If one were looking for signs of postfeminism 1 in the 1980s, the new practical and domestic magazines for women would not seem the most fruitful cultural texts to scrutinize. Indeed it is indicative of the cultural hierarchies and priorities in play for intellectual commentators that while the so-called style and youth magazines (for example, The Face, i-D, Just Seventeen) and the slicker women’s magazines (Cosmopolitan, Elle and Marie Claire) feature in critical discussion of postfeminism (usually yoked to postmodernism) 2 there has been a veritable silence on the subject of the boom which has, in fact, most shaken the magazine market. In this article it is this slighted culture in its unlikely relation to postfeminist developments, and this boom, that I wish to investigate.
In the old camp, People’s Friend, My Weekly, Woman’s Weekly, Woman’s Own, and Woman’s Realm; in the new camp, Chat, Best, Bella, Hello! and the latest recruits, Me and Take A Break. 3 Since the 1950s a large number of women’s magazines have been launched 4 but until 1985, just two of them, enjoying only brief lifespans, were weeklies. 5 For many in the industry the demise of the mass weeklies was inevitable. To survive they would have to target editorial at a focused band of readers, in the way of the monthlies’ narrow casting (Advertising Age’s Focus, May 1984). After all, circulation figures indicated that while total sales of all women’s magazines had declined, the weeklies had been worst hit, with sales falling by almost half (from approximately 9.3 million in 1958 to 5.6 million in 1985). 6
First the tabloid magazine Chat from the publishers of TV