Magazine Review: COSMOPOLITAN Nov 2007
Magazines like Glamour, Allure and Cosmopolitan make you realize that there are women’s magazines such as these aforementions, and then there are women’s fashion magazines.
In truckloads, women’s magazines serve pages after pages devoted to the same theory of a woman’s ideal existence: Happiness is a state of mind as that other half. In tandem, stories are single-mindedly trained on variations of that subversion: Men, and where to find them, how to get them, how to keep them, and all that kind of unnecessary information you really should be getting by experiencing, rather than from reading.
Women’s fashion magazines, on the other hand, work on the philosophical notion of negation. As in the negation of men, and following which, negating women’s position as that other half. In so doing, fashion magazines reclaim women’s position as singular entities. Away from men, they become empowered, albeit by their desire for material supplants like fashion, clothes, accessories and beauty. This magazine group – which claim titles like Vogue, W, Elle and Harper’s Bazaar as members – has zilch stories on relationships, except those that revolves around thousand-dollar crocodile bags and silken Lanvin dresses. The unwritten ethos of these magazines is that fashion emboldens and strengthens you to be that one singular entity, bestows you that independence from men – and all the emotional baggage of bonding and coupling – once thought indispensable in order to feel complete.
Fashion, as these group of magazines seem to say, is the panacea for an existence in a pre-determined lonely world.
Ac.Stet’s Clothedom theory is that the presence/ absence of Fashion as a main focus in a women’s magazine denotes respectively, an empowerment/ a replacement, for men.
This month’s issue of Cosmopolitan clearly exemplifies this theory of Clothedom. What it lacks in fashion editorial, it more than makes up for in M-E-N. Men, Man, Guys, Boys, Boyfriends, and — that breed of men that spells the boon and bane of Cosmopolitan’s target audience of single women — Bachelors.
November is the magazine’s annual 50 Bachelors issue where readers vote for their favorite fantasy catch – one from each American state, get it? – for the year 2007.
So really, there is no better month for Ac.Stet to review Cosmopolitan magazine than this.
In the same way that women’s fashion magazines make life impossible without fashion, women’s magazines make life seem impossible without men.
The cover itself shows just how important its editors think the stronger sex is, and should be. Just read the coverlines: Six out of nine of them make sure you never forget who women really should be living for:
“the hottest things to do to a MAN with your hands”
“meet our 50 BACHELORS!”
“GUYS’ sex confessions”
“what’s your sex style? Figuring out yours – and HIS – will double your bliss”
“100 outrageous facts about MEN”
“I know what your BOYFRIEND did last night”
Inside, Cosmopolitan dishes out its brand of gender ideology that just seems … oh, so natural. Generally, these are the tenets of Cosmopolitanism:
#1. You have to fetishize yourself:
“You vixen.” (Page 120) “You’re a vixen on constant simmer.” (Page 270)
#2. You have to learn to stroke his ego:
“ ‘You are hot’ That’s the top compliment a man wants to hear.” (Page 42, Cosmo Men section)
#3. You have to be dishonest:
“After … something kinky with a new guy … offer a little white lie about how it’s your first time trying that – it makes him feel special.” (Page 42, Cosmo Men section)
4. You are just the movie, but he? He is the star:
“Let HIM be your Superman” (Page 113);
5. You are his toy:
“Wham-bam and he’s a happy boy.” (Page 125)
#6. You have to like what he likes:
“Men love girls who like boy food.” (Page 36)
As if these are not enough to make one suspect that sitting at the top of the Cosmo masthead are bratty-boy Daddies with Lolita fantasies, not unlike those on Dateline NBC’s To Catch A Predator, their Fun Fearless Fashion Awards for “Most Buzz-Worthy Show” was awarded to that dude-slobberfest … Victoria’s Secret.
And as for the expose on Page 132 “Tales of an NFL Cheerleader”, Ac.Stet can almost hear thousands of frat boys pilfer copies of Cosmo from their lady dorm-mates for some sheepish indulgence.
As if how women should conduct themselves in the presence of men in their waking hours is not enough, Cosmo goes on for four full-pages to define who you are in their absence, when you are sleeping (“How do you sleep when HE’s not there?” Page 160).
Finally, when women do make it on their own in male-dominated territory, they have to … become men. Quite literally. On Page 130 in its “Real Life Reads” section on “TV’s Newest Buzzmakers”, Cosmopolitan interviews Tara Butters and Michele Fazekas, whose brainchild Reaper on CW, means they have to re-imagine themselves as … slacker dudes.
Women, in order to preserve their worldview of dualism, also have to view men as prospects: “How Our Friendship Turned To Love” (Page 128).
You do suspect that if women can ever be sexes in their own right. So Ac.Stet flips over to the fashion spreads, and while some are well-shot (most others suffer from uneducated lighting and tired poses), they also seem to imply that women are … wallflowers.
In “The Bold and the Beautiful” (Page 168), besides channeling the title of a soap opera built on the lives of women plagued by the mien of men, the sub-text is suggestive: “This season, you have all you need to create headturning outfits … There’s zero chance you’ll fade into the scenery – no matter how breathtaking it is.”
This reminds Ac.Stet of that time when Richard Nixon who keeps saying “I am not a thief. I am not a thief.”
Well, essentially, this fashion spread is likely to turn the viewer’s attention from the wearer to the landscape. And moreover, notice how it is written “… you have all you need to create headturning outfits …”? So, the clothes are not there for women to create their own identities, but rather, to make the clothes look good:
In the end, women now cannot be heard AND seen, and if they do, they should be seen best possibly in a way that mazimizes their appeal to men. The visual pleasure’s rather 1970s Laura Mulvey, yes?:
We can read it this way, or we can read it another way. But either way, you will suddenly realize that the magazine is singularly tuned to train readers to use sex as a tool.
After all, a good Cosmopolitan girl does not mean that it is imperative that you have a man. Uh-uh, No. What Cosmopolitan actually means to say is that it is okay if you don’t have a man … now. But you have to have one … eventually.
And here’s how, the editors say: Sex.
Cosmo editors make sure they teach you how to use it to snare one, keep one and keep many others hungry. The magazine is filled with body-as-weapon encouragement:
(Page 126): “You could offer really amazing sex as an incentive.”
(Page 154): “Why don’t you … Give your guy a reverse strip …”
(Page 106): “As a Cosmo reader, no one could ever accuse you of lacking in the sexual-dynamo department.”
(Page 112): “Since you are a hot Cosmo girl, you likely spend a lot of time cooking up ways to blow your guy’s mind between the sheets, which, to be clear, is a very good thing.”
Cosmo not only asks women for sex advice, they also ask men for it so readers can better prime their sexual identities accordingly (Page 106: “What Not to do in Bed” + Page 38, “100 Things You Need to Know About Guys”, Cosmo Men section).
Ac.Stet wants to be convinced that Cosmopolitan is teaching women to reclaim their bodies from the doctrinations of men, and instead use it for their own benefit. But instead, Ac.Stet comes away believing that in lesser hands – read: doll-brained writers – women readers may just as well haul themselves back to a prehistoric time when they were mere pretty vessels for the well-laid plans of mice and men.
You may also get a strange vibe that Cosmopolitan may not really be intended for just straight women.
There are odd columns like “Bedroom Blog”, (Page 126). Boring and uninspired as it reads, Ac.Stet really wonders who really wants to read such a piece, given that the only people interested in bedroom blogs are straight men, Dateline NBC predators and lesbians.
But Ac.Stet gets a huge clue from its advertisers.
For a women’s magazine, it scores a lot of ads targeted at men: Adidas’ 0:01, Kenneth Cole’s Reaction, Stetson’s Original Cologne and David Beckham’s Intense Instinct. Even when it is not, the ads are not exclusive to women, but are targeted at BOTH women and men: Calvin Klein’s Eternity and Euphoria, Hugo Boss’ XY, Usher’s For Him and Her.
Of course, this may be due to the fact that the November issue is dedicated to its Cosmo Men Special, but a nagging suspicion is that Cosmopolitan feels that women (some already high-income individuals or equal breadwinners in their own right) are not intended to be shopping just for themselves, but also for – yah – men.
Layout-wise, Ac.Stet gets rather discombobulated by Cosmopolitan’s organization of its section headers.
What is the differentiation between the two sections “You You You” and “Totally Cosmo”?
Why can’t the stories under these two sections like tips on corporate success, home deco on the cheap and the poorly copied Diana Vreeland-ripoff column “Why Don’t You …” either (i) come under one new revamped section; or (ii) be absorbed to other sections like “Weekend”?
One suspects that the force of vision for these sections – which might have started well years ago – are faltering to a state where certain vaguely-defined sections are now treated as dumping grounds for stories that defies the mag’s categorization (e.g. the “How do you sleep when he’s not there” story on Page 160).
Ac.Stet has mentioned in an earlier post that these past two months have been the book-hawking season for magazine editors. Cosmopolitan proves Ac.Stet’s point once again, with not just a a quarter-page mention in the Editor’s Letter page penned by in-chief Kate White, but a full four-page excerpt from the book “Basic Black: The Essential Guide for Getting Ahead at Work (and in Life)” written by Hearst Magazines president Cathie Black.
Besides Ac.Stet’s difficulty reading between Black and White, he does realize that having a name like COSMOPOLITAN brings a huge burden.
cos~mo~pol~i~tan [koz-muh-pol-i-tn] –adjective means ==
1. free from local, provincial, or national ideas, prejudices, or attachments; at home all over the world.
2. of or characteristic of a cosmopolite.
3. belonging to all the world; not limited to just one part of the world.
4. Botany, Zoology. widely distributed over the globe.–noun
5. a person who is free from local, provincial, or national bias or attachment; citizen of the world; cosmopolite.
It is an immense duty to bring the world to your reader, even American Express’s Travel + Leisure have a juggernaut of a task every month doing just that. And having read Cosmopolitan, Ac.Stet gets no sense that a person becomes more of a cosmopolite, in the sense that the reader is “at home all over the world” or “not limited to just one part of the world”.
Magazines like this really just wants women to live and die in one world: Men’s.
If this is a moral choice, there is no wrong in that. But for their sake, Ac.Stet hopes it’s in the surrounds of men like these:
It will certainly make the descent sweeter. Oh, but what a dreadful way to live and a beautiful way to die.