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Cosmo Magazine May 1, 2007

Posted by Melissa in bitch, bodies, careerwomen, competing feminism, controversy, cosmo, general considerations, Girl Power, Helen Gurley Brown.

I had a conversation with a friend recently when I let slip my secret obsession with Cosmo Magazine. Over the next 30 minutes she berated me for buying the “trashy” magazine and wasting my money on nothing but useless information (mostly advice about the body, sex, and relationships for the career woman). On looking back at the conversation I can’t help but feel bothered by such harsh criticism of a magazine I feel deserves much more credit than it currently receives…. Started over 100 years ago as a family magazine, the publishers revamped the image in the 1960’s, under new editor in chief Helen Gurley Brown, and began to exclusively focus on women. I see the mere existence of the magazine as a flagship of the impact the woman’s movement has had of women in popular culture. At the time of its restructuring, there was nothing more upfront about womanhood and pride in our sex than Cosmo.
So what if the magazine focuses on sex? Men’s magazines have been around for much longer, and yet the same criticisms made about Cosmo are not made about Maxim. I would expect men to complain about the explicit nature of the magazine, but to hear the patronizing comments come from women is really confusing. I was wondering how other people felt about the magazine. I know it has its problems (it may be too “fluffy” at times) but I think overall it is a good read. Thoughts?


1. rachaelg - May 1, 2007

I’m not an avid reader of any magazine, but I have to admit that I do enjoy Cosmo when I see it around. I think that for a lot of people, especially progressive female intellectuals like women here, reading magazines like Cosmo is a sort of guilty pleasure. Why the guilt? I attribute it to all the hubub over the standards of beauty these magazines help perpetuate. The super-thin models with big boobs and air-brushed features that no real woman (not even the models themselves) can attain outside of such a photograph. Even though we know it’s impossible and what went into its production, we still want to look like that. And then we feel bad about wanting to look like that because we’re smart, talented, and progressive women who know better.
I haven’t heard as much bashing of the written content as I have about the imagery, but the main argument is that most of the articles/quizzes/anecdotes are about how to find/keep/please a man and rarely about how to find sexual pleasure for the woman, a problem that many women face. I know that there are other, more legitimate articles in Cosmo, but let’s face it, people tend to go for the sex articles first.

2. kelly - May 2, 2007

I agree with Rachel.
While I admit to reading Cosmo once in a while, I usually prefer not to as one of its basic messages (whether we realize it or not) seems to be that every woman needs a man and we should never be happy with our bodies.
I have no problem with a magazine that focuses on sex, what I do have a problem with though, is a women’s magazine that focuses on how to please a man sexually. Coupled with Cosmo’s articles on how to find and attract men, the magazine seems to tell us that our lives should be spent chasing men and then learning how to keep them around by pleasing them sexually.
Furthermore, the pages of Cosmo are always littered with exercise routines and diet ideas. Sure, sometimes they’ll try to include articles on how to love your body, but how is anyone supposed to love their body when they are bombarded with articles on how to make it better or perfect?
Taken altogether, Cosmo presents us with the idea that the woman we should work towards becoming is one who is a lovely size zero and can drive a man crazy in bed.
Of course, Cosmo is not the only magazine guilty of these things. Almost every women’s magazine includes any or all of these types of articles. Cosmo, however, has seemingly built its reputation on such articles and promotes them blatantly and unashamedly without really acknowledging or trying to remedy the problems and issues involved. As a supposed women’s magazine, one would hope that Cosmo would try harder to address the biases of society that inform these articles, rather than just capitalizing off of them.

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