Sex,  Theology of the Body,  Women's Rights

Liberated for Slavery: The Life of a Cosmo Girl

I have a confession: I used to read Cosmopolitan magazine.  Really, I did.  And while it made me feel kind of dirty and offended my sensibilities as a woman, a Christian, and a human being… there was something, I don’t know, almost addictive about reading all about the lifestyle contained within its tawdry pages.  It was, for me at least, a precursor to reality television; something you know in your gut is just terrible for you, but something so fascinatingly awful you can’t look away.  Kind of like “The Hills.”  But I digress…

The thing is, when I look back on that dark time in my life – the college years – and I remember the girl who used to eagerly devour her roommate’s monthly subscription, there’s a stark, obvious juxtaposition of my own personal misery to the gospel of liberation Cosmo preached.  As I look back over my life, it was during the lowest times that I saw only one set of footprints... okay, kidding.  But seriously, during what were for me the least satisfying times of my life, the times where I was living exactly as I pleased, answerable to me, myself and I alone…and hating every minute of it, these were the times during which I found Cosmo relevant. 

These were the times, quite honestly, when I found Cosmo palatable at all.  They say misery loves company, and with 13 million copies of “the bible” ala Sex in the City being cranked out each month… it would seem to be true.  But do I go too far by imposing my own subjective experience onto other women who may legitimately enjoy the read? 

Well, have you read Cosmo lately?  Even glanced at a cover?  I would venture to say that no healthy, self-respecting woman in her right mind, no feminist for that matter (in the best use of the term) would be caught dead with a copy of Cosmo on the reading stand of her StairMaster.  Period.

In a recent column for First Things entitled “The Cosmopolitan Life,” David Mills pithily dissects the strange need for “liberated” women to subject themselves to the peculiar rhetoric of slavery to male approval which is familiar to each issue of Cosmo and every other magazine of it’s ilk.  Glamour.  Marie Claire.  Redbook.  They’re all preaching the same, tired lines promising mind blowing sex, steamy workplace hookup hints and beauty tips for shrinking one’s backside in order to better attract a man whose head is stuck up his.  Or so it would seem. 

For all its big, blustery talk about being the guidebook of the modern, sexually-liberated woman of the 21st century, it would seem that Cosmo is, in reality, little more than a bit of poorly-crafted propaganda, a misogynistic rag intended for instructing women on the niceties of pleasing and keeping a man.

“But, but…”  the editorial staff might sputter, “these women are freely choosing to engage in wild, spontaneous and uncommitted sex.  That’s progress.” 

Is it really? 

It seems awfully backwards to me to have to fill each monthly issue with remedial instruction on the carefully-crafted art of emotional detachment and hookups.  For above all else, Cosmo preaches relations without relationship.  Sex without security.  Booty calls without boundaries.  In other words, unpaid prostitution. 

Think about it…at least a hundred years ago or so, women who engaged in casual, meaningless recreational sex were reimbursed for their troubles.  And actually in the state of Nevada, I believe some still are…  But the point is this; if this is freedom, then perhaps we should ask to be put back in chains, because I’ve yet to see a truly liberated woman gazing back at me from the cover of Cosmo… or from behind its pages. 

Call it freedom, call it progress, call it feminism if you will… but kindly do so with your tongue placed firmly in your cheek. 


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