Banish Belly Bulge and Chisel Your BIs: A Semiotic Analysis of Gender Representations in Fitness Magazine Advertising

Lauren A. Teal, Western Michigan University


This study examined gender ideologies in the advertising of two popular fitness magazines, Shape and Men’s Fitness, using Kress and van Leeuwen’s visual semiotic theory (1996). The aim of this study was to determine how fitness magazine advertising participates in the construction of gender identities, and to identify what rhetorical and visual strategies are commonly employed.

Through an examination of the way gender identities are constructed by fitness magazines my research has concluded that advertising within both magazines promotes idealized body types and stereotypical gender identities for men and women. In Shape’s advertisements, women are wives and homemakers; they are also highly concerned with achieving an idealized physical appearance. Advertisements in Men’s Fitness idealize men with large, muscular bodies who treat women as sexual objects.