The Cosmo Cuffs: Breaking Free of Cosmo Magazine
By Laura Mooney Arts Editor
Nearly every young girl has gone through it. That day in your life when suddenly the J14 and Tiger Beat magazines were not enough and you found yourself perusing the magazine aisle at the local supermarket for something a little more “grown up,” and chances are, like most girls, you chose an issue of Cosmopolitan magazine. The flashy headlines claiming to teach you all you need to know about men, how to dress to get attention, how to apply the perfect eyeliner; the magazine’s job was to suck you in, and, for most of us, it worked.
Since the 1960s, Cosmo has labelled itself as the magazine for young career women and has featured articles meant to help these women along in the more difficult aspects of life, while maintaining a sense of fun about it. Today however, one only needs to glance at the cover of any given issue to see where Cosmo’s main focus has shifted for today’s blossoming women. With the majority of the cover pushing articles such as “75 Hot Sex Moves to Please Him” or “Love Tricks to Make Him Want You More,” it has become clear that the young women should have only one thing on their minds; their partners. While arguably maintaining a healthy and happy relationship is usually high on any 20-something’s to-do list, the way in which Cosmo presents their so called “magazine for women” is borderline deplorable. Simply glancing through an issue one can see that very rarely is the woman’s happiness or pleasure ever mentioned, instead the focus is on pleasing your man with no regard to your feelings in the situation. By using tactics such as having the “inside scoop” on men through their male correspondents, or writing articles that describe in great detail the ideal woman, the magazine has, for years, successfully used fear tactics to bully women into becoming these “Cosmo girls.”
Now, the skeptical reader may disagree with this by stating that not all girls would suddenly drop who they were just to please a man, but the sad fact is that it is happening more than we would like to admit. The magazine is most popular with girls who are only 18 years old, meaning that they are pushing their message on young women, the majority of whom have not even experienced a long-term relationship yet.The magazine is essentially dictating how young women should not only be acting, but also looking and speaking when men are around, all in the pursuit of getting one’s attention and then keeping it once they are in a relationship.
Cosmo has been trying to break away from this prescriptive formula that it has been pushing with the introduction of long running articles based around job searching and friendships, but, unfortunately, those articles rarely ever make it to the front page. Cosmo has been a target for feminist groups for years now with little avail; the only way to change the system is with the consumer. The day that I stopped reading Cosmo was the most liberating day I ever experienced in my early 20s. Of course I did not realize it at the time, but putting down the magazine made me more conscious of who I was than Cosmo ever could. I stopped worrying if my clothing was sexy enough, I stopped trying to perfect my body for a boyfriend, and I definitely stopped obsessing over sex tips. In a way, cancelling my subscription to Cosmo was like taking off a pair of cuffs that had bound me since I was 15. It was freeing, it was liberating, and it was a step in the right direction.