Saturday, January 27, 2007


Having a popular magazine in your hands is like holding an intricate blue print to a culture of a given nation. Leaf through a woman’s magazine and it would be like peeking into the underwear drawer of the women of a nation—reading through the articles, feasting on the artwork and gobbling up the advertisements is said to be intently staring into the “windows to the lives of the reading and buying public.”[1] For a women’s magazine, these “windows” are a plethora of signs, meanings and symbols of what women are like; what they want to be; what they are expected to be; what their lives are leading to; what they aspire; what they work for; what they buy; and what epitome they desire to embody. There are however, deep currents into culture or more specifically popular culture and consequently, the construction of femininity. While arguments on the construction of popular culture and femininity (among others) posit a Marxist view that popular culture is a ruling-class dominated act to subjugate the masses[2], Gramsci views the construction of popular culture as created by the hegemony factor. That is, while it recognizes the undeniable dominant role of the ruling class, there is also the evidence of negotiation, consideration and accommodation of “subjugated groups” thus producing an ever-changing and dynamic popular culture. Based on the statement on power, it can be said that politics is a deep determining current in the construction of culture. Without a doubt, however, politics cannot be without the recognition of economics as also a deep current in the construction of popular culture. Therefore, there are three fundamental ideas essential to consider at this point: 1. A woman’s magazine is hegemonic. While the magazine shows a construction of femininity, it may be seen as “an arena for struggle for domination or resistance (of a ruling class and subjugated groups), through it, there is a constant battle for expressing the dominant ideology as well as for questioning or challenging it.” [3] It can also be added that it is an arena for creation thereby infusing and introducing a new aspect to displace the old. 2. A woman’s magazine is consumer oriented and motivated. First and foremost, a magazine is a business, a money-making venture. A magazine can be classified as either a consumer or a specialized business or trade title. Within the consumer classification, hundreds of publishing categories and niches exist. Consumer magazines appeal directly to an audience of readers targeted by virtue of where they live, their interest in a specific topic, or their demographics—age, sex, profession, income level, race, religion, or nationality.[4] 3. Readers love the escapist appeal that magazines offer. According to Soledad Reyes, magazines “dish out articles (and glamorous ads, scintillating pictures of beauty) that try to satisfy an apparently insatiable appetite for thrills and escape.”[5] “There are countless women who are desperately in need of an emotional crutch, firm support for a sagging morale, bland assurances that with the right information, they will be transformed into ravishing females . . . and most of all that certainty that for a few hours each week, they will be transported to a never-never world inhabited by larger-than-life characters.”[6] Therefore, a fascinating yet true story about an adored icon is more than a respite for women readers rather such story comes as vivid and vicarious to them. What more could readers ask for? Second, a wide clientele is more than raring to buy and buy and buy such magazines. I cite Reyes’ recognition of the powerful women consumers: “ . . . there is a huge market for bored housewives (not saddled with housework), harried office girls, ordinary clerks, pimply schoolgirls, old maids, pseudo-sophisticated college girls, overworked teachers and other kinds of women—from seven to seventy.” Much can be said about the evolution of women’s magazines vis-à-vis the construction of Filipina femininities—but particular attention is given to a most current emergence of what I would like to call a “Woman-Icon” sub-genre. In the aspect of print media, particularly glossy women magazines, there is the recognition that women magazines usually have a defined readership. For example, “Working Mom” would be intended primarily for mothers who work or stay at home; “Cosmopolitan” would most suit working single women, or trendy women-yuppies. “Candy” or other teen magazines would suit such “teeny bop” audience. While not totally limiting, each sub-genre of women magazines represents a construct of femininity—a range of femininities. For a “Woman-Icon” magazine, the intended readers seem to transcend roles and ages. Rather, a magazine like this would have just one enticing denominator for all sorts of women--- a simple admiration, curiosity or even, an adoration of THE woman-icon. II. THE KRIS AQUINO MAGAZINE – THE FIRST PHILIPPINE WOMAN-ICON MAGAZINE Recently, February of this year, the “K” or the “Kris Aquino” magazine has joined the illustrious roster of the Philippine glossy magazines phenomenon. It is in the list of women glossy “must-reads”. What seems particularly striking in this magazine is that it is reminiscent of precedent Western women-icon magazines like “O” for Oprah Winfrey and Martha Stewart’s magazine. The creation of women-icon magazines in the scale of Oprah Winfrey and Martha Stewart is indeed grand. The women in these magazines have reached “guru” or “goddess-like” statures that most probably been a result of a long-standing career in media and thus have produced a faithful set of audience. In the same manner, they continue to serve the palates of the media with equal doses of controversial and laudable deeds. For Kris, what was deemed as entertainment for the tabloids were her past relationships: “where the public was witness to everything from start to finish . . . wearing her heart on her sleeve may have made Kris more popular, but it also left her exposed and vulnerable.”[7] What seems to be common among the likes of Oprah Winfrey and Martha Stewart vis-à-vis Kris Aquino is that they have had been media and advertising staples before they embarked on print media.[8] They can command a following, a lifestyle. To have a magazine named after or inspired or directed by someone implies recognition that such person has a representational or iconic power in its cultural context. At this point, in terms of its publication success, “K” is a bold move as it is on its first issue. The particular femininity constructed in K is profoundly rooted in Kris Aquino.. Simply put, SHE IS the Filipino femininity being marketed, infused, and propagated in popular culture and into the dynamic construction of femininity. ; The magazine clearly screams “She’s THE woman!”; “She’s THE Filipina.”; “She’s WHAT YOU’VE GOT TO BE!” Therefore, leafing through the pages would reveal so much of the ethereal lifestyle that she has: What is the story of her life now (as a single mother, a girl friend, and more recently, a wife); what she thinks; what she feels; what she does; what she reads; what she listens to; what she learned; and then descending to the “real deal”—the transparent consumerist aspect: what she eats, wears, drinks, puts on her face, her make up; where she eats; and eventually the inevitable information: what she buys; what she recommends readers buy; where to buy; how much; and what to buy to look like her. At this point, it is likewise worthy to mention that the publisher of the magazine is the ever-powerful ABS-CBN Publishing Inc., the biggest media network in the country—and feeding of the Kris Aquino hype is truly an enticing profit-gaining venture. The magazine relatively seems to put up with the “kikay” theme/image. Since it seems to be quite a new popular word—riding along with this fashionable lingo seems conveniently above coincidental since Kris embodies being “Kikay”. (Father Leo English, CSSR in his dictionary(1986) classified it as a noun and its meanings are)Coquette; a flirt (but not in a very bad sense). Its synonyms with various degrees of meaning are ‘landi’, ‘alembong’, and ‘haliparot’. This writer’s opinion is that ‘haliparot’ and ‘landi’ are pejorative, and that ‘kiri’ and ‘alembong’ are less so. In fact, there is a Filipino play titled ‘Kiri’ and the movie that made the actress Lita Gutierrez famous was ‘Alembong’. ‘Kiri’ may have evolved into ‘kiritsay’, and eventually into the shorter ‘kikay’, which is commonly used today. Mga Halimbawa (examples): Kikay si Ana. (Ana is kikay.) (Possible nuances of this statement could be: Ana dresses up a lot; she loves to preen herself and put on makeup and accessories; she is quite conscious about her appearance.)[9] With this definition, much of this could imply a highly consumerist attitude because of the “preening” and the need to put on make up and accessorize. At the same time, a Kikay means a personality that puts a priority on the self when it comes to spending. Thus, being “Kikay” may connote two possible meanings on opposite sides or good and bad connotations: taking-care-of-the-self vs. capricious VANITY. Either which way, both are undeniably consumer-oriented and still conform to the standards of beauty set by the patriarchal ideology. However, while the presented meaning for “Kikay” is limited to this, the magazine presents and perhaps seeks to expand the meaning. The femininity being presented here seems to spring off from this initial apparent triviality or frivolity, but the construction of femininity does not end there despite the bleak or provoking portrayal of women commoditized through cultural icons such as Kris Aquino.. This paper aims to render the inner workings of the construction of femininity by the Kris Aquino and the “Kikay” theme. It will also discuss how the magazine embodies the hegemonic nature of challenging the denotation and the connotation of the “kikay” with added meanings and dimensions solely because of what this magazine and “woman-icon” introduces t hrough its contents. In other words, I don’t believe that this magazine is purely a “kikay”-limited magazine. I intend to find an expanded version what a “kikay” is said to be through Kris Aquino. III. EXPANDING THE HORIZONS OF A KIKAYm (without the “ “) A closer look into the magazine’s intended readers initially spells out a specific femininity. Kris, as executive editor of the magazine says this: “K isn’t just Kris. It’s a close collaboration among people who Aren’t afraid to admit they are kikay (In this item, this phrase “aren’t afraid to admit they are kikay indeed confirms the negative connotation to the word kikay) truly appreciate clothes and beauty products are fascinated with celebrity lifestyles indulge in good food love great movies and music (above everything else) dream big and work very hard to make what one is passionate about a reality. A reference to the order of characteristics mentioned regarding the readership could be seen as items ranked in order—letter f being the most important. Letters b, d, e correspond to consumerist values and lifestyle while letter c corresponds to that escape into the world of a woman larger than life. Finally, letters a and f describe a lifestyle and a personality. All these characteristics go beyond women roles. This magazine did not mention career women, mothers, teen-agers or most-importantly, age. With Kris around, who herself, admits being a certified kikay, immediately and successfully debunks conventions of thirty-something stereotypes of the old maid; or the unfashionable workaholic mom or the supposed-to-be mature middle aged woman. Therefore, the age range of readers for this magazine could span from perhaps teens to 90 year-old-women, married, single, single mom, separated or in-between—considering Kris’ own situation of having had her own share of life labels. Perhaps unknowingly, the magazine has released an undercurrent that seeks to seep into the consciousness of readers and thereby becomes a hegemonic arena vis-à-vis the negative notion of the “kikay”. Citing the “Behind the Scenes” page, the photo article entitled “Consummate Professional” has this catch line, “Yes, she’s kikay and can splurge like crazy but when it comes to work, there’s no one as hardworking and dedicated as Kris Aquino.” As earlier mentioned, while there is the current negative nuance to the word “kikay”, Kris balancing the vanity and consumerist sins with values such as industry and dedication. It sends the message that being a “kikay” can be a guilt-free label as long as one works hard and embodies redeeming values. Women may then cite Kris as an example or even, a veritable excuse. Nonetheless, though this may be seen as a negative point, Kris crusades readers to “dream big and work very hard to make what one is passionate about a reality.”[10] The magazine provides a worthy challenge to women to be kikay and yet have other characteristics that balance-off the idiosyncratic tendencies of a kikay: 1. The Kikay is a prudent and experienced woman in relationships. She reads and empowers herself with information that makes her rock the Patriarchal ideology. Interestingly enough, the magazine provides for a whole section on relating ( pages 42-48). Articles such as how to get the man you want without giving yourself (Flirt Alert, page 42), how to get away or manage bad dates (page 44), how to smartly deal with “date disasters” with a man (page 45), and an article entitled “Kris and tell” where Kris shares suggestions on how to handle a first date. Undeniably, there is still the adherence and acceptance of the dominant ideology on relationships where women are sought after by men. However, subtle infusions of flirting and how to be a step ahead in a date mentions of the power and choice of a woman to handle such typically men-lead situations. Perhaps, the best stand-out in this hegemonic negotiation is the set of books recommended for women to read. This list by far is very empowering. The article is entitled “Relationship reads: Four books to help you PREVENT and heal a broken heart.” (page 90-91) Commentaries on the four books prove to inform, enlighten and equip women in building and sustaining an empowered position in a typical romantic relationship. For example, the list recommends a book entitled “Why Men Love Bitches—From Doormat to Dreamgirl, A Woman’s Guide to Holding Her Own in a Relationship” is reviewed as a book that serves as a “cure all for all women who usually play the role of slaves and martyrs in a relationship. For a fairly conservative society such as ours, this book throws new light on traditional relationship rules- this book reminds every woman that “a little distance combined with the appearance of self-control makes him nervous that he may be losing you.” A feisty attitude has always been a guy magnet. Every guy needs a partner—not a mother, a babysitter, or a maid.” Again, this magazine seeks to challenge existing functions of women and questions the position of a woman in a romantic relationship with a man. The statement “partner” suggests an equal position rather than previous roles of women—mother, babysitter or maid of a man. Other articles on women empowerment in a patriarchal world are: a. 8 Simple Rules for Surviving Break ups: Okay so you broke up. Don’t sit there and feel sorry for yourself. Here’s how to deal (pages 72-72) b. Lessons I learned: Kris shares important life truths as she looks back on the year just past. She models her own self-determinism through self-realization. 2. The Kikay can challenge the boundaries of love and be accepted for it. In the pictorial article “How she loves” page 52, readers are transported to a sad-sob-single-mother story who in the end, still gets a her own happily-ever-after with the man of her dreams and beloved son as her side. Again, as mentioned earlier, Kris’ life story has always been a most sought-after story by the public. The article spells out a most romantic setting along with the grandiose gifts of love from her man (a matching Tiffany necklace and bracelet from James). However, in an attempt to be as progressive in women-thought, the sub-title introduces a paradigm shift into loving the self most: “Kris gets candid about her life, her loves and how she learned to cherish the most important person of all- herself.” There are, undoubtedly implications to this. Indeed while loving the self can imply attitudes such as having the self as a source of affirmation rather from others (for example: “At first, the affirmation was external . . . but realizing, perhaps, that external affirmation could only get her so far, Kris turned her focus inward. . . she had a more personal relationship with God and Mama Mary.”[11]), there is undeniably the material aspect into loving the self which is why the products featured are for the “kikay” pampered look. In addition, the usual “boundary of love” is the age-gap issue that Kris has with her current partner, James Yap. Yap, being a popular basketball player, merits an attention from the public eye. He is however, eleven years junior to Kris. Kris is known to have had a marriage and a string of relationships with other men. Dating or marrying a younger man has always been frowned upon. But then again, the article works it way against this notion by including a quote James says to imply that her past and their difference does not matter: “The past is immaterial. “Sa akin kasi, wala na akong pakialam sa past niya. Past is past.”[12] This material could serve two notions: First, that Kris can still find a “happy ever after” regardless of her past, and second, that this statement appeals to the reading public’s acceptance of her as well. 3. The Kikay works and is mobile. . . How do you put up with a Kikay image? How do you pamper yourself? The magazine assumes and presents the need to go to work to buy what is needed to look kikay. A whole section covering career topics are given: “Get that dream job: Dazzle them with your winning style and land the job you’ve always wanted” page 60; “Does your boss hate you?: The difference between staying stuck and moving up starts with making a good impression” page 62 4. Regardless of what age she is, she looks great. She seems to look at least five years younger than her real age. She’s beautiful and fashionable. She can choose to be fashionable and give herself a make-over It is hard to tell that Kris is thirty-five now. She exudes youthfulness and transcends what thirty-something women (mothers or single women) would do and be. The Bench-body print ads (back of front cover and first page) show a progressive Kris wearing a provocative dress and underwear. Kris seems to have ushered extended youthfulness or agelessness as against what is supposed to be a “has-been” age. Women in their late twenties and thirties are given this novel idea that what is presupposed by the dominant ideology that women in their late 20s and 30s are “old”. With Kris being a staple icon of youthfulness despite her aging, she sets a precedent for many aging women to look great and pay attention to their physical appearance. She therefore literally makes kikay-ness applicable to older women. This look however does come with a price. That is, consumerist patterns also extend to the older women market. Now, there is a standard that older women have to look good because other older women get to achieve a younger look. Consequently, products are being marketed in the magazine to make women look youthful. A stand-out characteristic of these ads and advertorials that is distinct from the other women popular magazines (like Cosmopolitan, Metro, Mega) is that “K” magazine incorporates offers a wide range of products that would cater not only to A OR B market but most importantly, it includes products for the C market. “K” magazine incorporates the advertising appeal of cheaper magazines (like Mod Filipina, Women’s Journal, Woman). a. Heart Collections of clothes and accessories are featured. The colors are in vibrant pink. Pink is a color attached to teens, but now, because Kris wears them, women readers feel pink accessories in heart-inspired shapes can be acceptable even for older women. (page 10-14) On page 14, the price range for a variety of products go as low as P64.75 to as high as P2,499.00. b. Beauty Products- From sun screen products to make up, products featured also have a range of affordable and expensive prices. For example there are whole page ads for the high-end Maybeline products and also for the more affordable San-San make-up products. c. Clothes and a make-over- “Make your Momma proud”, page 26. In this article, clothes and make-up do more than just adhere to a fashionable look but it does more to women. It gives (Juris) “a boost confidence to make her feel good about herself. Juris had reportedly been nursing a broken heart, and Kris wanted tshow the ex-boyfriend what he was missing out on”[13] d. Having a make-over puts across the realization on maximizing one’s distinct look: “We have to give her a make over . . . yung tipong magugulat lahat on how much more beautiful she can be.”[14] 6. Fair Skin is IN . . . Being slim and fit is IN Aside from the fact that Kris is very fair, in this issue alone, whole page ads for Kissa (a whitening lotion), Sensa White, advertorials on products for fair skin (pages 22-23). Much more so that Kris personally endorses these products. Perhaps the reference to the fair-skinned beauty stems from the women magazines that date as far back as the Spanish period. In addition, Kris, a mother at 35 is slim. The magazine reinforces this aspect with articles on diet (Busting Diet Myths, page 65; Puson Gone, page 67). Having such a svelte figure may do two things to women of her age range: 1) It may inspire women to look like her or 2) It may pressure women to look like her since it seems that the standard of beauty has been raised. 7. The Kikay still concedes to the usual areas of life: home, food, health and family. The magazine still contains women magazine staples that basically concern the home. Articles like “Bed and beyond” and “Clean it up” feature information that would ease up a working woman’s domestic chores. With the presence of such articles, the traditional role of women still is encouraged. 8. The Kikay still tries to harmonize within expected roles—she still concedes but is smarter now. “What women want: Deep inside, we all want a grand fairytale moment, as grand as his love . . . See even if we’ve conquered the world, we still want them to conquer our hearts”: there is still the clear indication of a subservience to existing femininities in a patriarchal world thus maintaining a seemingly harmonious co-existence with the dominant ideology. But a level of assertion comes in as well: as the article lists twenty-five ways on what grand expressions of love are preferred by women, the challenge comes with how men get to know what to do. The article suggests: “So just mark this page and casually leave the magazine open on your living room table when he drops by to visit. Maybe he’ll get the hint.” It is sad to note that women are commodified to suit the male gaze. In addition, there is the fragmentation of the body wherein body parts of women are sectored to heighten the commercialization of products that adhere to separate parts of standards of beauty (skin, lips, sun protection). While commercialization connotes this requirement—hopefully the magazine still attempts to communicate a wholistic sense of inner and outer beauty. Again, the capitalization and evolution of beauty has made it such that every marketable and usable product is created. IV. You don’t only have to be a Kikay; you can be a Kikay with more oomph!: A Conclusion At times, change, novel ideas or avant-garde lifestyles are met with some level of resistance. However, for the icon-inspired K magazine, a mainstreaming into Filipino consciousness seems truly welcomed. Out of curiosity, I bought the second and third issues of this magazine. The responses to the magazine by many of its readers were positive. This could be due to the fact that while the femininity for physical beauty and corresponding consumerist behaviors are being constructed here is the “kikay” theme, the attempt to expand the concept of kikay (which could be the Western equivalent of a “dumb blonde”), presupposes other aspects such as being learned and experienced in life—work, education, reading, self-determinism, self-realization, self-awareness. Because the magazine projects a femininity that espouses “progressive” ideas, the heightening the aspects of work, love beyond boundaries, relationship survival, educating oneself about the world (reading) while bearing the same concern for women staple areas: fashion and style and the home extend the Kikay connotations. At the end of this study, there are two concluding statements that can be gleaned from this paper: 1) K magazine is a catalytic force in the progressive construction of an empowered femininity as noted and culled from the analysis of the construction of femininity being portrayed. A “Kikay” can be more; she can be exactly what Kris is, witty, wise, beautiful, street-smart, and “educated” about life. 2) However, while the seeming “empoweredness” of this femininity is being portrayed, there are still shady views on Kris’ femininity: a. The highly consumerist stance that the magazine portrays may either be a pressure or a motivation for the readers- simply put, it costs a lot of money to look kikay. b. The standards of beauty may adhere to two questions: Is feminine beauty being constructed here solely an adherence to patriarchal standards? or Has the patriarchal standard on beauty been owned by women already? Perhaps, a feminine vanity? It is also worthy to note how two sectors become seemingly at the advantage as a product of this construction of this empowered kikay femininity: 1) The women, because they are offered a wider scope of opportunities in terms of work, roles and functions in society, the attitude of loving the self; getting what you want; being happy are all there. 2) The capitalists and producers of the lifestyle being marketed in the magazine--- producers of kikay products. The consumerist attitude powers the construction of this femininity. To achieve the kikay look and lifestyle means a heightened level of consumerism. While the premise on the attitude of consumerism prevails, we do not forget how the magazine fuels the arena for a negotiation—as a hegemonic tool, novel constructions of femininity are thus being successfully featured thus far. A sort of blurring between beauty as adherence to the male gaze versus kikay vanity becomes all the more apparent. Much more so, the connotation of the word itself is challenged and expanded. While before, the standard of beauty considers highly of what men think, beautifying oneself does not anymore concede to this age-old idea. Rather, it does mean a love for the self, a respect for the self or to an extreme, a vanity. However, though indeed the magazine possesses both antagonistic and redeeming characteristics vis-à-vis its construction of femininity, there is the undeniable and prevailing presence of the active audience. According to Barker, while it is established that the “production of popular music, film, television and fashion (in other words, media in all its forms) may be in the hands of transnational capitalist multi-media corporations, TEXTS ARE ALTERED AND MANAGED AT THE LEVEL OF CONSUMPTION BY PEOPLE WHO ARE ACTIVE PRODUCERS OF MEANING.” [15] Therefore, readers have the privilege of choosing, filtering, rejecting, inculcating and altering to their own interpretations. Thus, the readers, in their active participation, are given a voice to participate in the dynamism and volatile on-going construction of the femininity from “K” magazine. V. Bibliography Corpuz, Lynda. I love Kris, I hate Kris: Understandinhg Kris Aquino as a Filipino Celebrity. Manila: Manila Times. T Encanto, Georgina Reyes. Constructing the Filipina: A History of Women’s Magazines” . The University of the Philippines Press. Manila. Mathews, Julia. Deconstructing the Visual The Diasporic Hybridity of Asian and Eurasian Female Images. K Magazine.Vol 1. No. 1. Quezon City: ABS-CBN Publishing. February 2006 K Magazine.Vol 1. No. 2. Quezon City: ABS-CBN Publishing. June 2006 Paz, Leo. Some slang words. April 20, 2005. [1] Daly, C.P., Henry, P., & Ryder, E. (1996). The Magazine Publishing Industry. MA: Allyn and Bacon. [2] Encanto, Georgina Reyes. Constructing the Filipina: A History of Women’s Magazines” . The University of the Philippines Press. Manila. 2002 p. 7 [3] ibid. p 11 [4] Daly [5] ibid p 89 [6] ibid p 89 [7] ibid page 55 [8] Kris is everywhere. She seems to be everywhere in all the glorious forms of media: as a talk show host, product endorser, TV soap actress, and TV—talk shows (as a host and as an issue), movies, soap opera, TV advertisements; Print media—bill boards, posters. Currently, this litany of Kris’ media visibility is added with her new magazine: “K” (Kris Aquino Magazine). [9]Paz, Leo. Some slang words. April 20, 2005. [10] K Magazine p 8 [11] ibid page 53 [12] ibid 57 [13] ibid, page 27 [14] ibid [15] Baldwin

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