Gender, Modernity, and the Popular Press in Inter-War Britain

By Adrian Bingham | Go to book overview

5
The Gendered Gaze: Fashion,
the Female Body, and Sexual Morality

From the turn of the twentieth century, the gradual acceptance of display advertising, and the evolution of techniques to reproduce photographs rapidly and cheaply, transformed the appearance of the daily newspaper. During the inter-war years, popular papers developed a recognizably modern layout as part of their drive to increase circulation. Columns of unbroken text in one typeface were replaced by a more fragmented and visually attractive format in which the reader was guided by prominent headlines and 'cross-headers', and articles were broken up by photographs, cartoons, and illustrated advertisements. The number of words per issue was reduced as editors filled space with appealing and striking photos and sketches. Northcliffe told his staff in June 1920 that he was 'more and more coming to the conclusion that the public judge the paper by the pictures, and the best paper can be marred by bad pictures';1 by the 1930s the layout of the popular papers contrasted dramatically with that of the 'minority press.2 This illustrated press put the female body under scrutiny as never before. Women were not necessarily pictured more often or more prominently than men: news photography inevitably reproduced the numerical gender disparity in public life when displaying the 'people in the headlines', and men as well as women featured in advertisements and cartoons. Nevertheless, women were portrayed in a very different way from men. Women were repeatedly put on view not for what they had achieved but for what they were wearing or for how they looked; the reader was invited

1 Bodleian Library, Oxford, MS Eng. hist. d. 303–5, Northcliffe Bulletins, 1 June 1920.

2 These developments are described in detail in S. Morison, The English Newspaper 1622–1932
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1932), ch. xvi; D. LeMahieu, A Culture for Democracy: Mass
Communication and the Cultivated Mind in Britain between the Wars
(Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1988),
253–73; and M. Conboy, The Press and Popular Culture (London: Sage, 2002), ch. 6.

-145-

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Gender, Modernity, and the Popular Press in Inter-War Britain
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgements vi
  • Contents vii
  • List of Figures viii
  • Introduction 1
  • 1: The Evolution of the Popular Daily Press 22
  • 2: The Discourse of Modernity 47
  • 3: Traditional Duties 84
  • 4: Reshaping the Political Sphere 111
  • 5: The Gendered Gaze 145
  • 6: Patriotism and Citizenship 182
  • 7: Masculinity 216
  • Conclusions 244
  • Appendix 249
  • Bibliography 252
  • Index 267
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