50 Shades of Cosmo

It’s important to see the shades of gray in anything you oppose. {image: a grayscale palette}

Writing about how harmful Cosmopolitan Magazine can be for women is straight out of Gender Studies 101. In college, my friends and I used to make Cosmo Collages to ridicule the unrealistic beauty standards presented by that magazine, especially on days that we were mad at “society”. Good times.

Something happened while I was scanning these cosmos Cosmos for offensive material- I found some good stuff, too. It challenged me to find out that this publication I’ve demonized in my head actually did a great job reporting on contraception. This was kind of a shock to me. I remember my therapist in college using Cosmo as a “see shades of gray in people and things!” example for other areas in my life.

When I was working as a sexual health counselor, I decided that it was in my best interest to see what they were reporting on, so if there were questions left open, I would make sure to know the answers. I got in the habit of buying a Cosmo whenever I saw a new one out, and let’s just say the habit didn’t exactly stop when I left my job. It reminded me to see shades of gray. And maybe I wasn’t exactly as forthcoming with my partner about this habit.

This week, my partner found a copy of Cosmo shoved behind our mattress, like it was my porn stash or something. Embarrassed, I explained that I admired their contraceptive reporting and the advocacy they have done for the Affordable Care Act, and I had trouble reconciling my bachelor’s degree in Gender Studies and the admiration for this reporting. He did what many curious millennial male-identifying people would do and started reading it aloud, to mock it. We found that this created many great out-of-context quotes, and if you know my partner and I at all, you know that we decided that these needed to be tweeted, @NYTMinusContext style.

Here are some of my favorites, so far:

You get the idea.

This funemployment project has me reading not only the print editions of Cosmo but the web content as well. There is never a shortage of good twitter material, and I constantly have a queue of future tweets.

I have found that some of these articles have been really great- like a Halal online sex shop? awesome reporting. A good response to Mike Huckabee’s libido comments?  To be honest, I just had to search writer Anna Breslaw‘s name on their website to find a good example. But, it goes without saying that as a feminist, I find a lot of harmful stuff. Like shaming these celebrities for their Golden Globes after-party outfits.

And just the other day, when I was looking for Twitter material on Cosmo’s website, I got caught in an Outbrain that shamed Tara Reid’s body for the liposuction scars that were caused by the very system that Cosmo capitalizes on, for example. Pretty terrible!! It’s like she’s caught in this world where liposuction feels necessary and then she gets mocked for liposuction! Anyways, that’s not Cosmo’s fault, I digress.

I think Cosmo has the means to be a great magazine. I will try to hold it as I can, but in the meantime…

You should follow our Twitter.



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