which

magazines expect teen women's identity to go. It is by examining the language through

' The word "discourse" has been borrowed by other social sciences and is used in a number of ways. The
way I am using "discourse" here is in the traditional core linguistic sense of the level of linguistic structure
above the level of the sentence, the structures which develop when two or more utterances come together to
form larger units of speech, such as conversations, paragraphs or bodies of text.

which magazines create, modify and manipulate the ideal identity of their abstract

interlocutor that I discover the underlying assumptions magazines hold about teen

women and their actual teen readers.2 To determine whether teen women, when reading

and interacting with the ideal identity offered by magazine language, appropriate, reject,

and/or deny this subject position offered by magazines that is, whether teen women

transform their own identity through interaction with the ideal identity requires

fieldwork with actual teen women. This is not a question of this thesis, but a question for

further research. Instead, this thesis attempts to first determine who and what teens

would interact with before investigating any transformative effects of such interaction.

I suggest that a centralizing point for analyzing language and ideal identity, and

the internal structures of assumptions within magazines, is the examination of the ideal

teen reader's Agency through language. That is, I analyze each linguistic structure for

how it creates ideal identity with respect to the Agency of such identity. The concept of

Agency was originally proposed by Russ (1997) to explicate women's work as writers

and the processes used against such work. I, however, reanalyze Agency as an abstract

concept and cover term to mean the full humanity and personhood of teenage women,

with authentic selves (in contrast to Pipher's (1994) notion of "false selves," a type of

"female impersonation" of teen women who experience a conflict between their

autonomous self and their need to be feminine (pp.21-22) ) and with the freedoms,

autonomy and rights owed to a fully functioning teen member of society. I then

2 Another way to explain my thesis is by drawing on Kenneth Pike's notion of"-emics" as outlined in
Hardman and Hamano (1997). With this project I am uncovering the magazine discoursemics of identity
and teen womanhood. I am very hesitant to use "-emics" as it has opposite meanings in some subfields of
anthropology than it does in linguistics, and for purposes of clarity and brevity it would be easier not to
explicate the differences. Linguistics "-emics" is grounded in the Lee-Sapir-Whorf hypothesis and the basic
concept of the phoneme, as "-emics" are units of perception. I offer this description for those familiar with
Hardman's reworking of Pike.

investigate the creation, negotiation, mediation and conditions for the Agency of the ideal

teen interlocutor through language.

I capitalize agency for two theoretical reasons. The first reason is for the two

different uses of Agency within this thesis. "Agency" with a capital "A" refers to the

abstract concept of personhood, while "agency" with a lower case "a" is a linguistic term

referring to a specific semantic role held by a grammatical subject of a sentence who

performs an action or mental process action verb. Secondly, I capitalize Agency to link

with, and yet to simultaneously distinguish my reworking from, Russ' original concept.

In this thesis I fill the theoretical gap of a race-cognizant structural and

ideological analysis of the language creating ideal interlocutor identity by analyzing the

linguistic structure of the three most popular American teenage magazines, Teen,

Seventeen and YM. I first discover the overall discourse structure of the magazines. I

next examine the language used within that structure by magazine writers and editors to

talk to and about their teen women readers, by constructing the ideal identity of their

interlocutor. Finally, I investigate the interplay between such language and Agency. That

is, I assess each linguistic utterance with respect to the Agency of ideal teen woman

addressed/discussed in that utterance.

I argue that magazines consistently undermine teen women's3 Agency by the

linguistic devices used on virtually all levels of magazine language: through nominal and

adjectival morphology, semantics, syntactic patterns, speech acts and in larger discourse.

Within teen magazine language, teen women do not have full Agency. In other words,

'Henceforth, when I use the terms "teen woman/en" or "teen (woman/en) readers" I specifically mean the
ideal identity of the illusionary interlocutor as constructed by teen magazine language. I do not mean the
actual teen women and/or teen readers of the magazines, but rather the identities built by the magazines that
actual readers interact with. I am using this notation only for ease and space constraints, primarily, but also
because it is through the language constructing their ideal interlocutor that teen magazine writers reveal
their basic assumptions of teen womanhood.

within a supposed locus of teen women's culture, the ideal teen woman's identity is

fractured and Agency is conditioned. This thesis will show within the language of teen

magazines how the ideal teen woman is "allowed" to do and act, but only in certain

domains and under certain limitations.


The Importance of Teenage Magazines

Currently, within the United States, media of popular culture, such as the Internet,

TV, movies and video games are increasingly created for and aimed at teenage audiences.

Teenage magazines, however, are one of the only items created and marketed specifically

for teen women' girls and young women who range in age from 12 to19 years that

address the lives, wants and needs of teen women and their culture. Teenage magazines,

therefore, are uniquely and distinctly for teen women. Though the magazines and the

companies that publish them (Petersen of Teen, Primedia of Seventeen and Gruner and

Jahr USA of YM) are owned by men and have male CEOs, the magazines are edited,

managed and written by women, marketed to teen women and girls, and often purchased

by teen women or their parents.

Teen, Seventeen and YM are the three most popular and highest-grossing American

teenage magazines. All three magazines are readily accessible nationally and internationally

through subscription and can be purchased from new stands in the U.S.; they are easily

found in grocery stores, bookstores and school libraries. All three magazines sell slightly

I use the term "teen women" in contrast to "girls" to respect the Agency of age of teen women. I saw
this practice first in a feminist, non-profit teen magazine of empowerment called Teen Voices. As I will
show later in the thesis, there currently is no truly age-Agentive term for teens, as "girls" is used for
girls and women from childhood through adulthood. My use of this term, therefore, is to correct this
non-Agency while respecting teen women as people. I use "girl" to refer to girl children aged 1-11
years, encompassing the so-called "tween" years of late girlhood.



over two million copies a year, but have an incredibly high readership of 6 to 8 million

readers (Handelman 2001, Duffy and Gotcher 1996). In addition, each of the three

magazines has a long history of publication of at least twenty years, although Seventeen,

the oldest teen magazine, was created in 1944 (Schrum 1998). In 1992, YM, for example,

was "read by 8 million of the 13.7 million teens in the U.S." (Duffy and Gotcher 1996:

33). Furthermore, a study in 2000 found that "80% of girls [sic] ages 12 to 19 reported to

having read a magazine for pleasure in the past week" (Steil 2001). These studies did not

address the specific racial and class backgrounds of the sample populations, but these

three magazines are primarily marketed for white upper and middle class teen women.

Magazines and Youth Culture

Teenage magazines serve a variety of functions in teen women's lives. As cultural

artifacts they transmit and teach cultural knowledge. Magazines offer "a socialization of

social values, expectations, patterns and futures goals" (Ostermann and Keller-Cohen

1998: 532). Some teenage women look to magazines as an additional source of advice

and answers when they have questions or concerns. Many teen women feel that the

magazines "understand" the adolescent experience 62% of the respondents of a market

survey said that they trusted the teenage magazine being surveyed [YM] (Duffy and

Gotcher 1996: 33). According to Garner, Sterk and Adams (1998), "teens rank the media

just behind peers and parents as sources of information and influence" (p.60). As elements

of literacy teenage magazines "reflect and shape social practices" (Ostermann and Keller-

Cohen 1998: 531). In addition, Finders (1997) has shown that junior high school girls

[sic] use teenage magazines to establish in-group and out-group peer relations. In her


research, "reading [of the magazines] was an exclusive social event.., and the experiences

reported in the magazines were appropriated by the girls [sic] as their own" (p.99).

Magazines and Consumerism

In addition to being a locus of popular culture, another reason that teen magazines

are important to analyze is due to the traditional and historical connection between teen

magazines and their big business, corporate sponsors. Women have historically been

targeted as consumers, as consumption of goods is slated to relieve women and girl's

anxieties (Schrum 1998, Loeb 1994, Roberts 1998). Teen magazines were co-created

with advertising partners and boast of their ability to "understand" and manipulate girl's

[sic] consumer identity (Schrum 1998). Teenage magazine publishers sell their

advertisers' products to their teen women readers, and sell their teen women readers to

their advertisers. In sum, male owners and male presidents of corporations support each

other while attempting to manipulate the identity and needs of teen women.

Not only do magazines have a long historical connection with their corporate

business partners, but they also currently continue to strengthen, and even increase, their

big business relationship. Magazine advertising has increased significantly in the late

1990s and early 2000s in virtually all teenage magazines. For example, in November 2000

Seventeen had 123.42 ad pages, Teen had 41.51 ad pages (up from the 22 ad pages in its

first-ever issue), and YM had 50.72 total ad pages (up from the 12 initial adds in its first

issue) (Steil 2001). On average, Seventeen's total pages are between 200-250, Teen's are

between 100-150, and YM averages 80-100 total pages. Nearly half of the total pages of

Teen, Seventeen and YM in November 2000, then, were advertisements. Not only that, but

advertisements are also placed within editorial articles. Magazine editors frequently place


selected consumer products in the "problem solving" or "suggestions" sections of their

advice columns, quizzes, beauty and fashion feature sections; taking these ads into

consideration, the actual number of advertisements in teenage magazines is even greater

than 50% of the magazine content. As shown later in the thesis, the written text of the

magazines and the advertised goods often work together in support of the same

ideological narrative.

Finally, the magazines themselves are also the products of corporations. As such,

each of these magazines has reached beyond the realm of print and now produces goods

and services other than their respective magazines, in the name of their magazine. In doing

so, Teen, Seventeen and YM all manufacture adolescent literature and source books,

ranging from quiz collections to dating and beauty guides, often called "Teen /Seventeen

/YM's Guide to X." All three magazines have active, large web sites, complete with mail

lists, chat rooms and even web servers based on the magazines. All three magazines also

have their own Teen/Seventeen/YM interactive CD-ROM virtual makeover kits, analogous

to the forerunner virtual CD-ROM makeover kit started by the women's magazine

Cosmopolitan. Seventeen magazine has even branched beyond the realm of other types of

media; it now has its own line of Seventeen hair care products, ranging from brushes and

barrettes to hair clips and scrunchies. So while magazines advertise consumable goods,

they also advertise and support themselves as consumable goods. Furthermore, their

influence reaches far from the domain of magazine print.

An additional reason for the use of corporate teenage magazines is that despite the

feminist movement and the recent "Girl Power" movements, teenage magazines still

present images and representations of, and advise teen women to become, traditionally


feminized girls and young women. Feminist researchers argue that teen magazines

perpetuate heterosexist agendas (Ostermann and Keller-Cohen 1998: 531), position young

women against each other as adversarial competitors in quest for a man (Garner, Sterk

and Adams 1998: 59), and assume that girls' [sic] attitudes, opinions and bodies are in

constant need of change, while young men, even when presented negatively, are always

"fine" how they are (Garner, Sterk and Adams 1998, Ostermann and Keller-Cohen 1998).

In addition, with primary focus on romance, beauty and fashion, teen magazines

perpetuate the theme that by looking beautiful and by "gaining the proper knowledge

[about how to find a man]'s power of attraction can be enhanced" attraction is the

ultimate goal (Duffy and Gotcher 1996: 36).

Schlenker, Caron, and Halteman (1998) analyzed the editorial content of

Seventeen magazine in 1945, 1955, 1965, 1975, 1985, and 1995 in order to measure any

effects of the various feminist movements since the magazines' inception. The researchers

classified traditionally feminine content as that relating to appearance, female-male

relations, and home and classified feminist messages as self-development, career

development and world and political issues. They argue that although feminist content

was largest in the years 1945, 1975 and 1995, (it was lowest in 1955, 1965 and 1985) that

"the changes [the adaptation of feminist content] are slight and still do not reflect the roles

of teenage girls [sic]" adding, "even in the 1990s this publication [Seventeen], being the

most widely distributed teenage magazine, still does not address most of the intellectual

issues concerning young women" (Schlenker, Caron and Halteman 1998: 148).


Linguistic Analyses of Teen Magazines

There have been only a few analyses of the language of teen magazines, although

each has provided insight into the ways that language functions to create, perpetuate or

reinforce traditional female roles and male hegemony (Garner, Sterk and Adams 1998,

Ostermann and Keller-Cohen 1998, Talbot 1992, Talbot 1995). For example, in analyzing

the language of Teen, Seventeen, Sassy and the Brazilian magazine Capricho, Ostermann

and Keller-Cohen (1998) illustrate how the language of quizzes, which are present in

every issue of each magazine, "contribute to the larger social practices which lead girls

[sic] to devalue themselves, through the position they construct for their readers,

problematizing girls' [sic] behavior and offering ideologically motivated solutions to these

problems" (p.539). They argue the quizzes serve as a microcosmic view of the major

images, representations, themes and messages of the entire teen magazine. Advice

prescribed by the magazines comes in many forms quizzes, however, serve as a baseline

for all other forms of advice (Ostermann and Keller-Cohen 1998).

First, quizzes set up a problem for teen women, assuming that teen women are in a

constant state of becoming and that their behavior is never quite adequate, but rather

questionable (Ostermann and Keller-Cohen 1998). Quizzes then evaluate the teen

woman's responses and place her into a specific category. Finally, they assign value to the

categories and give the teen women of each category advice on how to improve. The key

element of the quizzes is the linguistic presupposition that teen women are in need of

improvement (Ostermann and Keller-Cohen 1998). Teen men's behavior, however, is

"valued, expected, and not questioned" (Ostermann and Keller-Cohen 1998: 544).


Based on answers given to the quiz questions, teen women are categorized into

traditionally dichotomized positions; for example, in a quiz about flirtation, teen women

are labeled either a "Great Girlfriend," a "Snob Sista," or a "Wild Woman" (Ostermann

and Keller-Cohen 1998: 544). In addition, the advice given to teen women is circular and

heterosexist the 'Great Girlfriend' is evaluated positively for being herself' and yet the

" 'Snob Sista' is advised to do exactly the simulate a personality which is not

hers: 'if you have to act...that's okay' "(Ostermann and Keller-Cohen 1998: 544). The

dichotomization and contradiction exists in virtually all other quizzes. In addition, this

type of assessment/advice/dichotomization is not limited to quizzes, but rather spans the

editorial content of the entire magazine. In other words, "a good girl [sic] should be

herself, but only as far as being herself means to be a good girl [sic]" (Ostermann and

Keller-Cohen 1998: 552).

The theme of being a "good teen woman" and subordinating one's needs to the

needs of men was also found in Garner, Sterk and Adam's (1998) analysis of the sexual

etiquette of YM, Teen, Seventeen, Glamour and Mademoiselle. Garner, Sterk and Adams

(1998) analyzed the sexual messages of these magazines from a symbolic convergence

theory perspective. They argue that sexual rhetoric of the magazines positions teen

women in one of three sexual roles: woman as sex object, women as sex therapists, and

women as communication teachers (Garner, Sterk and Adams 1998). In each case,

women's sexual attitudes and behaviors as constructed through rhetoric were conditioned

by the actions of men, as objects of men, therapists to men or the responsible ones for

educating men on communication. In other words, relationship problems are the

responsibility of the woman because the man's state is normal and acceptable (Garner,


Sterk and Adams 1998). It is important to note, that although Garner et al (1998) did not

overtly discuss the racialization of such rhetoric, this version of teen women's sexual roles

is distinctly a white one; in other words, the experiences and stereotypes in sexual rhetoric

for white teen women is again taken as normative. In their conclusion, Garner, Sterk and

Adams (1998) assert that if "young people take these messages to heart, they will continue

to enact a vision in which men are the citizens of the world and women are the citizens of

men" (p. 75). Once again, teen women are the ones in need of change. For teen women

of color, however, the change needed is twofold: act "woman" and act "white."

Coming from a critical discourse perspective, Talbot (1992) examined the ways

that language constructs female gender identity in the British magazine Jackie. Talbot is

particularly concerned with deconstructing and/or denaturalizing the process of gender

identity formation within the magazine, as well as investigating the relationship of this

shared constructed discourse community to consumerism and commodification (Talbot

1992). She analyzed the linguistic features of an article on lipstick and argued that items

such as presupposition, informal words, and pronouns are used to establish a community

between the editor and reader. These linguistic patterns synthesize "writer and reader into

a friendly relationship," while these patterns also function to create and "[to present] a

feminine consumption community consisting of free individuals whose identities are

established in pleasurable consumption" (Talbot 1992: 193). Talbot (1995) takes a

similar, yet more poststructuralist approach to this process in her later work analyzing the

same lipstick article in Jackie; she argues there that power and identity are discursively

created in magazine text, and that "synthetic personalization and the need for adult

femininity catch the reader up in a bogus community in which the subject position of


consumer is presented as an integral part of being feminine" (p. 161). While Talbot (1995)

is not suggesting that magazine readers are tricked or duped into subject positions, she
instead argues that patriarchy and consumption mold the subject positions created through

the linguistics of "synthetic sisterhood" in teen magazines. In sum, "feminine identity is

achieved in consumption and in relationships with men" (Talbot 1995: 162).

This thesis continues linguistic research and further explores the link between

language, Agency and identity in the language of teen magazines, specifically in the

morphology, semantics, syntax, speech acts and discourse patterns.


Methodological Theory

One of the primary arguments of many English-language and gender theorists is

that sexist linguistic structures exist out of the conscious level of the majority of English

speakers (Hardman 1993a, 1993b, 1996, Cameron 1992, Frank and Ashen 1983). This is

also true of one's native language structures in general; native speakers have complete

intuition of and fluency in their native tongue, and yet may not be able to consciously and

overtly explain the grammatical rules that they possess (Stewart and Vaillette 2001,

Daniels 1998). Theorists argue that such imperceptibilityy" is one reason that sexist

discourse in English is ubiquitous, and even pervades work by those who consider

themselves feminists (for example, the continued use of structures that place women after

men, such as "men and women" [sic] by feminist linguists). One goal of feminist

linguistic research, then, is to not only help others perceive sexist discourse, but also to

place women in linguistic structures where they can be perceived.

My methodology involved me first learning to perceive linguistic structures

potentially outside of my awareness by learning the process of linguistic pattern

perception. I next applied this process to the language of teenage magazines in order to

discover the underlying linguistic structure of adolescent magazine discourse and to

examine how and where teen women were placed in such structure. The basic


methodology for this can be found in Hardman and Hamano's text (1997), which outlines

the methods for analyzing linguistic field data and for discovering the structure of other

languages on their own terms through dynamic interaction among research consultants

and researcher. There are two basic components to their methodology: (1) that data "can

only be attained through careful observation and interaction" (Hardman and Hamano

1997: iii) with research consultants such that the researcher and those who/that which she

researches both take part in knowledge creation, and therefore, (2) as a cooperative

member of knowledge creation, the researcher must realize her situatedness within the

research process. This method is congruent with Fox-Keller's (1995) work in biology

through "dynamic objectivity, ...the pursuit of knowledge that grants to the world...its

independent integrity, but does so in a way the remains cognizant of, indeed relies on,

...connectivity with that world" (p. 117). Hardman and Hamano take "dynamic

objectivity" a step further; because researchers interact in the pursuit of knowledge,

researchers must always be conscious of the structures they impose in doing their

research. Hardman and Hamano (1997) argue that because one always perceives through

the structure of her language, one's natural tendency is to project default linguistic

structures from her native languages) onto other languages. In other words, "true"

linguistic objectivity (in the positivist sense) is completely impossible, and, unless

researchers consciously work around the structural categories imposed by their native

language, they may fail to perceive alternate linguistic forms (Hardman and Hamano

1997). The method outlined by Hardman and Hamano (1997) is specifically rigorous and

involves procedures designed to teach pattern perception while simultaneously

recognizing the interconnectedness and situatedness of research.


Although originally designed as a methodology for fieldwork, this method is

quite useful for one's native language, as well. Hamano (Hardman and Hamano 1997)

argues that since the goal of fieldwork is to "reach [and describe] the real intuition of

native speakers, ...this method will prove relevant not only in the study of hitherto

unknown languages but also in the study of one's own language.. bringingn] out what

one is rarely aware of as a native speaker" (p. iii). In textual analysis, the morphology,

syntax and semantics of each sentence are described, analyzed and classified. Because all

data are examined from various viewpoints in a number of ways, categories of analysis

and specific research questions are not assigned apriori; by using this method, relevant

categories of analysis and the appropriate questions emerge from the data. In my work,

this is realized by each sentence being first taken as a unit and broadly classified and

filed according to sentence type; next, components of the sentence, such as subject,

object, verbs and adjectives are defined structurally and analyzed and filed accordingly.

Individual words are then examined and filed into morphological and semantic

categories, so that almost all levels of language are accounted for and "the totality of

language" (Hardman and Hamano 1997: iii) is maintained. By filing large sets of data

under broad, open-ended classifications based on the structures found in a given text, the

researcher is forced to perceive, through extensive classification, the underlying structure

of the text. The interaction between the researcher and her object of research and the

consequent social and cultural connection of the text, along with the filing and

classification involved, determine which categories are pertinent and how. The native

speaker intuition that guides the formation of the text is thus made apparent as structural

patterns emerge, regardless of the language.


My work is also informed by the theory and methodology of Critical Discourse

Analysis (CDA). According to CDA, the analysis of texts of is also analysis of ideology

(van Dijk 1999). That is, regardless of the given logical and linguistic constraints of

discourse, the different syntactic, semantic and lexical structures used are precisely

structured to indicate underlying ideological implications (Fairclough 1992; van Dijk

1999, Hodge and Kress 1993). CDA "highlights how language conventions and

language practices are invested with power relations and ideological processes which

people are often unaware of' (Fairclough 1992: 7). Therefore, rigorous textual

classification not only brings about structural patterns and native speaker intuition, but

also the ideology of that particular group of speakers. While Hardman and Hamano's

methodology is not specifically Critical Discourse Analysis and while the methods of

Critical Discourse Analysts differ from those of Hardman and Hamano, these theorists

nonetheless share congruent methodologies and methodological assumptions. In CDA

and in Hardman and Hamano, text is structured outside of complete native speaker

awareness, but careful analysis brings out not only the underlying linguistic structures of

discourse, but the cultural and ideological ramifications resulting therefrom; to both, text

structure, culture, ideology and worldview cannot be separated.

Theories of Agency, Language and Gender

There are two basic theoretical constructs that inform my methodology and

analysis sections. The first theory is M.J. Hardman's construct of Derivational Thinking,

while the second is Joanna Russ's notion of Agency.

Hardman's Derivational Thinking

The structure of each given language is organized around a set of principles or

motifs. Hardman has developed the notion of the linguistic postulate to explain these

principles (Hardman 1993a, 1993b, 1996, Hardman and Taylor 2001). A linguistic

postulate is "a theme or motif that can be found in almost all the sentences of a language,

a feature that is used repeatedly by the language to organize the universe" (Hardman

1996: 25). Linguistic postulates are specified on multiple levels of the language the

morphological, semantic, syntactic, discourse and rhetorical levels. They are basic, in

that they are marked in the central core of inflectional morphology, but extensive,

spreading through the entire language such that they also mark the underlying

philosophical and ideological beliefs of the culture at large. According to Hardman


We [human beings] accept the linguistic postulates of our mother tongue without
argument or discussion, as natural parts of the universe...In fact, it is so difficult
to imagine 'real' human beings operating without one's own linguistic postulates
that it verges on the impossible... As underlying assumptions, they are particularly
powerful (p.42).

Because linguistic postulates are marked repeatedly and systematically on all levels of

language, they form a formidable structural pattern of thought in the given culture.

Hardman (1993a, 1993b, 1996, Hardman and Taylor 2001) identifies the

linguistic postulates of the English language as number (singular/plural, as in

singular/plural agreement of nouns and verbs), sex-based gender (humans are divided by

biological sex; these sexes are projected onto non-human inanimate objects and things)

and the ranking/comparative (as in, the inflection of adjectives into comparative and

superlative forms, like "wise, wiser, wisest" and "good, better, best"). Hardman (1996)


has labeled the interaction and mutual reinforcement of these postulates, and thus the

"grammatical base for [an English speaker's] general model of human relationships"

(p.26) Derivational Thinking. Derivational Thinking means that for English speakers

number, gender, and hierarchy matter, as human beings are ranked such that white man is

the norm and all else (including females, peoples of color, colonized groups, etc.) are

seen as derivative and are measured accordingly (Hardman 1996: 32), socially structured

by linguistic constructions. Put another way, by Taylor (Hardman and Taylor 2001),

"number is important; number one is most important; number one is male" (p.3). Thus,

the default assumption of a human being, according to derivational thinking, is a

singular, white male.

The cultural correlations to the linguistic postulates of English have many

realizations. For example, in terms of the postulate of number/singularity, Hardman cites

the adulation of linear work, cultural axioms, such as "E Pluribus Unum" ('from many,

one'), the obsessions with monotheoretical slants in academia, monotheism in religion,

singular causes in history and science, and singular cures in medicine (Hardman 1993b:

43). Because singularity is prime, English-speakers find it difficult to conceptualize

difference and diversity; any acknowledgment of difference or diversity is immediately

ranked against a "singular" standard. Realizations of sex-based gender include the

assumption that human beings, especially those in high ranked positions, are men, as in

designations between a "female doctor" and a "doctor;" US naming patterns; denial of

Agency for women; the fact that the easiest way to insult a man is to label him some type

of "woman;" and the notion that 'woman = [-male]'- women are suffixes attached to men

to signify not what women are, but what men are not (Hardman 1996: 27-30). Because


English speakers think in sex-based gender, sex-based gender is a base for

conceptualizing the world (Oyewumi 1997). Examples of ranking and hierarchy are more

subtle than the other two linguistic postulates, but are nonetheless as powerful: English

speakers often insist on the ranking of all people and things so pervasively that no student

ever in one of Hardman's classes has been able to go 24 hours without ranking (Hardman

1993b: 46).

Although others have posited a link between sexism and the English language

(Cameron 1992, Penelope 1990), Hardman's construct covers four areas that are often

problematic in other theoretical frameworks. First, with Derivational Thinking, Hardman

grounds sexist language in the overall, constant, unconscious, reinforced patterning of

linguistic postulates in natural English use. Therefore, because Derivational Thinking is

highly pervasive (existing at all levels of language, reaching into cultural ideology) yet

extremely subtle, it is able to undermine even the good intentions of those who consider

themselves non-sexist. Hardman thus obviates blaming anyone specifically; instead, her

focus is how everyone participates in perpetuation of sexism, despite ideologically acting

or being otherwise.

Secondly, Hardman's theoretical framework allows for a way around the sexist

language that she posits; in other words, because Hardman shows how sexism is

'unconsciously' maintained through the English language by linguistic postulates, she

also allows for linguistic alternatives to sexist language by consciously working around

those same postulates. That is, as equally as she interrogates the English language, she

also equally allows for linguistic creativity, albeit difficult, and cultural change. With


Derivational thinking, therefore, Hardman both identifies the problems and seeks to

correct them.

The third major strength of Hardman's theory is that she grounds American

cultural sexism in the English language. By doing so, Hardman avoids essentializing or

totalizing all languages as universally masculine or hegemonic, as others have done.

Hardman does not apply Derivational Thinking cross-linguistically. Instead, she argues

that each language has its own distinctive linguistic postulates; sexism in language is not

a human universal and any sexism that is realized in a given language is shaped by

patterns distinct to that language. This is particularly important, as many theories of

language and gender contain questionable assumptions of universalism across languages

and cultures (Brown 1980, Coates 1993) which do no more than project the structure of

English onto another language. Oyewumi (1997) illustrates the danger of the

introduction of sexism and western gender notions into Yoruba culture through linguistic

and colonial imperialism, as well as the subsequent hazards of assuming that two

languages share the same thought structures and worldviews. In essence, Hardman does

not silence the voices of women in other cultures by arguing for a universal, cross-

cultural application of her conceptual framework, as other Western theorists have done.

Hardman's final major strength is her ability to explain the interconnectedness

and permeability of sex-based gender ranking on almost all levels of language. Hardman

has supported Derivational Thinking with examples from morphology, semantics, syntax,

metaphor, discourse and conversational styles. Furthermore, by grounding her work in

the theoretical concept of the phoneme, she has shown how such interconnected language


structures affect and reinforce patterns in culture (Hardman and Hamano 1997).

Derivational Thinking is a theory of language as well as a theory of worldview.

Russ's Notions of Agency

In How to Suppress Women's Writing, Joanna Russ (1997) introduced and

examined the concept of women's Agency within the English-language literary canon.

Russ (1997) systematically analyzed the means by which women's Agency in this case,

the complete and free ability of a woman writer to produce literary works and have those

works accepted, recognized and valued as her own was denied, polluted or ignored, as

the purpose of her book was to analytically illustrate the tools in suppression of women's

writing (p.5). Examples of Agency suppression include everything from limiting girls'

access to reading and literacy and materials and training therein, falsely classifying

women's work in categories outside of the canon (False Categorization), character

attacks on the author and thus, the quality of the work (Pollution of Agency), asserting

that the author did not actually produce the work, but that someone else (a man) did

(Denial of Agency), to blatantly ignoring that the work was even created (Russ 1997).

Russ (1997) made the purpose of this meticulous illustration clear; her argument was that

women were not denied direct access to literature and its production by overt, formal

prohibition from it, but rather, that men of that canon had developed numerous strategies

for ignoring, condemning or belittling the works of women (pp. 4-5).

The crux of Russ's argument was that overt, conscious prohibition of women

from the literary cannon was not the practice that resulted in the small amount of

accepted women writers. Instead, Russ argues that specific strategies worked covertly to

secure the opacity of women's suppression by the canon; by the laws of literature and


society women were "allowed" to produce and add to the canon, but if any actually did

so, (and many did) the suppressive practices took over to keep women's work in its

place. So women had the "freedom" to write canon-quality works, yet the isolations,

restrictions, pollutions, and denials of Agency kept them so they "never did" (Russ


Russ's notion of Agency has two major strengths. First, Agency allows for a

notion of women's full personhood without relying on notions of "equality" with men, as

"equality" with men relies again relies a male standard of existence. In addition, Agency

includes not only rights and privileges of being a full human being, but the respect and

freedom due to a functioning citizen of the world. This encompasses a totality of

women's actions, beliefs and opinions under one united term. Secondly, Agency, and the

processes used to deny Agency, are also strong tools for feminist linguistic analyses

because they account for the subtle, and not always perceivable, ways that women's

achievements are undermined. Russ's strength here, like Hardman's, is that sexism

exists in everyday, consistent acts and behavior, and not only in overt prohibitions of

women. This is important, because more women and girls have entered "traditionally

masculine" spheres previously closed to them and yet still suffer the effects of sexism,

like sexual harassment. Often times it is difficult to label these subtle attacks against the

full humanity of women, yet Russ provides workable labels and names the processes at

work against women, which can be easily applied and analyzed. Furthermore, because

Agency is concerned with day-by-day acts, it is easily applied to language, as "all that is

human is mediated through language" (Hardman 2002, Personal Communication). For


example, Hardman (1993a) has reworked Russ's notion for use in linguistics, grounding

Agency in language and grammar.


In order to both discover the underlying structure of magazine discourse and to

examine the ideological and cultural position of young women within such discourse, I

applied the methodology above to six total editions of three magazines Teen March

1998, Teen February 2000, Seventeen March 1998, Seventeen March 2000, YM March

1998 and YM March 2000.

From each magazine I analyzed all relevant pages of editorial content. I was only

interested in the editorial discourse of the magazines in order to specifically examine the

content over which magazine publishers have complete control. I did not, therefore,

analyze the advertisements, horoscope and numerology sections or reader letters and

contributions. Because I am most interested in the ways that magazines talk to and about

their readers, I chose to focus on the "voice" of the magazine writers only. Contributions

from or co-constructed with teen readers were ignored. All editorial pages of all three

magazines, other than horoscopes and numerology and reader contribution sections, were

considered material for analysis.

Inspired by Hardman's notion of Derivational Thinking and Russ' concept of

Agency, I examined all levels of teen magazine discourse with exception of the

phonological, since magazines are written discourse. My first category of analysis was

the syntactic, or sentential analysis. I took each editorial sentence and analyzed each

clause according to sentence type and speech act type. Within syntactic analysis I also

examined word order within the phrases of the sentence, as well as the internal properties


of the sentence: subject, subject type, verb phrase, verb type, subject semantic role,

verbal semantics. Each sentence was filed under theme of the article. For each sentence

I was primarily interested in the relationship between the sentence as a whole and the

position of the teen woman reader; nonetheless, each sentence, regardless, was still


My second category of analysis was the morphological analysis. For

morphology, I examined not only the root and derivational structures of women and men

nouns (a la Hardman 1993a, 1993b, 1996), but also the base and derivations of adjectives

in terms of conjugations for ranking comparison, given that adjectives not only describe

the teen women themselves, but also elements of their personal life and culture. In

addition, ranking is a crucial part of American English sexism within Derivational

Thinking. In other words, I was interested not only in nominal morphology pertaining to

teen women and men, but also with adjectival morphology. Each morphological

structure was classified according to subtype.

For my final category of analysis I examined the semantic and lexical level of

magazine discourse. In this layer of examination I was interested in the various

umbrellas of meaning under which teen women's identity was constructed, particularly in

the types of lexical items and semantic frames used to describe teen women and men.

Each example of teen identity was first recorded and then filed according to semantic



Given that the discourse of teen magazines completely consists of written text, the

conversation between magazine writer and teen woman reader is a one-way, rather than

two-way process (Talbot 1992: 174, Talbot 1995). That is, magazine writers have no

direct access to the personal life and history of their interlocutor; as a result, the magazine

must construct an imaginary reading subject (Talbot 1992: 175, Talbot 1995). For teen

magazines, in particular, the type of imaginary subject that they construct is extremely

important. Actual teen readers have indicated that one of the primary reasons for reading

magazines is because magazines provide them with real-life advice relevant to the teen

woman experience (Currie 1999, Ostermann and Keller-Cohen 1998, Garner, Sterk and

Adams 1998). For teen women to seek out teen magazines and to trust them as such a

"source," teen magazine writers must construct ideal identities for their readers that situate

both the writer of the magazine and the imaginary reader within a shared discourse

community (Currie 1999, Finders 1997). In teen magazines, the crucial social components

delineating the idealized discourse community are age and, most importantly, gender

(Currie 1999, Finders 1997).

The data show that teen magazines have six general ways for constructing, and

thus referencing, their teen women readers: with personal pronouns, such as "you;" as


independent noun roots, like "girl" or "lady;" by affixation of a feminine suffix to an

independent noun root or with a female form marked with a male possessive, as in

"hostess" and "the president's wife," respectively; though metaphor, such as "chick;"

through "generic masculines" [sic], such as "freshmen" or using a personal name, like

"Tyra Banks." The pronoun "you" accounts for most of teen women's identity, occurring

2,174 times for a total of 59.4%. Personal Names of women stars, celebrities and experts

(PN*) total 15.4%, or 564 examples, while Personal Names (PN) for teen women total

11.3% or 425 examples. Independent roots make 10.7% of teen women's identity; of that

10.7%, however, only 1.7% of the roots are semantically positive, while the other 9%

function as euphemisms, deny Agency or carry negative semantics. 1.2% of teen women's

identity are women derivations from men or possessed by them, while 1.1% are

metaphors. A final .5% of teen women's identity is formed with generic masculines [sic].

Teen women, in essence, exist as one of six general identities within the language of teen

magazines that positions them within the idealized reader discourse community.

These six general identities break down further into three general morphological

shapes. That is, to construct readers as both teenaged and young women, magazine

writers use one of three morphological forms: a bound affix, an independent noun root, or

a person name (PN). Each morphological identity has different consequences for teen

women's Agency. While each form undoubtedly identifies the reader as female-sexed and

of adolescent age, the morphological shapes of the teen women are not necessarily

indicative of full, active persons. Membership to this specific discourse community,

therefore, does not necessarily mean membership with full Agency.


Teen Women as Bound Affix

The first morphological category for constructing teen women in the data is

through bound affixation. In these cases, the word for the teen woman consists of at least

two obligatory morphemes: an independent noun root (which is generally masculine or

perceived of as masculine) and a bound affix, usually a suffix. That which marks teen

woman identity within the word is the bound suffix; female identity exists only as bound

suffix to a male independent root so that the feminine form is derived from the masculine

form. The "female" suffix, then, serves only to mark a prior root as non-masculine. While

the masculine root is obligatory, the female derived form is not; in other words, the female

form is dependent upon the male form for her identity such that she cannot exist without

him, while the male form can exist completely and separately without the female suffix.

The two most common derivational suffixes in teen magazines are {-ess} and

{-ette}. Common examples throughout all three magazines include "princess" (Seventeen

1998, Teen 1998, YM 1998), "goddess" (YM 2000, Teen 1998, YM 1998) "actress"

(Seventeen 2000, YM 2000, Seventeen 1998, Teen 2000), "hostess" (Seventeen 2000)

and "studette" (YM 1998) derived from the obligatory masculine forms of "prince,"

"god," "actor," "host" and "stud," respectively.

Women's identity solely encoded in bound affixation has multiple effects on teen

women's Agency. First, given that masculine forms are obligatory, while feminine forms

are not, the masculine becomes the base, unmarked form (Hardman 1996, Miller 1983,

Penelope 1990). Humanity, particularly in examples such as "princess
perceived as masculine, and male becomes the natural sex (Hardman 1996, Miller 1983,

Penelope 1990). This pattern is also reinforced by the fact that within the magazines, as


well as in the English language in general, "there is NO [morphological] PATTERN for

deriving masculine from feminine" (Miller 1983: 190). In essence, because of the

asymmetrical derivational morphology of sex within the magazines and within English, the

female sex is deviant, while male sex is normal (Penelope 1990: 103).

Furthermore, some derivational morphological patterns not only reinforce, but also

help create male root identity, which in turn allows for consequent markedness of female

forms. In other words, I argue that the addition of a derivational affix makes a genderless

root a male root by marking it as female or non-male. One example of this is "actress"

from "actor."' I argue that the agentive suffix {-r}, which derives agent nouns meaning

"X who/that does" from action verbs, is inherently gender-neutral. {-r), however, gets

perceived of as masculine, and actually feels masculine to English native speakers, because

of two linguistic patterns: either by female-sexed marking (morphologically or by

adjectival modification) or through sociolinguistic use in traditionally all male spheres of

activity (as in a register of manhood [sic], only those who do X or who are not denied

Agency in doing X2 are male). Therefore, when the form "actress" is used, it not only is

marked and derivative, but it implies that "actor" is male, analogous to other feminine

derivations from roots with truly masculine semantics (such as "studette" from "stud").

Additional examples clarify my argument that sociolinguistic spheres of use and/or

derivational affixation help create male root identity. First, there are a number of derived

SInterestingly many women in Hollywood have been leading a movement to do away with the term
"actress." In addition, the current president of the Screen Actors Guild is Melissa Gilbert.

2 I am using Russ' notion of denial of Agency through anomalousness here. In many cases, women did
act in a give sphere of influence, but they were either "written out" of the history of a given sphere (a la
Dorothy Lee and the Lee-Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis) or were so few in number in that sphere that they were
labeled anomalies to their gender so their work could be disregarded (Russ 1997).


{-r} words that are not only gender-neutral, but essentially non-human forms, such as

"blender," "grater," "computer," and "sifter." Two popular examples from teen

magazines are "hair dryers" and "mattifiers" makeup that causes skin to have a matte-

like surface appearance. Second, there are many gender-neutral forms for humans, such

as "caller," "author," "writer," or "runner," as well as "reader" and "winner," two that are

prominent in teen magazines. Note that in these cases, no {-ess} or {-ette) derivations

exist. Thirdly, {-r} can be used for exclusively female semantics, where the masculine

form (if it exists) is marked, as in "cheerleader"/"male cheerleader" and "spinster." Next,

in some cases where {-r} bases (base = verb root + {-r}) are perceived as masculine,

either women have been actively denied Agency, or the action of the root verb has been

exclusively done by men, as in "engineer" or "soldier."3 The roots are masculine because

women never do them, have been kept from doing them, or have been denied Agency

despite doing them. Other bases that are perceived as masculine can be modified by a

female adjective to overtly mark female sex, as in "lady or woman doctor" or "woman

pilot;" note, however, that these nouns do not have counterparts marked with derivational

affixes, doctresss or *pilotess. In addition, one can say and does hear "doctor" and

"pilot" for either sex, without marking. These bases are masculine for some, or can be

used for either sex, for others.

The strongest perceptions of masculine identity, however, are bases that have a

feminine derived form, as in "actress

3Note that even these terms are perceived of as only masculine by some English speakers, as both of these
traditionally male-only spheres of action are now more open to both women and men. This "freedom" of
gender-neutral semantic interpretation might also be possible by the fact that there are no derivational
affixes attached to these forms.


these cases, the base form is definitely masculine, particularly in the pairs in which the

feminine form has undergone semantic derogation or pejoration (Schultz 1975). Unlike

gender-neutral forms like "reader" and "runner," which have no female derivations, the

addition ofderivational affixation helps make a root masculine. That is, when there is not

sex-based derivation the base can go either way, describing women or men; when there is

a sex-based derivation, the derivation and marked form is feminine, while the base is

unmarked and masculine.4

In essence, therefore, the magazines' use of derivational affixes not only

perpetuates sex-ranked divisions, but also reifies them. The derivational forms then not

only mark female sex as derivative, but also allow the male sex to be perceived as the

norm. As such, derivational affixes form a feedback loop in English. Because male-only

masculine semantic bases (like "goddess
feminine affixes throughout English to mark women and allow men to pass as the norm,

female derivational affixes on gender-neutral or potentially gender-neutral bases (such as

"actress>actor") consequently continue the cycle by reinforcing the perception of the base

as essentially masculine. In essence, just as male becomes "neutral" [sic] (as in,

male--norm=human), "neutral"(as in, no explicit gender) becomes male.

Female derivation from male roots also reinforces ranking inherent in English-

language gender hierarchy. Not only is the masculine form natural, but it is also the

outranking sex. Hardman identifies sex-based derivation as evidence of one of the

linguistic postulates of English, sex-based gender. Sex-based gender, as well as number

4 I would also argue that one other linguistic pattern supports my argument of the gender-neutrality of
{-r} pairs such as "washerwoman" and "fisherman," where in these instances, one would expect instead
to have "*fisheress" or "*fisherette" and "fishers."


and ranking comparison, are repeated and systematically reinforced on all levels of the

English language to produce Derivational Thinking (Hardman 1993a, 1993b, 1996).

Hardman (1996) argues with her concept of Derivational thinking that the "thinking

patterns of English-language speakers rank human beings such that man is the norm, and

all else is seen as derivative and is measured accordingly" (p.26). Such derivation, as

overt marking of sex-based gender, therefore enforces the ranking of the genders.

Not only is female sex, "deviance" and lower rank encoded in these derivational

affixes, so too are further semantic connotations. The affixes {-ette} and {-ess} also carry

meanings of softening, weakening or lessening of that to which they are attached.

According to one morphology textbook, the {-ette} suffix has three meanings, "small,

female or mock material [emphasis mine]" (Bauer 1999: 78). Given that English

semantics obligatorily positions female as [- male], small and mock material are natural

correlatives; in essence, the derivational suffixes have one meaning with three circular

realizations, woman = small = mock material. "Princesses" and "actresses" are not equal

to the "princes" and "actors" that MAKE [sic] them;

Girls [sic] diminished sense of self means that, often unconsciously, they
take on a second-class, accommodating status. Few of the girls [sic]...had
ever been told that girls [sic] 'can't' do what boys can most were overtly
encouraged to fulfill their potential. Yet all, on some level, had learned this
lesson anyway (Orenstein 1994: XXVIII).

In sum, teen magazines, written and edited by women and produced entirely for a

community of teen women and girls, are not free from morphological patterns that lessen

women's Agency through denigration of the feminine. 1% (40 examples) of the total

identities for teen women are derivations. Within magazines for teen women, it is man,

and not teen women, as the base.


Teen Women as Independent Roots

The second category of data is women as independent roots. Independent roots

are free morphemes that can completely stand alone; while other morphemes may attach

to these roots as affixes, these attachments are not obligatory.5 Independent roots,

therefore, rely on no other morphemes for their identity; they can exist without the

necessity of other morphemes.

In English, independent roots are generally associated with morphological

autonomy and personal Agency, as words that encode semantic male sex are always free

roots and never bound affixes6 (Hardman 1993a, 1993b, 1996, Miller 1983). Within

general English morphology, full personhood is associated with root morpheme identity.

Within teen magazines, however, construction of teen female identity through independent

roots is not necessarily a guarantee for personal Agency. For teen women, status as an

independent root comes closer to full personhood, and in some instances, teen women as

independent roots are full Agents. Unlike semantically male independent roots,

however, semantically independent roots for teen women are also equally subject to

5 I also include compounds in this section since they consist of two independent roots together and may
have derivational and inflectional morphemes attached to them. Though a compound is not an
independent root, it functions similar to one in that can take affixation.

6 One could argue that there is one exception the historical morpheme {wer-}. In Old English sex-
based gender morphemes for persons were bound to the then neutral root man, 'person, 'as in wifnan
'woman (person)' and werman 'male (person)' or occurred alone as wifand wer. Female forms were not
derived from male forms, but rather, forms for both women and men were equally derived from other
sources. Throughout the transition to Moder English, however, man eventually underwent reanalysis to
specifically indicate male sex (and prescriptively supposedly humankind) while wifunderwent semantic
specification to mean "female marriage partner," becoming "wife." {Wer-} died out nearly completely,
but does exist in Moder English today in the word "werewolf" (Quirk and Wrenn 1994).


reduced Agency. Within teen magazines, therefore, there is not only gender asymmetry in

derivation, but also in roothood.

Discourse Community Member--Teen Women as "You"

The most frequent identity, and the most common independent root for teen

women, is the pronoun "you." This is not surprising; magazines organize their discourse

structure to simulate a conversation between the magazine and the reader. To create the

"idealized discourse community," the magazine must call the reader into the conversation

and situate her within the discourse (Talbot 1992, Currie 1999). The easiest way to do

this as a partnered interlocutor is with the pronoun "you."

The pronoun "you" in and of itself neither supports nor denies Agency. The

discourse and syntactic units within which "you" is situated support or deny Agency. The

use of "you," however, does allow the manipulation of Agency. In other words, since the

magazines create the discourse and syntax that discusses and describes the "you," they can

situate their readers as doers ("you asked for it..." or "you thought") or hierarchically, as

lacking against the knowledge of the magazine writers ("you should..." or "you have

to..."). The pronoun "you" here is crucial to this situation; magazines need the minimized

social distance and intimacy of"you," (i.e., first or second person), as well as the implied

singularity (singular rather than plural). "You should do it" contains more manipulative

force than "readers (a third person identity) should do it," since third person lacks crucial

intimacy. "We should do it" crosses the line between magazine and reader; if the

magazine writers situate themselves communally as such, then they lose some hierarchy

over readers magazine writers can not simultaneously be experts to be called on for


advice and lacking or ailing enough (like the idealized readers they posit) to need the

advice to begin with.

Asymmetrical Vocabulary-Teen Women as "Girl"

The independent root "girl" is one of the three most common identities, and the

second most common independent root, that magazines use to construct their ideal

readers. "Girl" occurs consistently across all magazines 275 times. Magazines use "girl"

to refer to any teen woman from childhood age until womanhood (ages 12 19 years);

sometimes, even women over eighteen years are referred to as "girls." In other words,

there are two basic age gradients for free lexical items for teen women "girl" and

"women." "Women," however, is rare (it occurs 27 times across 6 magazines) and

magazines never directly refers to their readers as women. When it is used, it is often

reserved for women over age twenty-five (such as Tipper Gore), or in articles with

medical or reproductive themes, particularly articles under the theme of Sex and the Body.

Because magazines discuss advice and information regarding sexual health and activity,

they often frame their discourse towards "women" and "young women." I would argue

that this is a tool to free magazines from any possible legal or social ramifications from

using the "girls" with sexual discussions, rather than a discourse device to support teen

women's identity, particularly because of the powerful influence of magazine advertisers

and sponsors and their political ideologies.

A surface analysis would suggest that since "girl" is a free and independent root

there is no denial of Agency possible for teen women. When looking at male sexed-

identity within the magazines, however, a double standard of age gradiance appears. For

teen women there are two basic independent root choices for age (excluding the pronoun


"you" and personal names), "girl" and "woman;" for the male sexed, there are three,

"boy," "guy" and "man." "Boy" can be used for the youngest of the male sex with each

lexical subsequent lexical item increasing in age or as a synonym for the more popular

lexical choice of "guys." Similar to "woman," "man" is also relatively rare, although use

of "woman" only outnumbers use of "man" by 1 (27 to 26). "Guys," however, in a

magazine for and about teen women, slightly outnumbers "girls" in frequency of

occurrence, as "girls" appears 275 times while guys appears 299 times; for the male-sexed

teenager, "guys" is the most frequent lexical choice. Older men and teenage men from

seventeen to twenty-five are more frequently called "guys," rather than "boys" (unlike the

analogous use of "girls" for teen women of the same age range); one example is YM's

sixteen-page layout of "Hottest Guys," featuring teenaged and adult males.

Interestingly, although the younger lexical choice for teen men ("boys"- 18 times)

and the older form ("men" 26 times) exist in the magazines, the mid-aged lexical item

("guys" 299 times) is most prevalent. For teen women, however, there is no term

analogous to "guys;" where teen men have three free lexical choices, and the magazines

use the most age appropriate choice most frequently, teen women have two. The lexicon

for teen women suffers a lexical gap in the language of teen magazines, and in the English

language in general. For example, in one article that features a woman singer, the singer

refers to herself as a "woman," but Seventeen 2000 calls her "girl" (p. 160). Seventeen

2000 does this again in another article on actor Shiri Appleby*, calling her a "girl,"

although she is 21 (p. 168). Likewise, in YM 1998, the magazine references a group of

women musicians as "rocker girls" (p. 114). In contrast, while Teen, Seventeen and YM

use "girl" almost exclusively, non-corporate magazines use "teen women." This lexical


gap, and the choice of "girl," however, denies maturity to the older readers of the

magazines, particularly the teen women.

This gender asymmetry in age gradation is further strengthened in conjoined noun

phrases featuring teen women and men. For example, it is most common to have "girls"

conjoined with "guys," as in combinations such as "a guy-girl combo" and "that guy-girl

affair"(Seventeen 1998: 192), "one lucky guy and girl" (Seventeen 2000: 152), "a guy and

a girl" twice in Teen 2000 (p.36), and "Everyone (especially guys) wants to be around a

girl" (Seventeen 2000: 144). In Teen 1998 teen women as "chick" and "girlie" contrast

with "men" in "Sure this Spring is majorly manly, but we like chick flicks, too, in cool

girlie movies" (p.52). Although magazines have chosen a younger and less mature lexical

item for teen women, when they discuss teen women and teen men together, they almost

never choose the younger and less mature for teen men. ("Boy and girl" [sic] does occur,

but is rare; most often, it is found in frozen expressions like "The Boys and Girls Club of

America"). Therefore, free root lexical choice enforces the ranking of the sexes; teen

women receive the lesser of the two choices. While teen women are denied maturity in

most conjoined noun phrases, teen men's maturity is respected and maintained.

Other Miscellaneous Root Identities

The other independent root identities for teen women in teen magazines form two

distinct groups those with positive semantic frames, and those with negative semantics

or that function as euphemisms. While teen magazine writers intend for all identities to be

positive, many of their terms for teen women contain negative semantic overtones. As

such, the negativity of the terms undermines teen women's Agency.

Root identities with positive semantics

In contrast to "you," "girl" and derivations, independent noun root identities

appear to hold the greatest promise for teen women's Agency. In fact, some terms for

teen women not only reflect, but also support their Agency. Examples include "queen"

(used 20 times), "sister/ah" (used 10 times), and "diva" (used 7 times). None of these

terms are derived from masculine forms; while "queen" and "diva" highlight strength,

"sister/sistah" emphasizes teen women community. All of these terms uphold the maturity

(and gender) of the teen women, without sacrificing Agency, semantic frames, or


Root identities with negative semantics

Not all independent roots are positive nor do they support teen women's Agency.

Many independent roots for teen women undermine Agency and sacrifice women's

autonomy for male independence. The first type of negative root is that which associates

teen women with abstract ideals specifically, beauty and perfection. Teen, Seventeen

and/or YM speak of "belles" (4 times), "hottie" (1 time), "bellas" (1 time), "beauties" (4

times) and "angels" (1 time). Here, the teen woman is associated with one superficial trait

- her physical appearance, or the supreme trait to attain perfection. Teen women

identity is reduced to singular, stereotypical and ideal qualities for women.

Independent roots for teen women are reduced to other types of stereotyping.

Teen women are named "gypsy" (1 time), "lass" (1 time), "ladies" (5 times), "gal" (8

times), and "witch" (1 time). Each of these terms contains some negative, dichotomous

role for women as the temptress [sic] who lures men ("gypsy" and "witch") as in "Need

to put your crush under a Valentine's Day spell?" and "Leave your sweetie spellbound by


puffing your skin with..." (Teen 2000: 18); or the innocent to be protected by them [sic],

("lass," "gals" and "ladies"), as in "His gift was a dose of tender lovin' care" (YM 1998:

38). Both "ladies" and "gals" have a doubly negative history; in addition to their

connotations of chivalry, they began (and are still used) as euphemisms for "women."

Over time, however, they both have undergone semantic denigration and have been

criticized by feminist linguists, both for their negative semantic connotations and for the

way they (as euphemisms) support the "taboo" of the word "women" (Lakoff 1975, Frank

and Ashen 1983). Further euphemisms include the borrowed words "chica" (11 times)

from Spanish, glossing as "girl and/or small," and "femme" (7 times), the French gloss for

"woman." One could argue that the motivation for these borrowings is the desire for

"prestige" by using other languages, but more likely, it is the need for terms for women

other than those with English semantic baggage.

Independent roots functioning as metaphors also deny Agency to teen women.

For example, teen women are referred to as animals, in "chick" (15 times) and "vixen" (1

time), as food, "sweetie" (3 times) and "honey" (1 time), as children, "baby" (5 times) and

"babe" (14 times) and as a mythical being, "siren" (1 time). These metaphors link teen

womanhood with food, immaturity, fantasy and animals, which deny her age and

humanity, or full personhood.

Lastly, some independent roots do the exact opposite for teen women that is,

they reinforce male dependence. The two most prominent examples here are "ladies" and

"Cinderella" (6 times). ("Princess" also functions similarly, although it is a derived form).

Both of these examples reify the belief that women are helpless and need to be protected,

sheltered and saved. While "lady" realizes the "Victorian 'angel in the house,' the woman


who...conquers personal desire and lives only to enhance the lives of others" (Orenstein

1994: 37), "Cinderella" is a depreciative word reminiscent of a young woman, who having

been mistreated by women, awaits and is dependent upon on her male prince for salvation.

In three additional examples, teen women are described as male possessions; that is, while

the teen woman is an independent root, that root is modified by a possessive phrase

linking her to a father or husband/boyfriend. Examples in Seventeen 2000 include "Vice

President's wife," referring to Tipper Gore (p. 150), "Luke's love interest," Drew

Barrymore* (p. 176) and the "mob bosses' daughter" (p. 172). While "wife," "interest"

and "daughter" are free roots, their male possessor denies this freedom. Thus far, these

categories of independent roots for teen women perpetuate dependence on men: personal

appearance as judged by men, their temptation of men, and/or protection by or salvation

from men.

In the final category of teen women as independent roots teen women's identity is

not only conditioned by or dependent upon men, but also completely consumed by

masculine identity. That is, teen women are described with supposedly "masculine

generics" prescriptive male-sexed cover terms for people that are supposed to include

both women and men, but which actually serve to deny Agency to women. Examples

include "upperclassmen" (Seventeen 2000), "little green men" for aliens (Seventeen

2000), "you guys" (second person plural form) (YM 2000, Seventeen 1998, Teen 1998,

Teen 2000), "tomboy" and "freshmen" (Seventeen 2000, Teen 1998). In each instance

above, the teen woman is subsumed under the male form, although the reverse never

occurs. Humanity is further implied to be male, and male is the default form.


Independent roothood does not necessarily grant the autonomy to teen women

that it does to men. While it offers sites of Agency, as in "sister/sistah" and "queen," it

simultaneously provides sites that pollute or deny Agency, as in "Cinderella," "lady,"

"vixen" or "girl." The magazines' choices of lexical items and the morphology contained

therein couple attempts at Agency with attempts at denial or pollution of Agency; teen

women morphological identity, in teen women's magazines, is thus subject to incongruity

and internal contradiction.

The Teen Woman as a Personal Name (PN)

The third most common identity for teen women is the personal name (PN).

Personal names total 415 examples, with an additional 564 personal names for teen

women actors and entertainers. This identity pattern is the most agentive for teen women.

In addition, since magazines use entertainers, stars and featured "everyday" (non-famous)

teen women to sell products, goods and services, overt names most often occur with

agentive verbs. Examples include "Violet led..." (Teen 1998: 118) or "...says Amanda"

(Teen 1998: 119).

Personal Names for teen women do not necessarily imply their Agency. Teen

women can be denied identity by naming. "Mrs. O'Connelly" is one example. In this

case, the woman lacks an identity of her own; all that is known of her is that she is married

and the name of her husband. She is completely consumed by her husband's name and



In conclusion, in the nominal morphology of teen women identity within the

language of teen magazines, the thread of teen women's Agency is slowly and surely


unraveled by multiple forces. While some forms (Personal Names, select free independent

roots) describe and situate teen women as autonomous, active persons, other forms

derivationall affixes, negative lexical items) consistently undermine teen Agency,

positioning women in linguistic, sociolinguistic and cultural dependence upon men.

Morphological Agency for teen women in their own magazines, therefore, is tainted; for

each step up towards autonomy, there are two steps back in dependence.


Ranking, Hierarchy and Singularity

Linguists have argued that English-speaking women and girl's conversations styles

reflect goals of community and cooperation compared to competition (Sheldon 1992,

Edelsky 1981, Tannen 1990, Maltz and Borker 1982, Coates 1993, 1994, Goodwin

1990). Women-women or girl-girl conversations in English typically are multi-floored

rather than single-floored (Edelsky 1981), involve conversational cues of

acknowledgement and understanding through minimal responses and conversational

overlap (Coates 1993, Tannen 1990) and are more subject to interruptions or

conversational turn-taking violations (West and Zimmerman 1983, Fishman 1983). From

work in discourse analysis, it has been concluded that white women's discourse is

particularly absent from notable conversational hierarchies.

Conversely, however, within the language of teen magazines, hierarchies play a

major role; so much so, in fact, that multiple forms of hierarchy exist within teen magazine

language. First, through Agency patterns and gender-ranked language, teen women are

outranked by teen men. Secondly, countless examples rank the teen woman and all

aspects of her life. As such, teen women are set as competitors against other teen women

and against themselves. Finally, the writers and editors of the magazine outrank


teen women. In this chapter, I analyze these specific ways and the ramifications of ranking

and singularity on teen women's Agency.

Hierarchies within Teen Women's Culture

A basic assumption of teen magazines is that teen women readers are forever in

need of improvement. Teen women can always do "better" things, act "better," have

"better" items and make themselves "better." As such, teen women are fundamentally

conceptualized as lacking in some way; teen magazines provide advice, solutions,

products, goods and services that correct this lack by transforming teen women from

"good" to "better" en route to "best." In the language of teen magazines, an ideal and

superlative teen woman, in all ways and aspects of her life, is posited to exist. The goal of

the teen magazine is to provide the teen woman with the means to transform herself from

"lacking reader" to the "ideal superlative teen woman." In essence, the teen woman is

simply never "good enough;" teen magazines then exploit this presupposition with their


The basic way that teen magazines do this is by ranking all aspects of the teen

woman's life by modifying them and her with adjectives marked with the comparative and

superlative morphemes {-er} and {-est).' Countless examples rank hairstyles, dresses,

trends, clothes, and people teen women are bombarded with "the best, the prettiest, the

sexiest" and "the hottest." On the cover of Teen 1998 alone, one reads "prettiest dresses,"

"hottest hairdos," "newest makeup," and "best new TV shows." That is four ranking

1One of the two fundamental ways that two or more elements of teen culture are compared in teen
magazine language is by ranking them. The other way to compare two or more items is through
conceptualization with metaphors specifically, violence metaphors. This is the subject of my next


examples on the COVER page. Seventeen 1998 and YM 1998 have similar ranking

quantities: a fourteen-page layout of "Hottest guys" (with the words "hottest guys"

printed 10 times) appears in YM 1998 (pp. 66-80), while Seventeen 1998 has a flood of

beauty-ranking examples, such as "make your hair shinier" (p. 64), "prettiest prom

makeup" (p. 9), "a perfect prep" (p. 20), "latest gotta-have-its [clothes]" (p. 60), "...eyes

appear smaller" (p.40), "trendiest pieces" (p. 36) and "perfect platforms" (p. 20).

Teen women and their friends are ranked against each other. Seventeen 2000 talks

of "closest friends" (p. 106), "best buds" (p. 112) and "the weaker sex" (p. 28). Other

people are also ranked in Seventeen 2000 "the most-wanted movie star" (p. 186), "the

busiest heartthrobs" (p. 194), "the most cynical student," (p. 197/8) and the "most stylish

male" (p. 252). YM2000 discusses the "wackiest talk show host" (p. 14), makingn] you

harder" (p.36), "the brightest babe" (p.106), the "better babysitter" (p. 23) and the "most

valuable players" (p. 63). In one YM 2000 article regarding drug use, people who were

"more likely" and "less likely" were mentioned 9 times total; "best friends" occurs

throughout each magazine more than 40 times.

Articles themselves in the magazines, "Best and Worst Ways to Reveal a Crush"

(p. 40) in Teen 1998, "Most Humiliating Experiences" (p. 14) in YM 1998, and the

ranking involved in the "10th Annual Readers Poll" (pp. 167-168) in Seventeen 1998, are

inherently hierarchical in both their content and language. Not only are the people, places

and things in these articles ranked against each other, but also teen women are encouraged

to rank and compare items hierarchically. Advice columns also contain similar ranking;

teen women are told in YM 2000 how to "get comfier" (p. 52), "to feel freer" (p. 63) and

how to get "softer, silkier skin" (p. 28). Instead of a teen womanhood based on


community, a teen woman is faced with competition to have the "latest and greatest

spring shoes" (p. 8) in YM 1998, to be one "to shine the brightest," (p. 90) "to all be

perfect" (p. 192) from Seventeen 1998 or to "score[ing] a perfect 10..." (p. 108) from

Teen 1998.

The Ranking of Teen Women against Men

There are two major problems with this ranking. First, continuous ranking of

everything strengthens and reinforces the gender hierarchy already existent in the other

discourse structures of teen magazines by making ranking seem natural. Gender hierarchy

is, after all, one gender outranking the other. Teen women are already outranked by teen

men in syntactic agency, word order patterns and in nominal morphology, for example.

Adjectival morphological superlativity on virtually every page of the magazines fortifies

the notion that ranking is inevitable; in other words, constant and incessant ranking makes

ranking seem an essential part of the English-speaking world.

Ranking intersects with gender hierarchy in another way. Hardman (1993a, 1993b,

1996, Hardman and Taylor 2001) argues that ranking is actually grammaticalized in

English, and that this obligatory grammaticalization of ranking links directly to ranking of

the sexes. Hardman (1993a, 1993b, 1996, Hardman and Taylor 2001) asserts that number

is a linguistic postulate of English; as such, singularity (the base form of English number)

is prized. "The first two postulates [number and ranking/comparative], by themselves, do

not appear to relate to gender, but because the three mutually reinforce one another they

both reflect and create a gendered way of thinking" (Hardman and Taylor 2001: 3).

Derivational Thinking results. Taylor (Hardman and Taylor 2001) summarizes this


connection of singularity and ranking to sex-based gender, "number one is important;

number one is most important; number one is masculine" (p.3).

Linking superlative ranking with the other discourse patterns of the magazines, I

liken Hardman's Derivational Thinking theoretically to a pyramid women and those

classified as "Others" are at the wide bottom, site of the non-inflected adjective, the

"good." In the middle are the men who are not the one singular best, but the "betters."

At the top of the pyramid is the "one singular" white man the "best" at the pinnacle. For

the singular best white man to reach the top of the pyramid, he must step on the backs of

others, for "best" implies only "one;" the nature of the pyramid allows only one at the top

and elevation of any means subjugation, or loss of elevation, of all others. In order to

reach the "betters," he must become the "pure" root with no suffixes or derivations. As

such, the singular white man must sever from all those below him, only using them as

"steps" to keep him at the pinnacle; for example, as in the case of nominal derivational, the

{-esses} below are used to create the male {-er} above.

For white men, therefore, competition is between ROOTS "the betters" and the

"best." As roots, white men automatically have Agency, but nonetheless compete for

superlativity. Unless metaphorically feminized and affixed as "Others" either as women

(becoming a suffix rather than root), or as homosexuals, non-whites, and the colonized

(becoming marked derivations of the root) white men remain roots. The line of the

"better," therefore, becomes the glassfloor keeping the white men/roots high (and thus

out of Otherhood/derivation). This glass floor is a line of Entitled Agency ofRoothood.

Competition above and below the line is essentially different. Because competition

above is between roots of "better" and "best," failure at competition does not necessarily


result in complete loss of Agency. Agency is given in roothood, so Agency is given for

"betters" or "bests" (although more Agency may come with "bestness"). The "Others," in

the domain of "the goods," who are suffixes, do not complete for actual Agency, however.

Agency is not a given, nor is it entitled, as below the line exist the DERIVATIONS.

Derivations are already and instantaneously outranked by their roots at the top of the

pyramid; the syntax of Agency, the word order patterns, the marking of the feminine (and

non-white) and the derived feminine forms from masculine roots support this. "Others,"

therefore, compete differently; their competition is between no Agency and Sub-Agency.

"Others" compete for the Sub-Agency of Objecthood of affixation to a root (being the

"princess" for the "prince" and being the object/patient for the agentive subject, for

example). For them, the middle line is the "glass ceiling" keeping them low.

The problem that this entails and produces is that competition means different

things below and above the line. Competition becomes extremely detrimental below, as

Agency is not guaranteed like it is above. Put another way, competition below equals

Sub-Agency Vs. No Agency, whereas above equals Better Agency Vs. Best Agency. In

other words, women/"Others" are attacked from all fronts2. Teen women are first

outranked by teen men; secondly, teen women are situated as competitors against each

other. If the teen woman "wins" against her competitor, she "wins" to become an

object/patient. Teen women, no matter which way they turn, are denied Agency through

ranking of all sorts, as ranking situates teen women in an inevitable Catch 22. Ranking,

therefore, in all of its forms, functions to deny teen women Agency.

2 Although I try to eliminate violence metaphors from my language, I am specifically using a violence
metaphor here because I believe this is violence against teen women and those Othered. I do not wish to
cover up that violence I want it to be felt and understood.


Other research supports that competition and hierarchy differ for women and men.

Elgin (1989) argues that "failure" within white American society actually has different

semantic subfeatures for women and men. She asserts that for white women "failure" is

[++final], as in "leaving no option for trying anything new and thus leaving the field in

disgrace," whereas for white men, "failure" is [+non-final], meaning that "something [was]

tried and hasn't worked, and's necessary to try something else" (Elgin 1989: 36).

In addition, work in conversational discourse contends that community and cooperation,

rather than hierarchy and competition, are key features to women's discourse (Sheldon

1992, Edelsky 1981, Tannen 1990, Maltz and Borker 1982, Coates 1993, 1994, Goodwin

1990, West and Zimmerman 1983). In fact, in conversation, features of hierarchical

discourse used by men in women-men conversation disrupt conversational flows and result

in women's dissatisfaction (Tannen 1990, Fishman 1983, Maltz and Borker 1982, West

and Zimmerman 1993). Likewise, research on white male speech shows that white men

use hierarchy, competition and one-ups-man-ship [sic], like single floor snatching, direct

speech acts, interruption and no backchanneling, as conversational tools with each other;

when used in white men-men conversation, these competitive devices do not stop

conversational floor with male interlocutors in the way that they do with women

interlocutors (Tannen 1990, Fishman 1993, Maltz and Borker 1982, West and Zimmerman

1993, DeCapua and Boxer 1999, Kiesling 1996). One notable example here is DeCapua

and Boxer's (1999) work on bragging, boasting and bravado in a brokerage firm; in this

article white men were proud to compete against each other. Conversational and other

types of dominance were an accepted part of the career, yet very few woman worked in

the firm; the two white women and one Nigerian man who did work in the firm were left


outside of the primary work in-group and did not participate in the conversational

"contest" (DeCapua and Boxer 1999).

The Ranking of Teen Women against Each Other

While the first problem with ranking is that it pits women and Others at the bottom

of the pyramid under white men, the second problem with ranking relates to placement

within the bottom. The linguistics of ranking, the superlative form, {-est}, allows only one

- the singular best. This was mentioned above. But the same principle of rank and

singularity that positions women under men throughout the pyramid also positions women

and men within pyramid strata. Competition is not just vertical, but horizontal as well.

This means that theoretically within "Otherhood" teen women compete against each other;

the singular best for women (derivations) is "a perfect white derivation;" the singular best

for men (roots) is a white root, and the singular best for humankind (derivations and

roots) is also white root.

In other words, ranking goes hand in hand with singularity at all levels of the

pyramid. Although derivations, derivations still complete to be the best derivation.

Through language, the magazines presuppose that there is an "ideal, perfect best woman."

This perfect, idealized derivation/teen woman is held as the standard from which all

readers should be judged; in essence, to be like her, Seventeen 2000 readers need to find

"the best party scene" (p. 110), wear the "hippest Hollywood styles" (p. 226), with the

"easiest ever updos" (Cover), the "prettiest polishes" (p. 17), the "hottest makeup" (p. 17),

the "perfect match" to "best express your individuality" (p.54), in "perfect relaxation"

(p.20), with the "fondest memory" (p.36), while being the "most fanatical" (p.74), the

"weaker sex" (p.28), and "his latest soft-lipped conquest" (p. 76), because "most are.."


(p.130) and because X " better than..." X (p.188). The reader also needs to be white;

because such ranking is overtly unmarked for race, the resultant singularity reinforces

notions of white normativity and white privilege (Mrozinske 2002). There can be only one

"best," which means one type and one race of a teen woman.

Because singular is the exalted default form, any diversity or plurality, as in the

many "goods," exists only as a derivation, and thus deviation, of singularity. Any

difference is thus immediately conceptualized as either [+best] or [-best], analogous to the

ranked binary system of "one singular" [+ best] and "Others" [-best]. All attempts at

accepting differences or diversity are instantly undermined; difference necessarily means

plurality, yet singularity is prized. Therefore, teen women are in constant competition; in

terms of teen women's superlativity against each other, there can be only one. In sum, all

teen women other than the fictional "singular best" fail most of the time.

Constant ranking and hierarchy, particularly constant failure to be the best, results

in a state of constant lack or "less-than-ness" for the teen woman; she and the objects of

her identity and social world are always outranked. This structure ties in heavily with the

ideology of teen magazines; ever since their conception, they have blatantly admitted to

mold, shape and present an image of the idealized adolescent girl [sic] (Schrum 1998). In

this case, this idealized girl [sic] is perfect; her identity, her consumables, and her products

are all ranked, but ranked with the superlative form. On a deeper level, in addition, ranking

and hierarchy and the subsequent image of perfection create and reify the ideal of the

'perfect girl'[sic] or the "good girl/good woman ideal." "The 'perfect girl' is painfully

reminiscent of the Victorian 'angel in the house,' the woman who...conquers personal

desire and lives only to enhance the lives of others" (Orenstein 1994: 37). According to


Brown and Gilligan (1992) in discussing one of their patients,

The image of the perfect girl [sic] is powerful...the terrifying or terrorizing
nature of this image lies in its power to encourage Jessie [a teenage
woman] to give over the reality of her astute observations of herself and
the human world around her or at least to modulate her voice and not
speak about what she sees...and knows. Voice-training by adults
undermines these girls' [sic] experiences and reinforces images of female
perfection...[it] implies that such girls [sic] exist and are desirable (p.61).

There is no way that the average reader can be the singular best all of the time.

However, the language of teenage magazines ranks everything, such that the image of a

"perfect girl" becomes seemingly attainable and desirable. Magazines then rely on this

image to sell their magazines, goods and services. In other words, the image of the

"perfect girl" is just beyond reach; by buying products, goods and services, and by reading

the editorial contents, quizzes and advice columns, the teen reader can better herself and

get closer to the ideological ideal. Teen magazines "teach" teens how to do this, which

leads to the next linguistic structure.

Ranking and Hierarchy of Magazine over Readers

The final layer of ranking and hierarchy in the language of teen magazines is

magazine hierarchy over readers. This ranking is primarily at the level of discourse; here,

magazine editors and writers use language to position themselves as the "knowers" and

the teen women as those who "need to know." As usual, however, with most expressions

of power and ideology through language (Hardman 1993a, 1993b, 1996, Hardman and

Taylor 2001, van Dijk 1999, Hodge and Kress 1993), this third ranking process

necessarily overlaps with the other two forms of ranking in the magazine. I argue that

magazine hierarchy is not only dependent upon the ranking of teen women against each

other and teen men, but also specifically on the outranking of the singular best ideal teen


women sub-Agent (the ideological perfect white girl [sic]) against other teen women. As

such, like all other forms of hierarchy in teen magazines, magazine hierarchy functions to

deny teen women's Agency.

There are two fundamental patterns used in teen magazines to position teen

women readers under magazine editors and writers. The first pattern is the use of

volitional modal auxiliaries issued from the magazine to the teen reader. I use the term

volitional to refer to the particularly strong end of the English modal continuum that

expresses the highest level of speaker's modal will of X toward the interlocutor. For

example, going from lowest volition to highest are models "could, should, need to, have

to, must" and "should not, could not, need not, not have to, must not."

Modal auxiliaries are used throughout the magazine, and are not just limited to the

teen-initiated advice columns or teen reader quizzes; instead, the magazine "offers the

advice" of modal auxiliaries throughout many themes of the magazines and in virtually all

article types. Seventeen 2000 instructs teen women throughout the magazine; a teen

woman is told "what you need to know" in an article on relationships (p. 148), "what you

must remember" in a piece on makeup/beauty (p.62); and that "you barely need..." in a

prom feature (p. 188). The Table of Contents in Teen 1998 asks "Should you change?"

(p.2), where the magazine then answers the question for the teen women; in a quiz the

reader is instructed that "you need to..." (p.70). Also in Teen 1998, teen women were told

in a quiz that "you gotta get" (p.66) and "you should just listen" (p.68), in a piece on teen

issues "you have to" (p.61), in a relationship advice article that "you gotta tell..." and

"you've got to" (p.30), in a "general" advice column that "you have to" (p, 26), and in a

fashion piece "you must look..." (p.91). YM2000 offers teen women modal


"instructions" on what "you gotta realize" and what "you should just stop" in an "Inner

You" piece (p.68) and what "you gotta be able to..." and that "you just have to..." with

regards to "Guys" (p.54 and p.62, respectively). In Seventeen 1998 teen women are

literally told by the magazine what they should think, feel, do and not do; as "you should

think..." but "you can't show..." (p. 116), "you should feel" (pp. 140, 142), "you have to"

(pp.174, 188) and "you've got to..." (p.238).

The modal volitionals are not limited to modal verb phrases. Magazine editor's

volitional will is also expressed through nominalized modifiers. In these instances, a

volitional modal is nominalized; the modal will is that the teen women purchase the item

described with modal nominalization. When nominalized, the modal may function as the

head or the modifier. Examples of nominalized NPs with modal heads include include,

Seventeen 1998's "must haves" (p.90) and YM 2000's celebrity "gotta have[s] ..." (p.84),

while nominalized NPs with modal modifiers inside include "must have music" (YM 2000:

84), "spring's major must haves" (Seventeen 2000: 158), "must see movies and hotties"

(Teen 1998: 4) and "must see flicks" (Teen 1998: Cover page). In addition, a teen woman

is told "you really need one standout piece" with regards to her fashion (Seventeen 2000:

240). Lastly, as Teen 1998 touts, "showing off the shoulders is a must" (p.98). With both

modal VPs and nominalized VPs, teen women are instructed on how and what to be,

think, feel, act, do, not do and possess, in various realms of their life: in fashion, self

issues, sex and body issues, quizzes, relationship articles, teen issue pages and the cover

page, for example.

Ranking and hierarchy link with such models in two ways. First, given that the

magazines are structured as simulated conversation between magazine voice and teen


woman interlocutor, modal auxiliaries work in only one direction. It is not a conversation

among equals; magazines use volitional models towards readers, not vice versa. In doing

so, the will and determination of the modal is that of the magazine writer; the will is

directed at the teen woman. Furthermore, as is done in other discourse types (like

quizzes), magazine editors "cite" outside professionals and "experts" to strengthen their

volitional position (Ostermann & Keller-Cohen 1998). To this end, magazine writers

appear equal, (they must get their information from someone else), and yet also quite

powerful, as they have the means to obtain this information and pass it on.

Ironically, however, the power asymmetry comes not from the use of the experts

per se, but in the way the magazines pass on the information. The magazines themselves,

and not the voices of the experts, actually issue the volitional models; the professionals are

referenced only to justify magazine editor's will. As such, the very device that magazines

editors use to situate themselves closer to their readers (Ostermann & Keller-Cohen

1998), the use of expert professionals, functions only at a surface level; the magazine

editors actually distance themselves from their readers, and align themselves with the

professionals, by using strong volitionals. In addition, Ostermann and Keller-Cohen (1998)

argue that use of"accredited sources," like physicians, health officials and psychologists in

quiz advice columns, simultaneously distances the editor from the advice while conferring

a tone of seriousness to quizzes (p.548). This seriousness is reflected in volitional

support; by such "seriousness," experts strengthen the volitional force of the magazine

editors/writers. The magazines, therefore, strongly assert knowledge onto the teen

women, telling them what they "should," "must" and "need to" do; they "should," "must,"

and "need to" because the magazines, and the experts, say so.


The second problem with volitionals is that such modal assertion situates the teen

women readers as fundamentally lacking. Similar to directives, the issuing of a modal

implies that that action has not been done; the modal becomes infelicitous if the issuer says

"one should X" if one already did X. Note here that the crucial necessary element for a

felicitous volitional modal is non-Agency; doing is Agentive, but doing violates the

discourse device. As such, the magazines use yet another discourse strategy that

presupposes that teen readers are fundamentally incomplete or in need of change; the same

discourse device then offers an answer, solution or means of completion by which this teen

reader can correct her lacking.

Such one-way assumption and correction of teen reader lack is dependent upon

her outranking by the magazine, the "singular best teen woman" and teen men.

Fundamentally, the magazines use morphological (derivation under root) and adjectival

(good under best) superlativity and ranking to "create" the notion of the perfect girl [sic].

They then reify and manipulate the position of the reader as non-perfect by instructing

her, through models (and other discourse devices), how to get to this impossible, yet

idealized perfect state. Seemingly, if the non-perfect reader did all that she "should,"

"must" and "has to," she would be more like the ideal and less like the reader. That is, the

ideal "singular best teen woman Sub-Agent" does not need the models; she has already

done what she "needs to" and "should" do. The models (and magazine directives) are the

directions for which the outranked teen woman ascends the hierarchy ladder, en route to

sub-Agency position. The other forms of ranking are necessary for the success of this

third type; if teen readers were already respected as full persons with full Agency,

magazines would violate their personhood by assuming it needed correcting. To regard


the teen woman as an Agent requires both acknowledgment and recognition of her full

humanity, not presupposing her to be insufficient.

The second way that magazines assert rank over their interlocutors is through

directive type. In English, directive type usually indicates (and/or illustrates) the

relationship between interlocutors; for example, Goodwin (1990) found that in same sex

peer groups, African-American girls used less face threatening "mitigated directives,"

while African-American boys used face threatening "aggravated directives" and Sheldon

(1992) argues that young white girls in conversation with each other use more face

cognizant directives than young white boys in all boy conversation. In analysis of dinner

table conversation, Ochs and Taylor (1992) assert that mothers issue more mitigated

directives; more direct directives were characteristic of the speech of the father.

Furthermore, Gleason and Greif(1983) found that male caretakers, but not necessarily

fathers, used directives similar to those issued by women parents and caretakers. Finally,

researchers argue that in cross-sex conversation men's aggravated directives can function

hierarchically and/or disrupt the conversational turns (Goodwin 1990, Tannen 1990).

One preliminary theme from these findings is that directive type varies according to

gender and role, within both the family (mother or father) and in larger social units

(employed as caretaker or other type of employment). This research on gender and

directives suggests overall that girls, women and some men (caretakers) use directives

with much attention to interlocutor face needs, while boys and men issue direct, face

threatening and potential hierarchical directives.

One would assume, given that magazine writers and editors aspire to converse

with teen readers as "equal" members of the same speech community, that teen women


magazines would contain face cognizant directives, similar to those reported in girl-girl,

women-women and mother/caretaker-child conversation (Goodwin 1990, Ochs and

Taylor 1992, Tannen 1990, Sheldon 1992, Coates 1994). This, however, is not the case.

Instead, the most numerous directive type is bald on record (Brown and Levinson 1987),

highly direct, directives. While indirect directives do occur, (usually in the form of a

question or a modal declarative), these more hedged, less face threatening directives are

rare in comparison with direct ones; 99.4% (3,152 total) of all directives are direct, while

only .6% (20 total) are indirect.

Such directives could illustrate and/or reify one of two possible relationships

between teen magazine writers and readers. First, the magazine editors could be assuming

a highly intimate relationship with teen women readers, as in many middle-class, white

English-speaking communities in the US, politeness strategies lessen or cease between

intimate interlocutors (Boxer 2002, Personal Communication). One other possible

interpretation is that the magazines are not attempting to co-construct a symmetrical floor

(Edelsky 1981); instead, in creating consumers, magazines must take a more hierarchical

role over readers, using direct directives analogously to the way fathers do in dinner table

conversations (Ochs and Taylor 1992) or some white men do in conversations with

women (Tannen 1990). I argue the second point. Directives "imply a clear sense of the

second [linguistic] postulate [of English], that of ranking" (Hardman and Taylor 2002: 3).

Furthermore, "that a speaker assumes the right to give another orders or instructions

implies rank, a situation not found in all languages" (Hardman and Taylor 2002: 3).

Given that magazine directives function with negative presuppositions and that the

general pattern of teen magazine discourse is to lessen or extinguish teen women's


Agency, I argue that bald on record (Brown and Levinson 1987) directives function as

hierarchy-maintaining devices. While it may be argued that magazines editors have chosen

direct directives to create a symmetrical floor as intimates, the felicity conditions that

uphold those very directives presuppose that one interlocutor is lacking and that the other

knows how to fix that lack. It is not the "lacking" interlocutor, however, who determines

the lack, but the "knowing" magazine interlocutor. As such, asymmetry is instantly visible;

again, as with volitionals, the reader is left "needing to know" while the magazine is in the

position of"knowing." To put it another way, even though it is argued that girls [sic] do

not use direct directives (Goodwin 1990, Sheldon 1992), they frequently hear them used

at them (Boxer 2002, Personal Communication).


In sum, the three forms of ranking in teen magazines, the ranking of teen women

against the ideological "perfect white girl" [sic], the ranking of teen women against teen

men, and the ranking of teen women against their more knowledgeable magazine editors,

intersect with and mutually support one another. The ranking of teen women against each

other and against teen men, with the notions of singularity present therefrom, function to

"create" an ideological, singular best ideal white teen woman Sub-Agent. The ranking of

magazine over teen woman, through modal volitionals and bald on record (Brown and

Levinson 1987) directives, then solidifies the position of teen woman under magazine

editors. In this position, the inherent lack of other forms of ranking is not only intensified,

but is able to be manipulated. In other words, the way to get from the bottom of the

pyramid to the ideal sub-Agency position is by following the "modal-directive" road. This

road, however, depends crucially on two things: one, that there first exists a hierarchical


ladder to ascend (this is made possible by ranking women against men); and second, that

the teen woman starts at the bottom of the ladder (which necessarily implies no Agency,

negative Agency, and/or lack of Agency, in addition to gender ranking). Each of the

rankings needs each other. As such, teen women's Agency is again denied through

various interconnecting and mutually reinforcing discourse devices on multiple levels of

teen magazine language.


Syntax and Discourse Pattern Data

For this section of the thesis I recorded and categorized all applicable sentences of

the magazines. Each sentence was first organized according to speech act type: directive,

commissive and interrogative and declarative. I grouped interrogatives and declaratives

together since they are both fundamentally framed by the magazine to the reader, either by

asserting information to the reader or by questioning a third interlocutor (a celebrity in an

interview, for example) or a teen woman reader rhetorically. While declaratives typically

function to provide information and interrogatives generally function to request

information, in teen magazines the distinction is slightly different from everyday

conversation. In teen magazines, questions to third party interviewees are often presented

to provide information to the reader (similar to an assertive statement). In addition,

questions towards teen readers are more rhetorical than information seeking; because the

teen woman interlocutor is not present in the conversation, she cannot possibly answer the

question. Fundamentally, neither have the illocutionary force to require anything of the

reader. Therefore, in each case, whether in question or statement form, clear subjects,

subject semantic roles and verb types emerge similarly and allow for classification.

The speech acts ofcommissives and directives, however, differ significantly. In

commissives, the magazine commits itself and/or the speaker to a future action, such as a


promise provided the reader fulfills her required role. Similarly, directives are issued from

magazine to teen reader in order to cause the teen reader to perform some action, exist in

a given state, and so forth. Fundamentally, in these speech acts, the magazines issue

utterances with high illocutionary force of future action on the part of the reader. As

such, particularly pertaining to Agency', these acts were classified according to

illocutionary force type requests and orders (directives) or promises (commissives).

I next further classified the interrogative and declarative sentences together

according to subject, subject semantic role and verb type and examined female-male word

orders within when relevant. The subject person categories that emerged from the data

were: teen reader/teen woman (as in "girl" or "you"); woman celebrity expert or public

figure (such as "Drew Barrymore*" or 'Dr. Debbie*"); teen man ("he" or "your crush");

man celebrity, expert orpublicfigure (as in "Carson Daly*" or "Dr. Rainer*"); and non-

human inanimate subject (such as "jewel tones"or "lyrics"). I did not include third-party

subjects (including, for example, adults outside of the teen community; magazine writers

and editors; and generic person figures, such as percentages of people who watch TV, that

are impossible to classify into a gender category). Both female-male and male-female

word orders emerged in both NPs and ADJPs and in larger units of discourse.

The semantic roles and verb types that emerged were: agent, subject of an action

verb who performs the action of that verb or subject of a mental process verb, (such as

thinking), who performs the mental action, as in "Diamond says..." (Seventeen 2000: 236)

SIn this chapter it is important to remember that I have made a distinction between Agency (with an
upper case 'A') and agency (with a lower case 'a'). Agency is an abstract term encompassing the full
humanity and personhood of a teen woman. However, agency is the state of a semantic role subject of an
action verb.


"you baby-sat" (YM 1998: 57) and "you know that" (Teen 2000: 44); experience,

subject of a perception verb who perceives or experiences the action of the verb, but who

does not necessarily perform the action, such as "you feel..." (Seventeen 1998: 219) and

"she wanted to work" (Seventeen 2000: 144); benefactive, the recipient or beneficiary of

an action, while not herself performing the action, as in "'ve received..." (Seventeen

1998: 142) and "Kerri, Erin...and Amanda got clothes..." (Teen 2000: 22); possessive, the

possessor or owner of an item as the subject of a verb of possession, such as "you'll

have..." (YM 1998: 36) and "you own" (Teen 1998: 118); modal, the subject of a modal

verb phrase with weak volitionality on a modal continuum of strength, as in "...a girl could

do" (YM 2000: 41) and "...and you may end up feeling" (Teen 2000: 38); volitionals,

subjects of strong volitional modal verb phrases that express a high degree of modal will,

such as "you have to sell" (Seventeen 2000: 242) and "you must enclose" (Teen 2000:

95); process, the subject that undergoes a process or a change of state, as in "...if you

become" (Seventeen 2000: 151) and "gals turn 16..." (YM 2000: 86); and finally, passive,

the grammatical patient/object, positioned as sentence subject, that is affected or acted

upon, but that does not participate in the agency of a passive verb phrase, such as

"...Brenda was called" (Seventeen 1998: 217) and "...models get glitzed" (Teen 1998:

114). I did not include subjects of copula, or "X=Y" type sentences.

The next classification I made of the data was its overall discourse function with

regards to teen woman Agency. This involved further classifying interrogative and

declarative sentences that diverged from the normal function of supplying information.

For example, some agency sentences, while containing agent semantic roles, function in an

adjacency pair to introduce or to ground a directive. In this instance, agency is


manipulated, and the agency exists only in order to issue an additional directive. These

overt manipulations of Agency were classified as follows: quiz conditioned discourse, teen

woman subjects of various semantic roles, such as "you secretly think" and "You always

coordinate" (Seventeen 2000: 106), that exist in a quiz in order to later classify and

evaluate the teen women and her behavior; directive and commissive conditioned

discourse, teen woman subject sentences in adjacency pairs with, and thus introducing,

directives and commissive speech acts, as in "Before you slather...take these steps" (YM

2000: 26) and "...when you have..., you'll stop stressing" (Teen 2000: 36); negative

Agency, a sentence with a subject semantic role that is overtly negated or is framed with

negative semantics, as in "You're not describing..." (Seventeen 2000: 146) and "...she

whined" (YM 2000: 86); and the overt Denials of Agency, Denial ofAgency through

Instrument, where an inanimate instrument, such as "accessories" and "this dress"in "your

accessories make a bold statement"(Seventeen 2000: 220) and "...this dress will leave a

lasting impression..." (YM 1998: 98), respectively, instead of the teen woman, functions

as the semantic role agent, Denial ofAgency through Synecdoche, as in "...her...strands

top the look" (Teen 2000: 22) and "...Simon's message is most clearly heard in..."

(Seventeen 2000: 114) where a teen woman's body part or personal characteristic is the

semantic role agent, Denial of Agency through Whiteness, where the teen woman in the

discourse is assumed to be white, denying Agency to woman of color, as in Teen's (1998)

discussion of self-tanners and Denial of Negative Male Agency, in which male hegemony

is maintained through discourse that denies a semantically negative action to a man, as in

"women have been injured [by men]..." (YM 2000: 22) and "...if his behavior makes you

feel" (Seventeen 2000: 146). Examples of all such data are discussed in relevant sections


in this chapter text with further examples found in corresponding data sets in the


In addition, for each syntactic and discourse example I recorded the magazine

month and year, page number, specific theme of the article according to the magazine, and

then the general theme of the article. There were 19 total general themes of the

magazines: Teen Focus News and Issues; Entertainment and Celebrities; Makeup, Fashion

and Beauty; Advice--General; Advice--Friends and Family; Advice--Dating and Guys;

Advice-Sex and the Body; Advice-Health and Well-being; Advice--Makeup and Beauty;

School and Career; Health and Well-being; Friends, Family and Home; Dating,

Relationships and Guys; Quizzes; Sex and the Body; Cover and Table and Contents;

Magazine Events and Information; Special Magazine Features; and Miscellaneous. I

broke advice down into different subject headings because of the different ideologies of

advice columns, the different writers of advice columns and the possible slightly different

formats of each column.

I lastly created a database for storing each discourse example and all of its relevant

information in order to arrange, analyze and count the data. This was also particularly

useful in organizing the data to examine the effects of each syntactic and discourse feature

on teen women's Agency. Throughout the thesis relevant data examples are included in

each discussion, but additional examples for each individual data section can be found in

the data base in the appendix.

Word Order Patterns and Agency

Word order matters for English speakers. Order of constituents within sentences

determines the grammatical function of the constituent; for example, in unmarked


sentences thefirst NP is the obligatory grammatical subject, while later NPs are optional

objects of verbs or prepositions. In Karen talked to Moe, Karen is the grammatical

subject, while Moe, the other following NP, is the object. To topicalize an NP in English

syntax, and thus give it preference in a given sentence, the NP is moved to first position,

even before the subject NP, as in To Moe, Karen talked (Givon 1993: 275). In this case,

sentential emphasis is given to Moe; to do this, Moe must be placed before, and be uttered

prior to, the subject Karen. The importance of order is furthered strengthened by the

semantic roles assigned according to position. The subject NP (the first NP) is generally

the sentence agent, the one who acts out or experiences the verb. Almost all object NPs

in English, however, are entities that are acted upon; generally, therefore,first sentential

position is active, while later positions are passive.2

Similarly, order of words within constituents also indicates relative importance.

Givon (1993) argues that within conjoined NPs, the first noun (N) is remembered longer,

attended to faster and is considered more "topic-worthy" (p.277). Hardman (1993a,

1993b, 1996) takes this argument further and asserts that culturally preferred orders of

female forms after male forms indicate and perpetuate the ranking of women under men.

Furthermore, Miller (2002) argues that within Indo-European languages (where order

matters to begin with) there are two general principles that govern order of conjoined NPs

2 Note that the structure of English sentences contrasts sharply with other languages and is not universal.
One specific example is the Jaqi languages of South America, in which objects and subjects are
intrinsically linked and thus obligatorily connected; as such, the Jaqi languages conjugate for 10 persons
for each possible pair of object and subject (for example, 'I ... to her,' or 'her ... to me') (Hardman 1993a,
1993b, 1996). It is impossible within the structure of these languages for objects and subjects to be
severed (Hardman 1993a, 1993b, 1996). In addition, and as a result of this structure, Jaqi subjects can not
and do not outrank objects nor vice versa (Hardman 1993a, 1993b, 1996). Another example comes from
Japanese; in Japanese, the topicalization of an item has nothing to do with word order, but rather with
morphology. Word order is slightly fluid, but topicalization is only possible by marking a base with the
morpheme {-wa} (Tohsaku 1999).


- Panini's Rule and Cultural Prominence. Panini's rule states that shorter constituent

occurs first, while the under cultural prominence principle, the "better" or "more culturally

preferred" element takes first position (Miller 2002). While some Indo-European

languages operate under one principle completely (such as Russian under Panini's Rule, in

which the surface NP order 'mother and father' versus 'father and mother' depends

completely on length resulting from case endings), many combine both principles (Miller

2002). In the case of English, Miller (2002) argues that both principles apply, but that

Cultural Prominence takes over in the case of human NPs. For Miller as well, then,

because male NPs outrank female NPs, they occur in first position (Miller 2002). In

essence, the first of the two NPs is both more cognitively and culturally important.

Therefore, within English, although nothing in the grammar itself prohibits or

limits which human NP occurs first, the default word order is women after men. This is

no different in teenage magazines. I examined all cross-sex conjoined NPs and ADJPs and

found that while approximately 14.6% of the time women occurred before men in the

joined NP or ADJP (as in "girl or guy" (p.86) from YM 2000) approximately 85.3% of the

time women occurred after men, as in "bachelors or bachelorettes" (Teen 2000: 51), "a

guy-girl combo" (Seventeen 1998: 192), "Freddie Prinze, Jr. and Rachel Leigh Cook"

(Teen 2000: 51), "Dude...Chick" (YM 2000: 60), "second choice is...for guys, but

women go for ..." (Seventeen 1998: 119), "...he or she..." (Seventeen 1998: 91), "gay and

lesbian" (Seventeen 1998: 192), "for him and for you" (Seventeen 1998: 80), "a guy and

girl" (Teen 2000: 51) and "Prom king and queen" (Seventeen 2000: 152).

Within magazines for teen women, teen women are not "topic-worthy" or

important enough. So while Seventeen 2000 features a full six-page layout of prom


clothes and fashion, and emphasizes the importance of prom to teen women, in the end,

the center of the prom is the "Prom king and queen" (p. 152). Likewise, Teen 1998 boasts

on the cover of its "massive movie issue...and all the must-see flicks" (cover page). In the

actual content of this 6-page article, the 3 films with women main stars are featured on the

last 2 pages at the very bottom crammed into a small section together, while all 6 pages

are otherwise devoted to movies with male main stars with each star profiled with each

movie discussion. In this instance, teen men are not only the first feature of the article and

first in an ADJP position describing the article "...this spring is majorly manly, but we like

chick flicks, too" (p.52), but teen men also occur first in terms of page layout in page

order and reading preference (reading from left to right). That is four ways that teen men

outrank teen women in an article for teen women. Similar patterns are repeated in almost

all instances of female-male NP or ADJP pairs; teen women are supposedly praised and

empowered by teen magazines, and yet, the male word order preference undermines any

empowerment. On yet another level of language, teen women are outranked.

The secondary position of teen women, and thus the primary position of teen men,

is not limited to conjoined phrases. This order pattern of syntax is actually mirrored in

discourse above the level of the sentence. Just as teen women follow teen men within

constituents, so too do sentences about teen women follow sentences about teen men

within discourse. In other words, in both syntax and larger units of discourse teen women

are secondary to teen men; in each instance, teen women are followers and teen men are

the leaders. For example, in the Seventeen 1998 's Reader's Poll, the "best/worse actress"

and "best/worse female singer" (note the ranking inherent in the poll itself, the categories

of the poll "best/worst" and the derivational suffix {-ess}) follow the "best/worst actors"


and "best/worst male singer" (p. 167). In a later Seventeen 1998 article discussing snack

choices, the article explains, "first choice is ...for guys, ...women go for..." (p. 119). In a

Seventeen 2000 piece about school violations of teen's rights (like mandatory drug tests),

a teen woman who stood up for her rights and challenged her school was featured not

only later in the article, but on the last page of the segment, while the articlefirst featured

a teen man who challenged the school and stood up for his rights on the opening page of

the story (p.216). Cultural and linguistic preference of women under men structures both

sentences and discourse alike.

One final problem with male primacy in word ordering is that, like other categories

of gender-hierarchical language, it mutually interacts with and reinforces other linguistic

patterns of gender hierarchy. This is illustrated above with the overlap between ranking

and order, derivation and order and female deprecation and order. In addition, word order

often also interconnects with asymmetrical vocabulary. That is, many of the conjoined NP

or ADJP pairs, or descriptive sentences about teen women and men, not only occur in a

male prime order, but also frequently include asymmetrical lexical pairs. The male-based

phrase or sentence thus outranks the female-based item both in order and in semantics

and/or morphology. For example, the "girls" are joined with (or pitted against) the

"guys," in Seventeen 1998's "a guy-girl combo" (p.152), YM 2000's "we asked the guys,

then the girls..." (p.57) and Teen 1998's "local guy and girl" (p.117). Again, while teen

women's Agency is denied ("girl"), teen men's age and maturity are respected ("guy"). In

some instances, asymmetry goes further: Seventeen speaks of "actors" before "actresses"

in 1998 and 2000 and Teen 1998 juxtaposes female and male, "This Spring's flicks are

majorly manly...but we dig chick flicks, too [Emphasis mine]" (p.52). Here, teen women


as derivations ("actresses") and as non-human, baby animal metaphors of deprecation

("chick") are coupled with the free autonomous root from which they are derived

("actor") or with an adult male human being ("manly"). In each instance there is double

damnation for teen women; teen men outrank teen women by being first and as

autonomous human beings.

The potential linguistic power of word order lies in its subtly freezing of lexical

choice. Constant production of frozen pairs of male-female items obscure female Agency

while simultaneously reinforcing masculine privilege. In other words, nothing in the

grammar prohibits combinations of "teen women and teen men" or "teen women and

guys," and yet these productions are both very rare and highly marked. Female-male pairs

take conscious labor and effort, yet male-female pairs are "easy" and roll off the tongue

with no effort. Put another way, a native speaker of English does not have to consciously

think to put male first, so much so that she may not even be aware that she does so3.

Nearly every single use of female first orders, however, takes active and cognizant work;

female first word orders seem to violate native speaker intuition (communicative

competence) so deeply that without concerted, conscious effort (perhaps analogous to

that of a non-native speaker of English) they do not occur. In sum, within teen magazines

3Hardman (1996) cites a students' work where sex choices (female or male) were reversed on a
questionnaire. Participants in the research project often ignored lexical choice completely and marked
female or male based on position rather than actually word choice. As a result of the masculine always
being first, the researcher found that a number of men actually marked themselves as female-sexed by
choosing masculine out of habit of first place.
I would also argue, (based on my intuition alone I do not have empirical evidence here), that
many feminist linguists are equally susceptible to the "ease" of masculine-first orders, as many of them
argue against hierarchy-enforcing language while using male-female ordered forms (Lakoff 1975 and
Cameron 1992 are two examples).
From my own experience, I too, after working in feminist linguistics for years and while writing
a thesis on the subject, fall subject to female last word orders. My first draft of this chapter contained 11
red marks from my chair where I had written about the woman after the man. This shows the power of
gender ranking to affect us outside of our human awareness, even in those who actively work against it.


(and the English language in general) it is natural and easy to deny Agency to women and

to grant Agency to men. On the same token, it takes actual conscientiousness and

attentiveness to speak of women as Agents.

Sentence and Discourse Patterns and Teen Women's Agency

Nominal morphological patterns and lexical choices establish teen women's basic

identity within teen magazines. Adjectival morphology ranks this identity, as well as the

other facets of teen women's culture. Word order patterns involving women and men

solidify the relationship of these identities to teen men. The syntax and discourse patterns

of the magazines, the very way that sentences are built and sentences arranged together

into larger units of discourse, however, complete the formulation of teen women's

identity. Here teen women become doers, experiences or recipients of the world; it is

here, in syntax and discourse, that teen women are paired with verbs and the combination

of teen woman type and teen woman verb type shape the final face of teen women within


Each syntactic and discourse category has ramifications for, and affects, teen

women's Agency. The most Agentive of all syntactic and discourse pattern are those with

teen women subjects, particularly teen women agents.

Agency and agency

Linguistic agency as a semantic role is the most Agentive of all subject types. In

this category, teen women are full actors and participate in the actions of the teen

magazine world. Examples of agent semantic roles include: "Andrea started..." (p.138)

and "you're using" (p.236) in Seventeen 1998; "Arial created..." (p.57) and "you answer"

(p.42) in YM 1998; "Kerry jokes..." (p.134) from Seventeen 2000, "girls do..." (p.91)


from YM'2000; "...says Natalie" (p. 117) in Teen 1998; "you're snowboarding" (p.65) in

Teen 2000; "you apply" (p. 109) from Teen 1998; "you question" (p.64) in YM 2000; "you

studied for" (p.38) in Teen 2000; and "you're directing" (p. 119) from Seventeen 2000. In

these sentences, the teen woman performs the action of the verb of the sentence. Of the

total number of discourse types, however, agency only totals 858 sentences, or 10.4% of

the total discourse. In breaking down utterances with teen women semantic subjects, of

all other semantic role subject types agency is the largest. However, all other semantic

roles and discourse types, in some way, deny Agency to teen women. In other words,

approximately 90% of teen magazine discourse is non-Agentive, and as such, deny, limit,

and/or condition the Agency of teen women.

Denial of Agency by Semantic Role

The second largest category of semantic roles for teen is experience. In the role

of experience, the teen woman perceives or endures the sensation of a verb of perception,

but she is not responsible for the action. Such verbs include verbs of feeling, emotion and

the senses. Examples of teen woman experiences include "if you like" (Teen 2000: 54);

"how you look" (YM 1998: 26), "girls really dig" (Seventeen 1998: 32), "...and you

enjoy..." (Teen 2000: 38), "a style you love" (Seventeen 2000: 54); "you feel" (all

magazines, multiple occurrences), "all the excuses I need" (YM 1998: 26), "you look..."

(Teen 1998: 36) and "some women experience" (Seventeen 2000: 132). In these

sentences, the teen woman does not initiate the action or feeling that she is sensing;

instead, she undergoes the experience and the experience takes her over. In this sense, she

is not an Agentive actor upon the world, but a feeler and a sensor without Agency over


those sensations. Experience sentences total 349 and make up 4.2% of teen magazine


The next category of semantic roles for teen women is the benefactive and

possessive roles. In these two roles, the teen woman again lacks Agency; she either

receives or owns an object or trait, respectively. The teen woman does not, however,

instigate the action that allows her to acquire these items. The sentence only references

the result of said action; the teen woman is the end of the action, not the means.

In benefactive sentences, teen women receive or become beneficiaries of a given object as

a result of an action performed by someone else. In many instances ofbenefactives in teen

magazines, the "someone else" is either the magazine or a teen man. As such, the

magazine or a teen man is the agent (the means) of the given process, as either could

easily be inserted in the sentence in a "from"-phrase in most of the benefactive sentences.

Two specific examples include, "How can a girl get your attention?" (YM 1998: 32) and

"Wai Yim Lam wins..." (Teen 1998: 115). In the first example, the "from" agent clause

would be "from you [a teen man]," while the second could read, "wins... from Teen

magazine." The man and Teen, respectively, are the agents of giving, while the teen

woman waits passively to receive her object. "[Y]ou're probably getting opinions"

(Seventeen 2000: 110), "you ended up with..." (Seventeen 2000: 68), "you get a

reaction" (YM 1998: 110) and "you got" (Teen 2000: 38) further illustrate this point.

Possessive sentences take benefactives one step further. In these sentences, the

focus on the teen woman is her ownership of X. For example, "you've got" and "you

have..." occur frequently in all magazines, while "Erin and Laura had..." (p. 238) from

Seventeen 2000 and "you own" (p. 118) in Teen 1998 are more specific illustrations. In


these sentences, teen women's identity is described by her consumption and possession,

and not by what she does. This is not an atypical "feminine" identity, as women are often

associated with the items they purchase and consume (Loeb 1994, Roberts 1998).

Furthermore, it is often the role of women to inactively "obtain" from fully Agentive men.

Possessives and benefactives sentences, or teen women as passive recipients and owners,

combine form approximately 1.7% of magazine discourse, totaling 137 utterances.

The next semantic roles in teen magazines for teen women are models and

volitionals. These units offer no Agency to teen women; instead, as the subject of modal

and volitional verb phrases, teen women are fully subject to the will of the interlocutor

issuing the statement. In other words, modal verbs express interlocutor will in some way,

either weak will, in models, or very strong will in volitionals. Modals and volitionals

typically offer authoritative suggestions; in the case of teen magazines, these suggestions

are from the magazine writers and editors to the teen woman. Again, any Agency in the

sentence comes from the magazine; the teen woman is somehow needy of the suggestion.

"You can count" (Teen 1998: 52), "you might find" (Seventeen 1998: 28), "she could

get..." (Seventeen 2000: 238), "you may think"(YM 2000: 36), "you would probably"

(YM 2000: 44), "you might find out" (YM 1998: 116), and "you may not want" (Teen

2000: 44) illustrate weaker modal suggestions, while "you must remember" (Seventeen

2000: 148), "every girl should have" (Teen 2000: 40), "you gotta realize" (YM 2000: 68),

"you have to decide" (Teen 2000: 40), "you must look" (Teen 1998: 91), "you need to go

back" (Seventeen 2000: 148), and "you should just stop" (YM 2000: 68) exemplify the

stronger willed volitionals. In each instance, the magazine pushes the passive teen reader

along, as she "can," "might," "may," "must," "needs to" and "should" do; the magazines


nudge her to complete their desired actions that she has not yet done. She has very little

Agency in models and volitionals; the magazines "suggest" and she is supposed to

capitulate. Modals and Volitionals, the covert "advice" of the magazines to readers

account, for 423, or 5.1% of the discourse of teen magazines. Teen women lose another

5% Agency in their own magazines as subjects of their own sentences.

The final category of semantic roles of teen women subjects is the process and

passive set. In these sentences, teen women have the least amount of Agency they can

while still being subjects of sentences. While in process sentences teen women experience

a change of state, in passive sentences they are completely and utterly acted upon as

patients/objects. "[T]urn[ing] 16" (YM 2000: 86), "if you become..." (Seventeen 2000:

151), and "one lady...will become" (YM 1998: 121) all demonstrate teen women

undergoing the process of state changing, either by "becoming" or "turning." The teen

women, again, have no power in or agency over the process; the process overtakes them.

Teen women "turn" and "become" with no effort or activity of their own.

Teen women lose Agency in a similar means through passive sentence

constructions. In these sentences, teen women occur in the subject slot of the sentence as

passive objects of action verbs. Examples include "females were put on earth" (Seventeen

2000: 84), "we girls are faced with..." (Seventeen 2000: 76), "girls are subtly trained"

(Seventeen 2000: 241), "models get glizted" (Teen 1998: 114), "...get you noticed" (YM

2000: 86), "... [we can] still be respected" (Seventeen 2000: 241), and "you're hurt by"

(Teen 1998: p.30). "Girls," "you," "we," "females," and "models" are not actually

performing the action of the verb, but instead are the ones who are done to or acted upon

by the verb agent. In many passive examples the agent is not present; in others, the agent


follows "by" in a prepositional phrase. Whether present or absent, however, the agent is

always implied, and the patient never participates in the action directed at her. This means

that the "females were put on earth" by someone else, "girls are subtly trained" by

someone else, "models are glitzed" by someone else, "get you noticed" by someone else

and "we are respected" by someone else. This is the most passive position (hence the

name of the verb type) for any subject, as it only implies a movement of an object from

"typical" object position following the verb to a subject slot prior to that verb. Teen

women have no Agency, but exist in their typical object position, in the 54 utterances, or

.7% of magazine sentences.

Denial of Agency by Negative Agency

Not all subject semantic roles for teen women are positive. In fact, 2.7%, or 225

sentences with teen woman subjects are either overtly negative or have a negative

semantic frame. In these instances, teen women are denied positive Agency, but are

granted Negative Agency when they are responsible for a problem. Examples occur in all

themes of the magazine, including "if you're constantly freaking out" (Teen 2000: 36),

"...girl will steal him away" (Teen 1998: 28), "you'll moan and groan" (Teen 2000: 38),

"if you don't please this guy" (YM 2000: 52), "Do you hide your true self from guys?"

(YM 2000: 11), "you pureed your heart" (YM 1998: 60), "if you lack..." (YM 2000: 40),

"the excuses you're making" (YM 1998: 26), "...why are you acting like you still wear

Osh Kosh...?" (YM 1998: 44). More than half all examples, however, occur in advice

columns, dating and relationships articles, makeup and beauty features or in quizzes all

of the feature articles that function to critique, evaluate and advise the teen reader. This is

specifically important with regards to teen woman's Agency. While teen magazines are


responsible for creating and negotiating teen women's identity within their pages, a major

part of the identity in advisement features is negative. As such, teen magazines use

negative agency as another discourse device to again presume that their reader is

somehow lacking, or to blame her for a given problem that they later "solve" through

advice discourse. She must be flawed, without Agency, in order to sell her solutions.

Denial of Agency through Emulation

As is apparent from the numbers in the data above, not all subjects of teen

magazine sentences are teen women. 6.5% of all sentences, or 535 total, have women

"star" subjects or women experts, professionals, celebrities and/or public figures. 487 of

these 535 are actually "women star" agents. It is crucial to differentiate between teen

women and teen and adult women celebrities. As first mentioned by Ostermann and

Keller-Cohen (1998), magazines often make use of "expert" and "professional"

physicians, psychiatrists, scientists, scholars, makeup artists, fashion designers and others

to solidify and support the advice offered by the magazine, while distancing such advice

from the magazine editors and writers in order to maintain a shared discourse community

with the reader. Such "stars" are not part of the teenage discourse community, but rather

are often admired and respected by the magazines and the readers as somehow being more

worldly or more knowledgeable than the "average" teen woman reader. In fact, in YM

2000 a series of stars guest-edited and/or wrote for the magazine. Teen women, the

readers particularly, do not have this same ability.

Magazines generally make use of "stars" in one of three ways. While the "experts"

and "stars" in this category are women, the uses of the women "stars" all function

differently to deny Agency to teen women. Magazines first use "stars," as "entertainers"


or "celebrities," as subject material for their magazine. Writers and editors report on the

activities, likes and needs of these celebrities, such as "she's*4 traveling" (Seventeen 1998:

132), "[she*] worked her way" (Seventeen 2000: 72), "Maria Patillo* plays..." (Teen

1998: 45), "Lila* sang..." (YM 1998: 115), "Jessica* made..." (YM 2000: 94) and

"Emily* finds..." (Teen 2000: 97). Readers are directed to participate in admiration of

stars, as Seventeen 1998 issues the cover directive to readers to "tell us the stars you love

and hate" (Cover). Magazines also interview the "stars" who grace their covers, either as

"models" or "entertainers," telling how model "Sasha* had adapted..." (Teen 1998: 8),

actor "Shiri Appleby* decided..." (Seventeen 2000: 168) and singer "Chilli* bears her

soul..." (YM 2000: 91). Some "star" subject discourse is pure gossip, telling how "Tori

Spelling* caused a big buzz" (Seventeen 2000: 182), "Natasha Lynne* heats up..." (YM

1998: 28) and how "Tiffani-Amber Theissen* ...rented" (Seventeen 2000: 182).

The world in which these stars "work," "travel" and "cause big buzzes" is not the

world of the teen woman reader. Instead, magazines present such discourse to be

emulated by the teen reader; teen readers should read, admire, aspire to and emulate the

actions of the woman stars within the pages. This is an area of Agency (and a speech

community) that is not realistically open to the teen woman reader the Agency of the

"star." Other magazine features support this position. Throughout the magazines such

stars are dressed in beautiful clothing and adorned with fancy makeup and professional

hairstyles that contrast with the "real life" pictures of teen readers in teen-related profile

articles. The teen readers, however, are given the opportunity to look like these coiffed

41 use the asterisk "*" to indicate that a person is a "star," since the asterisk symbol looks like a mini-star
and was one of the few symbols accepted in my database program.


and decorated stars, and obtain what they have, through contests or by product

placements under their profiles. For example, although later interviewed over three pages

on her personal and professional life, actor Katie Holmes* has a look that is obtainable by

teen readers, as Seventeen 1998 instructs "to get a look like Katie's*, try..." (p. 12);

although Sasha* the model's "studies as a junior at Beverly Hills High School are [her]

top priority," the reader can purchase her "eyes [products], lips [products], skin

[products], choker" and "dress" (Teen 1998: 8); in addition, while Teen 2000 features star

sisters Melissa Joan* and Emily* Hart in both a personal interview on sisterhood and in a

guest advice column on sister questions, the reader is encouraged to enter the contest on

the cover and "Win this Cover Look!" of their dresses Teen 2000 (Cover page). Teen

women have the Agency to read about these stars, evaluate and/or imitate these women,

but they lack the Agency that the star women possess. The closest that the teen woman

can come is the emulation of these women, such as the purchasing of products used by


The second use of stars, other than as magazine subjects, is as subtle magazine

advertisements. In many cases stars are overtly placed next to a directive for, or a picture

and price of, their clothes, hairstyle, makeup, skin products, movie, TV show or CD.

While stars as subjects are found most in entertainment articles, stars as advertisements

occur most frequently in the Makeup, Beauty and Fashion and Fitness sections of the

magazines. The star is usually pictured prominently and the language on the page

describes in detail the relationship of the star to the given advertised items, while listing

the price and or availability of each item. For example, in a fashion feature actor Christina

Ricci* is pictured in various outfits with language that reads "Christina* choose..." and


"Christina* put on her..." (Seventeen 2000: 50) while outlining each fashion and

accessory piece. In a fitness feature called "Sweat like the stars," four celebrities, Alison*,

Alex*, Essense* and Christine* are pictured exercising as "[they*] lunge and squat, kick

box, hip-hop dance and practice martial arts" (Seventeen 1998: 78). The article then

issues the directives "Do it like Essence*," "Do it like Alison*," and "Do it like

Christine*" above various exercises for the reader to try, as readers are directed to "follow

along these rising celebs for totally glam results." In Teen 1998 an article called "Runway

radiance" features the makeup of a spring fashion show. In this article nameless models

are pictured wearing the makeup of star designers; the article tells that designer "Nicole

Miller*... featured glitter-glazed lips, cheeks and eyes" and how designer "Vivienne Tam*

took a sublet approach to the sparkly skin look" (Teen 1998: 114). The products are

placed next to or above such expressions of star agency, while under such expressions,

Teen issues directives and prices, such as "Highlight your face with Prescriptives's

Monocream Sheer Color in Whisper (above), $20." Teen magazines selectively utilize

star agency in order to manipulate their teen woman readers. They use star agency as

advertising placements joined with directives and assume that, because teen women are

somehow needy or fundamentally must improve, the star power will boost the directive

power. Such negative assumption denies teen reader's Agency and exploits readers'

emulation of such stars with the very stars that readers admire.

The final way that women stars are used against teen women, or to deny teen

women's Agency, is by use of star experts, as referred to by Ostermann and Keller-Cohen

(1998). Teen magazines support their advice columns, health and well-being features, sex

and the body and relationship articles with expert opinions by professionals, physicians,


psychiatrists and counselors. They do this to solidify and support the advice offered by

the magazine while they keep themselves within the discourse community of the teen

reader (Ostermann and Keller-Cohen 1998). It is the expert who provides the advice, the

teen magazine simply relies the message. Examples usually involve direct quotes from the

star expert outlined by the magazine with verbs of speaking, as in "Dr. Jacobson* says..."

and "Dr. Jacobson* suggests..." (YM 1998: 36), "Dr. Jaliman* recommends" (YM 2000:

115), "Dr. McGrath* says..." (YM 1998: 60), "Hillyer* stresses..." (Teen 1998: 70),

"... cautions Dr. Debbie*" (YM 1998: 48) and "... says Paula Hillard, MD*" (Teen 2000:

42). The magazines actually issue the directives and volitionals that order or advise the

teen women readers the discourse devices that assume, again, that teen women are in

need of improvement or fixing. However, the magazines manipulate the placement of

experts' agency, to make it appear that the experts, and not the magazine, pass judgment

on the teen reader. Once again, however, this practice actually works against teen women

and their Agency, as the agency of the star professionals strengthens their necessity for


Denial of Agency by Sex

The two largest discourse categories in the magazines individually after teen

woman agency are male subjects (836) and male star subjects (559), respectively.5

Together, however, male subjects account for 16.9% of all total magazine discourse; of

5 In the original data set I separated male subjects from male star subjects. For the purpose of analysis,
however, I now combine the two subjects. I separate teen women and women stars because teen women
stars are fundamentally out of the discourse community of teen women they either serve as models,
mentors, experts or advertisers to be emulated. Both teen men and male entertainers, however, are also
outside of the teen woman's discourse community. Both serve as advisors and experts, as teen magazines
frequently use "average" teen men's opinions as baselines for advice for teen women readers. As such, in
this discussion section, I have combined the two into one discourse category.


that, 11.7% is male agency. Therefore, within the magazines, men and men stars' agent

semantic roles combined outnumber the 10.4% of magazine discourse that contains a non-

star teen woman agent. While teen woman subjects are more numerous than men and men

star subjects, men's agency outnumbers teen women's agency in teen women's magazines.

The effect of this pattern on teen women's Agency is obvious. Within their own

magazines, teen women do and act less than teen men and male stars and celebrities.

When examining teen women and teen men's agency together, however, more insidious

patterns emerge.

Both teen women and teen men have distinct spheres of agency. Teen women are

most frequently agents in Teen Focus News and Issues articles and in Makeup, Beauty and

Fashion features. In contrast, teen men's agency is somewhat low here; men's 83 in Teen

Focus News and Issues contrasts with teen women's 306 and men's 16 in Makeup,

Beauty and Fashion contrasts with women's 66. Men are most frequently agents in

Dating, Relationships and Guys articles, Quizzes, and Advice on Guys and Dating. In

these categories, women contrast with men at numbers of 54 to men's 126 in Dating,

Relationships and Guys articles, 94 to 13 in Quizzes, and 84 to 55 in Advice on Guys and

Dating. While in Relationship advice columns teen women are closer in agency to teen

men, in actual relationship features teen men's agency more than doubles that of teen

women. Furthermore, teen women as negative agents occur most in these three sections -

Relationships, Quizzes and Advice Guys and Dating.

This means double condemnation for teen women. They are agents when it

concerns only women, in teen women's news and in beautification of their personal

appearance. However, in spheres of teen culture that possibly involve teen men, such as


quizzes that evaluate teen women's behaviors toward men, dating advice columns and

features on relationships with men, teen women not only have less agency, but they have

more negative agency than men do. So they lose positive agency and gain negative

agency in spheres involving men. By specifically investigating agency and theme

correlations teen women's Agency conditions become clear; teen women are allowed

Agency in news directly pertaining to their lives (such as profiles of teen readers) and

when they beautify themselves for men, but in relationships and quizzes, positive Agency

is more a domain of teen men than teen women.

These conditioned spheres of agency in relationship articles and quizzes result in

two specific discourse tendencies for teen women's Agency within teen magazines. First,

teen women are more often objects to male subjects and are more often negative blamerr"

agents to men's positive agency. Specific examples illustrate such object-subject relations:

"he compliments you" (YM 1998: 32), "he calls you" (Seventeen 1998: 80), "he begs

you" and "he asks you" (Seventeen 1998: 114), "guys clue you in" (Teen 1998: 40),

"...girl he's taking" (Teen 1998: 38), "this one keeps you" (YM 2000: 62), "a guy to like

you" (Seventeen 2000: 144), "Is he flirting with you?" (Teen 2000: Cover Page), "...[he]

dishes out compliments, gifts and affection to make girls melt" (Teen 2000: 59), "...a guy

who will do anything to get a girl" (Seventeen 2000: 192), "...a stud invites you" (YM

1998: 44), "...a Scott Wolf look-alike ask you out" (Teen 2000: 85), and "why he wows

you" (YM 2000: 44). In a "Real Life Section Quiz" ironically meant to stress female

independence, entitled 'Is he healthy for you?," one reads "he gives you..." and "[he]

forbids you" (Teen 1998: 66). Teen 1998 also contributes with "How your date feels

about you" (p.38), "he'll think you're psycho" (p.40) and "he's afraid of allowing you too


much freedom" (p.70); YM 1998 has "What kind of girls do [men] dig?" (p.28), "he now

regards you in a more girlfriend-worthy light" (p.32), "it's flattering that he's into you"

(p. 157), "Six clues he's noticed you" (p. 32) and "He found the perfect way to show you

how special he thinks you are" (p. 38). In all of the examples, the teen woman is the

object, while a teen man is the subject. The last example above is negative in three ways;

there are double female objects and masculine subjects in both the dependent and

independent clauses and the ranking of "perfect." In quizzes, relationships and dating

advice columns women are "done to" and men are the "doers;" women are passive and

men are active the actors of the sentence. Object-subjects are already ranked in English,

given the singularity postulate of derivational thinking and the primacy and necessity of

English subject positions (Hardman 2002, Personal Communication). This promotes a

hierarchy in relationships and perpetuates the link between women and objecthood. "In

woman, there is...a conflict between her autonomous existence and her objective self...she

is taught to make herself object; [and]...therefore renounce her autonomy" (de Beauvoir

1989: 280).

In some examples, however, teen women do appear in the subject position along

with men when the teen women's clause is negated or overtly negative. In many cases

the sentences occur together to form larger units of discourse. For example, Teen 1998

instructs readers in a guy-likes article, "Don't stare at him constantly he'll think you're

psycho" (p.40), in guy talk section of YM 1998 guys were polled and their answers were

given to the question "What look-at-me-move do girls make that bugs you?" (p.32), Teen

2000 asks readers "Could your crush be sending signals you're not catching?" (p.58), and

in a relationship advice column YM 1998 reads "'s hard for him to deal with his


feelings, so he's keeping mute. Don't hassle him about it or you may weird him out more"

(p.36). Teen men do not take equal responsibility in the problems of the relationship, as

Seventeen 1998 prints on the cover "Is he really a jerk? Why you fight with your boyfriend

[emphasis mine]." In this example and the article, while both the teen woman and the man

participate in the relationship arguments, it is the teen woman who appears in the subject

position while the boyfriend exists as an oblique, an object of a preposition. Teen women

often experience both ends of a negative agency spectrum; while YM 2000 asks teen

women readers "Do you hide your true self from guys?," it questions teen readers later,

"Are you too quick to change your looks and likes to please a boy?" (p. 44). In addition,

teen woman's negative agency often results in contradictory identities for teen women

(contradictory advice is discussed in Ostermann and Keller-Cohen 1998); YM 2000 begins

a relationship article with "Think he's too popular, too stuck on sports, or too shy to

notice you? No way you just need the right sweetie strategy" and advises teen women

how to alter their behavior in order to get the attention of a teen man. It later adds

contradictorily, "Catching his eye isn't as tough as you think and there's definitely no

need to resort to an Energizer Bunny flirt-a-thon or actphony [emphasis mine]" (p.62).

In both instances, however, the one uniting element throughout the contradiction is the

negativity of the teen woman; she is either needy of "the right strategy" or directed not to

"resort to a... flirt-a-thon or act phony."

Denial of Agency by Male Hegemony

While the objecthood and negative agency of teen women is maintained

throughout much of the magazine discourse involving teen women and men, positive male

hegemony is also supported by most of the magazine discourse. In fact, one motif in the


magazines is male hegemony, as teen women's lives, relationships, behavior, clothes and

appearance are often judged by, or in response to, men's beliefs. Each magazine includes

a section on "Guys," expressing teen men's opinions. YM's is called "Guy Talk," in which

writers pose questions, such as "How can a girl get your attention?" (YM 1998: 32) to

teen men (note that the teen woman is in a benefactive role, attention is in a patient role,

and the teen man is the agent) and then post their answers. Teen has an advice column

"Ask a Guy," in which a teen man answers reader-invited problem questions and

"average" teen men are questioned things like "What do guys think when girls try to be

perfect for them?" (Teen 1998: 28). Teen also has a column entitled "Guy Likes, Guy

Gripes" where Teen writers take to "the streets" and question teen men regarding teen

women. Seventeen also has an advice column for those who would like to "Ask a Boy."

YM takes matters even further. They print a column called "Romance" whose sole

purpose is to highlight men's positive agency. Although both teen women and men take

part in romance together, YM publishes requested stories from readers only about "his

random acts of kindness," (YM 2000: 48) and "his amazing anniversary move" (YM

1998: 38). Men even judge teen women's clothing; YM2000 boasts "Dress to Thrill:

Guys Reveal The Looks They Love" (Cover page). Lastly, in YM, any articles deemed

"eye-catching" enough for the cover page stories, (and thus those that appear on the

cover), are starred in the table of contents; the only section in the table of contents to have

ALL articles starred and on the cover was the section entitled "Guys."

Not only are teen men's responses, judgments and opinions central to whole

articles within the magazines, but teen men are also central to the advice and information

within the articles. In other words, male hegemony structures teen magazine articles as


well as the content of the articles. Men's behavior is fundamentally taken as a given, and

positive or negative, this behavior is rarely judged by the magazines. Teen men are to be

taken as they are, and teen women, instead, are the ones who should change in response to

teen men. This does not mean that teen men are never presented negatively; in contrast,

they carry negative semantics at times. The difference between teen women and men

within the magazines is that whether teen men behave well or poorly, it is the

responsibility of the teen woman to adjust her life and actions to his. Furthermore, if she

misbehaves, the magazines scold her for it; if a teen man misbehaves, he is either acting

like a "typical male" or he is not a good person. Either way, he is not expected to correct

his wrong doings, and magazines even provide linguistic discourse features that act as

"excuses" for the negativity of the man. In sum, there exists a double standard for teen

women and men in positive and negative agency in teen magazines that again denies

positive Agency to teen women; teen women adjust their lives to teen men, and not vice


Examples clarify the process of male hegemony in teen magazines. In an

entertainment piece illustrating the spring's movies called "Spring Flick Fever," Teen 1998

outlines six pages worth of upcoming films. Of the six pages of films, four are devoted to

films with male stars, while on the bottom of the last two pages (note that women follow

men in order) Teen chooses three films featuring women actors. These three films

contrast with the seven with male stars, next to this text, "Sure this Spring is majorly

manly, but we like chick flicks, too, in cool girlie movies" (p.51). In addition, in the body

of text describing the seven films with prominent male actors, Teen writes the following

guidelines under the directives "See it With...;" "Got a babe [man] you can claw your


nails into during a fright-fest? One who'll dig it when you hide your eyes on his

shoulder?" under the scary movie, "...if your idea of exercise is pumping your mascara

wand, catch it with the jock you've been crushin' on" under the sports movie, "you're

favorite wild man" under the Tarzan film and "With the Wild West theme, the brotherly

bonding and probably lots of bullets flying, you may be tempted to go with your guy..."

under the Western action film. The magazine assumes that certain movies are "guy" films,

so teen readers must have men accompany them. Teen 2000 makes use of "guy"

presumptions as well; in order to issue teen readers directives in an article titled "Advice

you can't live without," Teen orders readers to "get to know your 'guy' side... and

change a tire, fix a faucet, set up the VCR. Ask your friend's (cute) older brother to show

you how" (p.65). In this example, the only the Agency the teen woman possesses is that

of asking a man for help, as cars, pluming and electronics are out of her domain of

Agency. A Teen 2000 article called "What's his Flirtsonality?" contains an enormous

amount of male hegemony. It begins by contrasting female negative and male positive

agency, asking "Could your crush be sending signals you're not sensing?" (p.58). The

article writers then provide a solution for the teen reader's negative problem, saying "Get

to know his 'flirt'sonality' (the personality he fronts to get girls), and get tuned into his

attempts" (p.58). Note that the teen woman's negative needs are those to be fixed, as she

must be responsible for getting to know him and for passively "getting tuned into" his

attempts. In addition, he is allowed to, and is never reprimanded in this quiz for "fronting"

or posing one personality to women in order to "get" them. While teen women are

scolded for "acting phony" (YM 2000: 62), the teen man is not only allowed to "front,"

but it is the teen reader's responsibility to decipher his fronting so that she can "flirt back,"


by not only learning his "flirtsonality," but by taking a quiz on it (p.59). The article next

contains the actual quiz in which the readers evaluate the teen man they are interested in;

in contrast to the three common categories that magazine quizzes place teen women into,

teen men get five: "the party animal, lover, hero, tough guy, serious one, confident"

(p.59). Unlike quizzes that evaluate teen women's behavior, teen men's final categories

are all Agentive. After placing the men into the five categories, magazines then tell teen

women how to "flirt back" their Agency follows the man's, of course. Finally, in the

advice on how to "flirt back," women often take a support, rather than Agentive role in

their own flirting; one column issued the directives "Show appreciation for his gestures..."

and "Thank him..." to the teen reader flirting back with "The Lover," while the teen

woman flirting with the "Party Animal" was directed to "Help him plan his next bash" and

"Join the clean-up crew and laugh at his jokes" (p.59).

In other articles, male hegemonic statements include "When he's got good

news...he'll tell you" (p.32) and "Pay him a compliment showing him your extreme level

of worship" from YM 1998 (p. 43); " he can show off the beauty (teen woman) on his

arm" in (Teen 1998: 66); and Teen 2000 readers are told in a makeup feature that they

should 'Pick a perfume to match his personality" (p.18). In an article entitled "The crush

list" Teen 2000 featured a number of adult men stars, including Fred Durst* and Mark

McGrath*. The magazine encouraged teen readers to write to these stars, under the

directive "Contact [PN]" next to the astrological sign, relationship status, compatibility

signs and answer to the question "he likes girls who..." for each man. The men, of course,

were not condemned for their lifestyles; each man was equally encouraged to be a "crush"

figure, even though Fred Durst* has an eight year old child and Mark McGrath* "lives


with his girlfriend, but rumor has it, he's still playing the field" and "likes girls who pump

his ego" (p.53). No mention is made of the fact that magazines present adult men with

children close in age to the readers as figures of attraction, nor is the unfaithful and sexist

behavior of Mark McGrath* admonished or reprimanded. Quite the contrary, actually,

exists; teens are directed to contact them. On final example of male hegemony and the

double standard for positive and negative agency occurred in a Teen 2000 advice column.

A reader wrote in about how her boyfriend had read her diary and she was upset about it.

The answer given by the magazine to this teen woman was that she should not have been

so "obsessed" with him. The teen man who violated her trust and invaded her personal

space was barely mentioned, yet she was scolded (p.44). Unfortunately, within the pages

of teen magazines, a subtle male dominance permeates articles. This hegemony not only

lessens the positive Agency of teen readers in magazines for them, but it also exacerbates

their negative Agency and responsibility.

One last realization of male hegemony in teen magazines is the denial of men's

negative agency. This only occurs 9 times total in the magazine and accounts for .1% of

the discourse patterns. Nonetheless, it is still a device that denies teen women's positive

Agency and teen men's negative Agency. Furthermore, when considered with the other

linguistic devices that weaken women and strengthen men in teen discourse, it is a small

part of an overridingly large force. For example, in an article advising a teen woman who

had been abused by an adult man, the magazine read "your teacher's unwanted attention

makes you feel...," "Any gestures that make you," "...if his obsession is coupled with..."

and "...if something creeps you out...or makes you nervous..." (Seventeen 2000: 146).

In each instance, the male teachers' negative Agency was nominalized into instrumental