Cosmo conundrum

Sarah Ashlock

I love print. I love the scent of old books, and I like to flip through at least three magazines during my time in an airplane.

I’m an English major, and I suppose, predisposed to love the concept of tangible words.

Of course, technology is changing the game.

Newspapers are failing and the publishing industry is almost entirely online.

Magazines aren’t far behind, constantly switching to an entirely online media source (I miss you on the magazine shelf, Paste Magazine).

Despite the dismal conditions, one magazine seems to be resilient: Cosmopolitan.

My bewilderment has little to do with the magazine’s mantra (sex, sex, sex).

What I find the most perplexing is how a magazine for me is all about him and can still be a present entity in the bookstore, grocery store, doctor’s offices and mailboxes.

I’ll leave the other maladies for another time (such as the article “Does Your Hair Make You Look Fat?” or the incessant use of the word “bitch” on the cover to describe a powerful woman) and focus solely on the guy/girl confusion in the magazine.

Tom Wolfe’s character Charlotte poignantly shared my puzzlement in “I am Charlotte Simmons:” “The price on the cover was $3.99, and that wasn’t for a year’s subscription. That was for this one issue…There were headlines all over the cover. The biggest one said, ‘99 SEXY WAYS TO TOUCH HIM’…She opened it to the contents pages…a list a mile long of directors, managers, assistant managers, associate publishers…it was all quite unbelievable.”

I scrolled through Cosmopolitan’s online gallery of past covers and found (shock!) Cosmopolitan’s issues are virtually interchangeable, with most of the headlines similar and the content always recycled.

Here are real-life Cosmo headlines from issues from 2003-2011: What to Do When Your Guy Gets All Quiet, The Touch That Calms Him During a Fight, His #1 Sex Wish, 8 Things Guys Notice About You Instantly, 50 Things Guys Wish You Knew, His #1 Sex Fantasy, How to Get the Look Guys Crave, The Ego Stroke that Keeps Guys Faithful, Guy Bonus Section: Pages and Pages of Our Favorite Subject—Men, and The Trick that Gets Any Man to Call.

Alas, it’s not just the headlines that seem to encompass a magazine created for him; it’s the celebrities that don the cover, too.

Sexed up little sex kittens. Now forgive me if I am mistaken, but on men’s magazines (Maxim and occasionally GQ), aren’t there scantily-clad women on the cover, who, according to the editors, are always wearing stilletos?

Since Cosmopolitan is blatantly heterosexual, why is a full-body shot of an objectified woman on the cover?

Does this interest its readers or ought we try to imitate her?

This concept of “pleasing” him and dressing for him and speaking about topics he would be interested in is disheartening, to say the least.

In the world of fading magazines, what sort of representation of women in the media does this portray?

Why isn’t a successful magazine made for me talking about “pleasing” me and dressing for me and speaking about topics I would be interested in?

More importantly, why are we buying into it?

[email protected]