Cosmo: More Than Big Boobs & Multiple Orgasms?

by Alanna Vagianos

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. 


Thanks to PolicyMic, Cosmopolitan, and The Guardian 

Images via Cosmopolitan



You may also like

Get the print magazine.

The best of BUST in your inbox!

Subscribe to Our Weekly Newsletter

About Us

Founded in 1993, BUST is the inclusive feminist lifestyle trailblazer offering a unique mix of humor, female-focused entertainment, uncensored personal stories, and candid reporting that tells the truth about women’s lives.

©2023 Street Media LLC.  All Right Reserved.