Cosmo Still Spouting Out Male-Centered, Stereotypical Information and Advice to the Detriment of its Readers

Cosmo has made several strides toward releasing women from male-developed constraints on their sex lives, but many of the popular magazine’s articles continue to take steps backward in the struggle for women’s liberation.

After examining the recent Cosmopolitan issues from March and April 2011, I found that nearly 15% of the articles were focused on getting a man, pleasing a man, doing things for a man, looking sexy for a man, understanding men’s thoughts about women, and solving relationship issues which were mostly caused by the man. The magazine remains frustratingly male-centered despite its efforts to denounce old stereotypes, and many articles excuse bad male behavior by saying that men are “hardwired” to think or act in a certain manner. The articles discussed below provide a taste of the sexist material that Cosmo continues to pour into the minds of its female readers.

One article in the April 2011 issue is especially worth noting. This article is entitled “What Men Hate for You to Wear to Bed.” The helpful article suggests that women should wear nightclothes which will excite their men, regardless of how much more comfortable or happy they might be in their own frumpy nightshirt. The primary disturbingly sexist assumption lying behind this article is the idea that women must always be “sexy” or alluring to the opposite sex, even when they are preparing to drift off to dreamland.

Given the history of the magazine’s content, it is certainly not surprising that Cosmo features articles which encourage its female readers to constantly mold themselves into mouthwatering, male-attracting, eye candy, but it is alarming that this message continues to be so pervasive throughout the magazine. From the ads displaying women in “sexy” poses and the enormous number of beauty articles geared toward looking “hot” or “sexy” for men, to articles like “What Men Hate for You to Wear to Bed,” which actually dictate which things a woman should or shouldn’t wear, say, or do, to turn a man on, this magazine seriously de-values its female readers.

Would a men’s magazine ever post an article entitled, “What Women Hate for You to Wear to Bed?” I doubt it. Men’s magazines are much more concerned with men’s goals, hobbies, careers, and entertainment, than they are with female preferences for male behavior. Cosmopolitan, like many women’s magazines, overemphasizes the importance of male opinion and preferences regarding the characteristics, appearances, and behaviors of their females. This magazine’s unhealthy support of female preoccupation with males and male interests is certainly not helping women to build the kind of self-confidence and self esteem that is essential for their success and happiness.
An another article, this one from the March 2011 issue, asks “Should You Be Gross Around Him?” This article tells women to be careful about what uncouth behaviors they choose to reveal to their men. The article asserts that “men usually find only some behaviours offensive,” but that they find these behaviours offensive because they think of women “as the feminine, sweeter sex on a physical and sexual level.” The artcile should have acknowledged that these sexist perceptions of women and femininity are inaccurate and harmful to women because they suggests that women should hide most of the natural functions of their bodies in order to conform to male-developed notions of women as “the sweeter sex.” Instead, the article essentially justifies the fact that men are grossed out by a woman’s natural functions. Men are allowed to openly pass gas, but, as this article suggests, women must first see whether their male significant other would be disgusted out by such an “unfeminine” act. This article is maddeningly supportive of sexist ideals which assert that women must be ladylike or “feminine” to be valued not only in love relationships, but also to be valued in society at large.

Both the April 2011 and March 2011 issues, like every edition of Cosmo, contain the standard “Cosmo Astrologer” section which contains the ever-present “Turning Him On” portion. This section tells women “how to tantalize your[their] man based on his sign.” Horoscopes are generally inaccurate, vague, and innane, but these attempts at predicting male desires and “the move he’s craving” are especially ridiculous. Apparently, women should be thinking about the future of their man’s sexual desires before the man even realizes what his desires are.

Another helpful March 2011 article describes “Where to Meet Your Future Boyfriend.” Here we find a variety of places friendly to man-catching. Among these places are book signings of books like “Living Loaded by Playboy columnist Dan Dunn,” at which eager man-cathers should “wait for a cute guy to pick a spot, then take the seat next to him.” Yes, women, attend book signings for books about drinking and the escapades of adult film stars, that you have no interest in, which are written by Playboy authors, just so you can meet a man. Warning: do not be surprised if the man you catch at such an event is an alcoholic sexist who thinks women are walking-talking pleasure toys.

My favorite part of this article is a little section entitled “You Didn’t Hook Him Because…,” which tells women why their sexy makeup, hot hair, and man-pleasing personality didn’t mold a stranger in to man-putty in their hands. Of course, all of these reasons tell women that they did something wrong, not that the guy they were flirting could have been at fault.

One big problem with Cosmo, in addition to the male-centered articles, the focus on sexiness, and the sexist assumptions about men and women discussed above, is that many of the articles tend to excuse male behavior, failing to ever really call men a**holes, even when they deserve it. What is interesting is that the magazine is much more likely to call other women b*tches. This encourages cattiness and fighting among women, which keeps them from being united against the real enemy, male-dominated, male-centered society. If women are too busy calling eachother’s outfits “skanky” (see Sexy vs. Skanky section present in almost every issue), or thinking of ways to get even with their female co-workers or roommates (see Bitch It Out section also present in almost every issue), they are less inclined to notice that some of the men to which they have attached themselves are actually grade-A jerks. If a man cheats, Cosmo suggests that it is probably because of something his wife or girlfriend did not do, or because of some impossible-to-resist move a seductress pulled on him. Could it be he was just an a**hole? No, of course not. According to Cosmo, men are “hard-wired” or “programmed” to be attracted to women and to sleep with women whenever they feel so inclined. Cosmo asserts that it is in their nature to have a wandering eye, so women should just “accept” that their man will oggle other females, and need to take responsibility for pleasing him sexually so that he does not stray from home.

Another problem with Cosmo is the fact that, by saying that men are “hardwired” to think about sex and to always be ready for action, the magazine perpetuates these animalistic stereotypes of men. Cosmo urges women to believe that men are ready-to-go sex machines. This reinforces society’s false assumptions that men cannot be sexually victimized and that men are devoid of emotional attachments to sexual activity.

Although it is not surprising that Cosmo continues to print the kind of sexist, stereotypical material described above, it is surprising that Cosmo‘s readers have not yet woken up and demanded that Cosmo change the approach to their articles. Cosmo is long due for a real content

Disclaimer: This post was written by a Feministing Community user and does not necessarily reflect the views of any Feministing columnist, editor, or executive director.

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