In renewing my niece's subscription to Cosmopolitan, I managed to accidentally check a box and sign myself up as well. Imagine my surprise when this fount of 20 something wisdom showed up in my mailbox. What completely shocked me was the relentless sexuality pulsating across the cover. It annoyed me. But I never like to dismiss something out of hand and frankly, I was curious, so I read a couple of the articles. They were like those fruit flavored waters. A wisp of strawberry flavor, but no real substance. They annoyed me too.
Interestingly, my husband’s reaction was: “What is this garbage in our mailbox?” You’d think he’d be more enthusiastic about the new addition to our library. Especially since half the articles are about giving great head, hand jobs, and sex positions that are his secret desire that, after almost 18 years of marriage, he is not able to tell me he wants. This made me even more annoyed by the Cosmo people. What was the deal if a guy didn’t even want to know this stuff? Come on, didn’t he want to help me map my g-spot? What’s up?
So the cover is annoying, the articles are annoying, and the fact that they don’t know anything about men is annoying. But the really irritating thing is that they don’t know anything about women either. The entire magazine is the “Total Woman” phenomenon that created a huge flap in the early 70s wrapped up in generation Y packaging. Marabel Morgan, author of “The Total Woman,” advocated being completely submissive to your mate. I admit I have not read the book myself. I do remember my mother deriding it and thanks to the miracle of the internet, I have been able to get a pretty good idea of what is between the covers. A quote from Wikipedia sums it up. "It's only when a woman surrenders her life to her husband, reveres and worships him and is willing to serve him, that she becomes really beautiful to him...*"
I know the young 20 somethings will cringe and exclaim, “We are not subservient to men! Look at us! We have careers! We have outside interests! We are sexually liberated!” Really? Look at what you are feeding your mind with. Cosmo is all about revering, worshipping, and serving men by focusing exclusively on what they want in bed, in a relationship, how they want you to dress, and what they want you to look like and then giving you instructions on how to subvert who you are to conform to these desires.
All you have to do is look at the head lines. “What Men Find Hot- They Rate Their Favorite Looks” (July 2010), “How To Touch A Naked Man” (March 2010), “75 Sex Tips from Guys” (June 2010), “Speak His Sex Language” (April 2010), “Look So Sexy!” (June 2010). It goes on and on. Then there is my all time favorite headline also from the March 2010 issue: “Curb Your Cravings! Without Feeding Your Face.” Where do I even start? The use of “feeding your face,” a derogatory reference to eating, indicates that women shouldn’t like to eat. It is more important to be thin and therefore more attractive to men, then it is to enjoy a sensual delight like eating. It brings to mind the scene from “Gone with the Wind” when the maid is desperately trying to get Scarlett to eat before she goes to a picnic because it wasn’t seemly for a woman to have a big appetite. Don’t you think it is time for us to move beyond the Civil War in our attitudes about what makes an attractive woman?
The weird thing is that after all the reviewing of articles and getting upset about how they subvert women to men, I noticed that they do not treat men all that well either. All you have to do is look at some of the tables of content: “Man Manual,” “101 Things about Men,” and “Guy Watch.” They treat men like they are an exotic species at the zoo that we watch, talk about, and interact with only on the most superficial level. Men must be stupid because we have to guess what they want or read about it in a magazine. (“His Burning Sex Need- Satisfy the craving your man won’t admit to you” May 2010). And they must be completely unoriginal because they want all the women to look like Porn Star Barbie. They must have the attention span of a gnat because they will lose interest if women don’t do acrobatics in bed. All of this make them sound like knuckle dragging neanderthals that need to be “handled” by the women in their lives. Not a very flattering picture.
I know Cosmo would respond to my charges by saying they are just giving their readers what they want. They are in business and I would guess that they are trying to do just that. My point is that as women, we should demand more. We are so much more then what is portrayed on the pages of this magazine. We are whole people that have rich lives beyond the people we love. Are we really going to buy into this plastic, flat depiction of what it means to be a woman and a man? Honestly, want to keep your man interested? Be a vibrant, independent person with interests and friends beyond him. You’ll keep him fascinated for years to come. Ok, I’ll admit it, being good in bed doesn’t hurt either.
* http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marabel_Morgan. N.p, April 18, 2010, June 22, 2010