I’ve never been an avid reader of the magazine Cosmopolitan (except that time I gained 15 pounds while I was abroad and the “Lose 10 lbs. in 10 Hours” headlines sucked me in – it doesn’t work by the way). My roommate however, happens to love Cosmo and reads it religiously. One day after work, while I was taking a short break from my very intense love affair with Netflix, I picked up a recent copy of Cosmo.
In between the ever-so-creative headlines that read “The REAL Reason He Never Texted” and “Are You Too Self-Obsessed?” I came across a few articles that piqued my interest. Now please don’t take my sarcastic tone as condescending (actually it is both sarcastic AND condescending). I most definitely read “The REAL Reason He Never Texted” and “Are You Too Self-Obsessed?” and enjoyed every piece of (bad) advice I found in each article. But as we all know, the women we see in magazines are not the women we see in real life. Every picture of a woman in a magazine has been so “digitally altered to make her absolutely, inhumanly perfect” that it forces all real women to measure themselves against an impossible standard. Cosmopolitan, in particular, is a hyper-sexualized, uniformly white, hit me with the “D” cups right-on-the-cover publication. And because I am a real woman with something (significantly) less than “D” cups, I have never truly loved Cosmo.
After scoring “Simply Self-Aware” on the Self-Obsessed quiz (I may have cheated ever so slightly), I came across an article that read “Will Your Guy Change His Married Name?” I immediately checked the magazine cover. Was that BUST or Cosmo I was reading? Now, the tradition of a woman taking a man’s last name once they’re married has always dumbfounded me. Yes I know ladies, it’s “tradition” and we’ve all doodled our first names followed by our crush-of-the-day’s last name all over our middle school binders (until she/he proved themselves to be a complete asshole and we crossed her/his name out forever). But doesn’t the whole tradition thing seem a bit more like a property transaction involving a Subaru than an exchanging of vows? I’ll let you think about that for a moment, but I’m sure you can guess how I feel about it.
Not only did Cosmo discuss the idea of husbands taking their wives’ names, it named a few very famous couples as evidence. John and Yoko became the Ono Lennons, rock star Jack Gillis and Meg White became Meg and Jack White, and Jay-Z and Beyonce became the Knowles-Carters (by far my favorite #beyforlife). The article states:
While the process can involve annoying red tape for women, men often face a mountain of paperwork and legal issues when they try to use a marriage license for a name change.
…‘Most states don’t have don’t have gender-neutral laws, because they assume a bride will take the groom’s name. Our society is changing. All states should amend their laws so a man can change his married name without having to go to court.’
Cosmo actually used the term “gender-neutral”. Yes, that’s right, Cosmo. As I flipped through the pages I found other articles that didn’t make me feel badly about not having the “perfect body” or force me to ruminate about having very painful leg-extension surgery (I’m 5’3” – it’s perfect elbow height, stop judging).
I began reading substantive articles such as “Your Career Get-Ahead Guide” and “Don’t Have Sex on the First Date: Rules that are Now Considered 100% Outdated”. The issue also featured a new section called “Fun, Fearless Females”, a “Confessions” page that pictured a biracial couple, and under the heading “Summer Lovin’”, multiple pictures of lesbian celebrity couple Ellen DeGeneres and Portia De Rossi. Cosmo told its readers, “Set a precedent and make sure you come first,” when speaking about sex and focusing on a woman’s pleasure over the man’s. I didn’t know whether to start taking notes or order a subscription.
For the first time, I was able to relate to an article in Cosmo. The magazine has stepped its game up, and I like it. So this all leads to one question: can we call Cosmo a feminist ally or is feminism an advertising trend that will pass just like choker necklaces in the 90s? While I’m not ready to fully admit Cosmo is “feminist journalism”, a shift such as this in the world’s most popular women’s magazine warrants tribute. Well done Cosmo.
I’m not saying I’ll be subscribing to Cosmo any time soon (I’ve taken a step back from the edge). However, the next time I pick up a Cosmo I most likely won’t feel horrible about myself after reading it...which is always a step in the right direction.
P.S. Seventeen Magazine (another Hearst Corp. mag and an offshoot of Cosmo targeted towards teens) featured a "What Kind of Feminist Are You?" quiz on their website. Check it out here. The coolest part about it? Just by taking the quiz, it's assumed you are a feminist. Love it.
Images via Cosmopolitan