Monday, September 24, 2007

Is Cosmo empowering to women?

Cosmo-related blogs are starting to seem a bit trite, but I'm jumping on the bandwagon anyway, only because I was curious about whether Cosmopolitan considered itself to be a magazine that empowers women. Or not.

The magazine's roots are in catering to the family, but when William Randolf Hearst bought Cosmo, he transformed it into something not unlike The New Yorker (as it is currently). In 1965, Helen Gurley Brown became editor-in-chief of the magazine, which many currently refer to as "The Bible." After Brown took over, she transformed Cosmo from a literary magazine to a provocative women's magazine. The magazine began to focus on educating women about sex, about their bodies, fashion, beauty. It had a feminist message in the late 1960's and early 70's, and addressed things people wouldn't dare talk about in public such as premarital sex and taking on jobs in male-dominated fields.

And as society became more sexually explicit, so did the magazine. And as society continues to become more focused on sexuality, so will "The Bible." But I can't really figure out if Cosmo is losing itself in it's mission to empower women or not. One look at the magazine, and I immediately label it as trash. Trash I can't help but pick up at the airport when my flight is delayed (because it always is), trash I love to hate and won't admit to actually reading. It's humorous, it's ridiculous.

Brown left the magazine in 1997, but even then, Cosmopolitan has continued on the path she had begun. And just as some would argue that Cosmo degrades women because much of their advice is about pleasing him, I'm inclined to say that it still has an ounce of empowerment. Ignore the fashion and beauty, because it's common in many publications. But just as magazines eagerly promote the latest trends in terms of fashion and beauty, very few will encourage women to embrace their sexuality. Sure, many of the sex-related articles are about pleasing him, but offers a way for women to take charge of their sexuality. The magazine gives health-related information, it promotes choice and freedom.

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