Walmart recently announced that it would be removing Cosmopolitan from the checkout shelves in 5,000 of their locations.
The National Center on Sexual Exploitation supported the controversial decision and Walmart released a statement in response to the backlash, stating, “As with all products in our store, we continue to evaluate our assortment and make changes.” Walmart claims their reasoning for removing the magazine was business related. The NCOSE, an organization whose mission is to expose and eliminate “the links between all forms of sexual exploitation,” exclaimed victory over the recent events.
Indeed, this was a victory for many reasons.
First, removing these periodicals from the checkout shelves is a clear step in the right direction. As everyone knows, these magazines present professional models on each cover. But even models are apparently not quite beautiful enough, as they are often (always?) photoshopped to create an unattainable and purely artificial standard for what constitutes “real” beauty in our society. The truth is that the appeal of a beautiful woman on the cover grabs people’s attention, which in turn sells magazines and returns a profit. This should not be a surprise to anyone.
However, the negative effects of magazines like Cosmopolitan go beyond a woman’s insecurities about body image. Although very few young girls or women can compare favorably with the photoshopped perfection on these magazine covers, the real concerns arise from the damage these magazine covers inflict on young women and our society at large. Indeed, the main issue is that these easily-accessible magazines encourage young girls and women to pursue hypersexualized lifestyles through articles that try and sell the premise that multiple, unrestrained and unconventional sexual encounters is not degrading, but empowering.
Magazines like Cosmopolitan are easily accessible, not only in stores, but on social media platforms such as Snapchat and Twitter. With one search on Google, you can read Cosmopolitan articles such as “Your Hands-On Guide to Solo Sex,” “What It’s Really Like to Be in an Open Relationship,” and “8 Reasons Why You Should Rethink Your Stance on Cheating,” which is an article explaining why as a society we “shouldn’t be so hard on infidelity.”
According to these articles, promiscuity and cheating on your significant other is a preferred and acceptable lifestyle. The culture that is being created within these magazines is grooming women into thinking that the world is centered around their own pleasure and satisfaction.
Reading articles such as, “Why Aren’t Millennials Getting Married?” from Huffington Post, should shock us. One sentence from the article states, “I see people who want to have sex, connect and relate in a loving way with others, but cannot offer anyone their commitment when they themselves are still in flux.”
Why is our society discouraging commitment? This viewpoint seems to trivialize commitment as an inconvenience while trying to justify multiple self-absorbed sexual interactions with others.
Another example from the same article is when Allison Sher suggests that, “To millennials, choosing someone prematurely will detract from our ability to step into our full potential.” This statement begs the question: why is reaching one’s “full potential” something that can only be achieved alone? You being in a relationship does not hinder your ability to grow, and having promiscuous sex does not help you to reach your full potential. Commitment with the right person is what allows you to grow truly: the advancement from self-indulgence to ultimately meeting the needs of someone other than yourself is the milestone.
Women should not be encouraged to sympathize with their cheating partners because it promotes the idea that they are the problem and are not good enough because they are not “fulfilling their partner’s needs.” This type of advice does not emancipate women; rather, it injects a dose of guilt and shame into an already painful situation. Instead, women are encouraged to pursue casual sex, and these magazine articles present their advice in a casual manner, as if very little was actually at stake.
Alison Sher does correctly admit that we tend to “form chemical attachments with people before we know the type of person we’d truly be compatible with.” Yes, Alison, we do.
Having casual sex with multiple partners tends to confuse one’s sexual desires, but women are still encouraged to have casual sex and these magazine articles make it appear to be a casual topic. Sex, along with relationships, are not casual topics that can be explained in articles such as “10 You-On-Top Sex Secrets Guys Won’t Tell You.” Since when does promiscuity equate to empowering? Or sexually aggressive behavior equates to a demand for respect?
Of course, defenders of magazines like Cosmopolitan would dispute the above characterizations and instead claim that these articles help emancipate women. Melissa Blake of CNN claims that Walmart’s decision to remove Cosmopolitan from the checkout shelves is a step backward for women, “Cosmo has done an amazing job of changing with the times and truly reflecting where women are today. Putting the magazine farther back in the store is like saying women should hide, that they shouldn’t be seen.”
Magazines like Cosmopolitan are not changing with the times; they are the ones who are changing the times. The societal acceptance of promiscuity and the desire for women to be empowered by having more casual sex is not an advancement– it is a detriment.
For men, society used to celebrate a young man’s transition from sowing his “wild oats,” to finally growing up and becoming a real man, a real husband, and a real father. Such growth is still recognized in segments of our society, but that is not likely the case at magazines like Cosmopolitan. Such growth is likely viewed as far too domesticated and pedestrian for any “Cosmo girl.” Instead, Cosmopolitan glorifies the female adaptation of the midnight “booty call” as the pinnacle of personal growth. We are told that the more promiscuous a woman becomes, the more respected and desired she is by society by masking it with words such as “advancement” or “empowerment.”
This thirst for physical and instant gratification has poisoned the minds of young girls and women all across the world. Walmart’s decision to remove these toxic magazines from the reach of those who are susceptible to these pornographic ideas shows the beginning of push-back from those who are tired of this hypersexualized society. The issue is not the tan, slim women on the front cover. The issue is that magazines like Cosmopolitan are not advancing or improving the standard for women. The negative effects that these magazines have on women is apparent as we see the continuation of the normalization of one-night stands. The so-called movement for the “empowerment of women” given to us by these magazines, is merely a movement of the degradation of women.