Leaf through any women's magazine. Only look at the advertisements where a man and a woman are presented (there are few.) The result? You might think you were reading a harlequin novel, no more, no less. On the menu tonight: seduction, sensuality, tenderness, and...submission.
At least, this is the conclusion Marie-France Cyr comes to. She has done her PhD thesis in Communications, specifically on the representations of the couple in advertisements featured in women's mags (1993.) In 2003, she repeated the exercise, and she wants to do so again in 2013. For La Presse, she has accepted to present the fruits of her observations so far.
"The Harlequin Couple has never been stronger," she says. "It's incredible - there has been a rise in the 'traditional model,' where visually the woman is subordinate to the man."
In her initial research, Marie-France Cyr analyzed 352 advertisements in four magazines: Châtelain, Clin d'Oeil, Elle Québec and Femme Plus. It's important to note that scenes with couples only account for 5% of all advertisements. In these, Cyr observed three models: the 'traditional' model (where the woman is visually subordinate, either under him, in the background, tilting her head); the 'reversed' model (where the woman is dominating, through either maternal, seductive or dominatrix characteristics), and the 'egalitarian' model which has no power games.
Cyr flipped through about ten magazines for us in 2010, and analyzed 18 images. "I have no right to generalize, but the trend is incredible," she says. In 1993, the Harlequin couple (the 'traditional' model,) was present in 48% of the advertisements. In 2003, it had quietly imposed itself in 54% of the images. In 2010, it was completely dominating at 78%. The 'reversed' model, with the subordinate man, passed from 32% to 17%, while the 'egalitarian' model is in a constant downward spiral - from 20% in 1993 to 6% today.
"It's very worrying," Cyr concludes. "I thought that there would be a reduction of this 'traditional' model, with the pressure from feminist groups, but I'm seeing that, visually, there's a rise in the representations where the women is subordinate."
Original french source, translated by yours truly!
The source also has some other similar articles linked at the bottom of this one, if anyone reads french!