Cosmopolitan around the world

There were a couple of articles published today that discuss the impact of Cosmopolitan Magazine around the world. One, published by the New York Times, explained the way Cosmopolitan is run and how it is helping women empower themselves in countries like Kazakhstan. Check it out here. The other was published by Jezebel and was quite similar, read it here.

While I don’t disagree that the magazine is likely having a large impact on improving the attitudes of women in Kazakhstan by encouraging them to fight for their right to marry a man they love rather than one chosen for them, and to demand respect in the bedroom, I think that using the same attitude when dealing with Australian and American readers is misguided.

Women in Australia and America have already been sexually liberated. Sex-obsessed magazines like Cosmopolitan and Cleo which began in opposition to women’s magazines centered on housekeeping and subservience, have served their purpose in Australia. We are liberated, we understand our rights, and now we want quality content.

If we want sex advice we can go online, we can read any one of the Cosmo and Cleo back issues – we can ask our friends. Girls these days are educated about sex – society is their oyster when it comes to opportunities. There is no point campaigning for change when the change has already happened – so why does Cosmopolitan continue to pepper their pages with the same liberating sex advice and content they are using to liberate the women of Kazakhstan? I’m sorry, but I’m confused.

” Cosmo is an easy magazine to hate. When I asked my female friends — including many single women in their late 20s, like me — what they thought of it, most of them were unkind. “Cosmo is complete trash,” one explained. “Mindless,” another said. “I would not be caught reading it outside of an airplane,” said a third. “It assumes and expects the worst of women,” said another. I never had a particularly positive opinion of it, either, and my ambivalence was reinforced by headlines like this one, from a recent edition of Cosmo South Korea: “Oops! My V Zone Is Strange!”

But to hear the Cosmo missionaries tell it, they’re promoting feminism with every issue. “Indonesia is the largest Muslim country in the world,” Fira Basuki Baskoro, the editor of Cosmo Indonesia, said over a lunch of salad and paella. “When Cosmo came to Indonesia, it changed the way the Indonesian woman thinks. Before Cosmo, it was taboo for women to talk about sex openly.”

Good magazines reflect the attitudes present in society. They endeavour to understand their readers and to create content specifically catered to them. But the article in the New York Times explained the way that Cosmopolitan Magazines around the world receive their content and apparently most content is written in the U.S and then sent out to the other countries. Writers in the U.S don’t know what life is like for Australian girls. No amount of tweaking can create articles relevant only to Australian girls. For such a big magazine, with so many resources, I would expect that at the very least they would go to a lot of effort to present their readers with well-researched content.

“The brand saves money by repurposing its covers across various editions, and it shaves costs in other ways, too. For the most part, articles are created by a small team of staff members at Big Cosmo and then ripple outward through the Cosmo network. The magazine has a database for international editors to see what features Cosmo U.S. has planned approximately three months before they run; once the images and layout are uploaded, they can then tweak the content they like to their own country’s needs.”

The article also went into a lot of detail about how it was helping and had already helped so many women around the world to become empowered. I’m not denying that this has been achieved, just that now that they’ve done this in so many countries, they should direct their energies towards helping us, in the liberated countries, in other ways. Don’t keep throwing sex tips at us, don’t keep telling us how we can be more beautiful. Women in Australia now need help to take control of their own minds and to understand that they have a right to question the world around them.

The liberation needed by women of the western world is from advertising, not the oppressive grip of age-old traditions as experienced by women in countries like Kazakhstan. Cosmo, Cleo, you’ve served your purpose in freeing us from lifetimes as quiet, obedient housewives. That’s fantastic, truly it is. But now you need to keep looking after us – don’t leave us floundering in a society that expects us to be beautiful and consistently tells us that we are not worthy. Empower our minds to rise above these expectations and be happy with the women we are inside as well as out.

You took on a responsibility to free women from the grip of an unhealthy society, and you did a great job of freeing us. But society remains sick, and we vulnerable to infection and you are simply perpetuating the unhealthy ideals and leaving us to suffer alone. Step up like you did once before and again empower the women and girls of Australia to recognise their true and natural beauty.

*This post comes to you as part of the Brainwash Project. For more details, visit: