I’ll be the first to admit that I often get in the mood for “girly” things. Romance novels are fun when you don’t have time to hunt down real erotica, which usually has better writing and is actually intellectually stimulating while also turning you on. Then there are “chick-flicks,” a genre which claims a few genuinely good movies….Such as Love and Other Drugs, for example – a brutally honest and thought-provoking film while still being a romantic comedy (light on the comedic side though). I have taken a liking to Sex and the City during parts of my life, and while it does kind of harp on relationships and treating being single like the plague to the point of nausea, it does address topics about a woman’s success in today’s world and how that affects friendships, romantic relationships, and life in general. More importantly, it’s about friendship between women and how that grows and changes throughout the years. All of these things are nice when your estrogen level is up particularly high and you just feel like enjoying entertainment that doesn’t require too much thought.
But, for the life of me, I cannot understand how publications like Cosmopolitan are still in print. Here is the basic rundown on Cosmopolitan: it is geared towards women in their early-ish twenties who may be single, dating, or in a relationship. Its major categories are: Sex/Love, Hair/Beauty, Celebs/Style, Food/Cocktails, and Secrets/Advice.
So, obvious flaw number one: there is no focus or even much mention of any political or social issues (real social issues, not like is your bf going to dump you). If that’s not what kind of magazine they want to be – fine. We all need a break from those things from time to time, but the writing itself doesn’t even possess the slightest tone or indication that social and political factors are present in a woman’s life. Everything is sex and men and sometimes friends. Magazines like Vogue have a much higher amount of respect from someone like me because they are about Fashion – something that can be a career, a hobby, and an art form. But even the fashion and beauty tips portion of Cosmo seems to come from the same motivation – Men. Everything about this “women’s” magazine is about MEN.
Before I really dive into my critique, a major thing to address real quick: your magazine is for women….some women are gay. A lot of women are bi. But I saw absolutely NO indication that Cosmo’s writers are aware of this. So lesbians are just left out of the equation completely, and bi-sexual women are half left out. That’s a pretty big part of your demographic to just completely alienate. Plus its rude and tacky.
Sex: Okay, I love sex and am not shy discussing it. I was glad Cosmo didn’t seem shy discussing it either….but really they kind of are. Because if you read into their sex tips and positions they are oh so very….dull. For as much as Cosmo talks about sex you would assume its readers have it often, but anyone who does “it” on the reg will have most likely done all of their listed positions more than once….not even per advice of the magazine, but just due to the common flow of sexual drive and positioning of bodies when you start doing different things in the bedroom. Also, talk of sex toys is highly neglected, which is weird because it seems like the type of thing Cosmo could have a whole section for. So you think, well maybe their readers are more conservative and don’t want to be put off by anything too sexually adventurous …but if too much risqué sex talk weirds them out, how are they stomaching the blatant point being made that a woman’s life is supposed to revolve around men? I guess that’s fine, just don’t get crazy with sex.
There is a regular column called the “Body Language Decoder” which is just what it sounds like, but rather than really diving into the science of body language or how these theories affect our work relationships and friendships, its entire purpose is to help you decode what a man is thinking. The entire time I’m reading it I can’t help but shout, “Why not just ASK him what the hell he is thinking!?” I know all too well how some guys don’t like to discuss their feelings freely, but guess what….you have this thing called common sense. Get to know the guy, you learn more as you go, and eventually you learn when and how to really push your guy (be it boyfriend or platonic friend) into talking about what he needs to talk about, and you also learn when to LET IT GO and accept that the issue at hand is not something he needs or wants to discuss with you. Get over it and get back to your life.
There is also an entire article about guys’ bedding choices and how this can be yet another way you can “decode” him. Yes, it literally says “decode his bed linens” and “intel about his inner workings.” !?
There is an article entitled “7 Things You Don’t Know About Your Man.” Most of these things are so obvious I can’t believe they actually felt the need to write them down, much less in the context of it being something we didn’t already know, such as; some guys don’t know how to build things and repair cars, men can get self-conscious about their looks, men sometimes like chick-flicks, and men masturbate….more than you think. How do you know, Cosmo, how much I think a man masturbates? My boyfriend and I actually talk about it pretty frequently and we’re on par with our special alone time. I’m not saying every relationship will be like that, but I didn’t think it was a secret to any woman that every guy masturbates frequently whether he is having sex with a woman regularly or not. The other things this article addresses are not only common sense, but also things that I can’t imagine any woman really needing to dwell on enough to write or read about it….such as the fact that your guy notices other women in your life are hot and may end up fantasizing about them in some way even if they would never make an actual move on them. This is like saying your boyfriend has eyes and a sex drive – you didn’t know, but now you do. Thanks to us. Subscribe to Cosmo. Another thing listed is that men talk about their exes to their guy friends. No shit. That’s so weird. I never bring up my exes with my girl friends….I am just too in love with my current boyfriend to even remember ever being with anyone else. (sarcasm).
There is also a list of things you should not discuss with a guy, some examples: farts, bowel movements, your zits, your self-esteem issues, and your period. I believe women should keep it classy, as should men. So no I don’t feel the need to loudly announce every detail of every shit I take, but sometimes I’m gonna bring it up….what if I had diarrhea and was worried about getting sick? I can’t mention that? And as for periods, a lot of guys don’t want to hear great detail about them, but sometimes they’re going to anyway and they need to get over it. Same with child birth. They don’t have to experience it firsthand, so the least they can do is let us share our horror stories and complaints from time to time.
If you venture into the Secrets/Advice section you will find Career, Money, and Life advice articles. Unfortunately, most of these are also related to men or being a bitch to other women. There is actually an article called “Why Being a Bitch Can Be a Good Thing.” Normally I wouldn’t pass judgement on a title like that without actually reading it, but I take issue with the fact that it is featured amongst a plethora of man-obsessed articles. The combination of those two mentalities is what is keeping women from uniting together and treating each other with the respect we expect men to treat us with.
Another huge issue with Cosmo is just plain poor journalism. There is a writeup entitled “6 Weird Things That Can Affect Your Relationship.” One of the things listed here is the effect oral contraceptives can have on your relationship. Cosmo says, “Researchers concluded that those not on the pill tend to judge potential boyfriends by more superficial qualities – like how good looking and good in bed they are – causing those relationships to end quicker.” But if you actually read the study they’re referring to it is making the obvious conclusion that a woman who isn’t on the pill is experiencing a different pattern in their hormone levels and this naturally will affect what kind of men they may be attracted to. But it also says, “We know neither whether these laboratory measured effects are sufficient to exert real world consequences, nor what these consequences would be.” Cosmo seemed to present the information under the conclusion that you are more likely to have a successful, long-term relationship if you are on the pill when you meet your mate. However, what the research more accurately showed was that a woman was thinking less with her libido when on the pill so she is more likely to be drawn to the paternal instincts in her mate as opposed to his sexual abilities. It said women who were on the pill reported being less sexually satisfied, but more satisfied with the paternal abilities of their mate and therefore less likely to leave him despite her personal dissatisfaction and lack of attraction towards him. And Cosmo wants to portray this as a good thing? I felt like they were almost saying, “Make sure you’re on the pill so you can be sure to land a real long-term relationship!” The fine print being that while on the pill you are simply more likely to pick a good baby daddy and have awful sex.
The Food/Cocktails section was the worst of them all. Surely in this one area we can just focus on ourselves? No, even here it is primarily about seducing men with food: “Sexy Late Night Meals,” “Romantic Summer Meals,” and “How to Make Him Crave You Like Crazy.” ALL of the other articles are about cooking for parties. Wouldn’t a magazine like this want to take advantage of their single demographic and feature one, maybe even two (if they wanted to be really daring) recipes that are good for a woman eating alone? Finding those recipes actually can be tricky sometimes and I for one would love to read ideas for cooking for yourself. Women do eat alone sometimes, you know. But I guess, according to the thinking of Cosmo, when we eat alone we’re likely too depressed to cook, so we just order chinese takeout.
As I said in the beginning, I am all about mindless entertainment from time to time, and talking about men and beauty secrets doesn’t automatically make you an anti-feminist dumb ass. But as one of the best-selling women’s magazines in print today, Cosmopolitan has to take some responsibility for the fact that a great deal of men still view women as “lesser than” counterparts who they don’t take seriously or respect. If a man picks up one of “our” magazines and sees that it is actually all about them, it is only natural for them to conclude that we really must not be so equal if we don’t have other things to take interest in besides their well-being and their interest in us. Their complete lack of regard for BALANCE is pretty disgusting. Gush about the “mystery” of men all day long if you want, but take a fucking break every so often to think about something else….your self, your job, your goals, what other women are experiencing, the world, social issues, politics, current events, literature, art, music, education….anything else. THIS is why a woman’s job in changing our male society’s opinion of us is far from over. I don’t think its even about reprogramming men anymore. Now I think it’s a matter of reminding women themselves that they are people, too. We are equal to men in the sense that we are human beings with our own desires and interests. Maybe once more women realize this and learn to live their lives for something other than men, our male companions on this earth will take notice and give us genuine respect because we deserve it, not because we just demanded it. We can change things on paper all day long, but until the mentality changes, our daily lives don’t change.
Obviously, I haven’t read every single issue of Cosmo, so there could very well be the occasional issue in its history that contradicts these flaws, but throwing in some variety every once in a while just to be more politically correct and to satisfy all of us feminists doesn’t count, in my opinion. I’d rather you actually be a smarter, more well-rounded publication, don’t just pretend like you are sometimes.
If you’d like to read literature geared towards women that doesn’t completely suck and make your brain bleed, check out Jezebel.com and Bitch Magazine. I’m sure there are more, but those are a good place to start.