uses and gratifications

Screen Shot 2015-09-07 at 3.55.10 PMWhen I look at Bitch, I know immediately that this magazine is not for everyone. The edgy (and to some, offensive) name already targets a specific set of individuals: young females just seriously discovering feminism. And yet, the “feminist” label is still too broad, still too faceless a mass to really live up to the uses and gratifications theory applied to magazines in our textbook: “this approach encourages users to focus not on the medium, but on the user of that medium.” Focusing on how the consumer uses Bitch rather than analyzing what Bitch is in the abstract (is a magazine really a magazine without a reader, I think not) makes it easier to see how the magazine works. The theory proposes that consumers use media to meet five needs: cognitive, affective, personal, social, and tension release.

A reader of Bitch is looking for specific cultural commentary that they would not be able to get in a mainstream media source. This is her cognitive use for buying the publication—she wants to seek out a certain perspective and deepen her own understanding . I picked up Bitch because I wanted to know more about what other women think about what goes on around them. In that cute little cognitive paragraph in our text book, if Bitch was an example, it would say: “Bitch looks at the media and its products through a lens that takes into account the historical and cultural representation of gender in pop culture.”

For me the affective-ness of the magazine is reason I have a copy. The cover aesthetic—a bright blue punch—that is what lured me in. Maybe I could have sought out feminist critiques online or simply browsed Bitch Media’s website to click on the different news stories. But I didn’t think of that, not once, when I was holding the matte cover magazine in my hand. I wanted to read this conversation in this format specifically, without the noise of the Internet. Like our “Seven Books in Seven Days” reading—I didn’t miss my device, and it didn’t miss me.

From a personal standpoint, the magazine made me feel as though I was absorbing important information as I read. I discovered the history of the dildo and contemplated the lack of mentally ill black women on TV. I felt that I was self-improving because I was learning a lot in one place and learning information that I probably wouldn’t have stumbled across otherwise. My sense of self-betterment lends itself to social use and gratification. By reading Bitch, maybe I have more to contribute to a dialog on the legacy of women in Blues music. If I keep reading, I’ll understand more and better about my situation as a woman in this crazy world. If the information wasn’t appealing enough, Bitch is also nonprofit and engages in all sorts of activism. “Bitch. It’s a noun. It’s a verb. It’s a magazine. It’s a feminist media organization.” What a killer way to drop the mic on your About page.

Even as I am learning and feeling pretty great about my expanding knowledge, I am also escaping into a world where the perspective is skewed in my favor. That’s tension release. The textbook offers tabloids as an example of escape, but they tend to stress me out. I would much rather escape into a room with Kate Tempest and Wendy Red Star, National Indian Leg Wresting Champion and talk to them about what they are doing. So that’s where I went. And given these uses and gratifications, I would definitely go back.

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