Cosmo, a ladies’ mag seen in most feminist circles as almost synonymous with internalized sexism, whose once-groundbreaking inclusion of content geared toward sexually liberated women now regularly features sex tips seen as laughable or damaging, seems to be making some bold improvements. For a magazine that boasts 200 million readers annually in 100 countries, even small changes have the potential for a huge impact. That’s why it was so refreshing to see cosmopolitan.com publish a piece called Don’t Let Anyone Tell You To Work Out After A Cupcake.
Though there’s no shortage of body positivity in the blogosphere, larger media is highly dominated by unrealistic expectations for women’s bodies. This, of course includes models photoshopped thinner than they are, as well as an endless supply of articles with diet and exercise tips for reducing the body parts women are taught to dislike. There has been a serious lack of body positivity in major publications and cosmopolitan.com has definitely shown that they intend to change this. In addition to the anti-food shaming piece, they also ran 11 Things You Should Never Say To A Fat Girl, cementing that this new empowering angle is indeed not a fluke.
Anna Breslaw, author of Don’t Let Anyone Tell You To Work Out After A Cupcake confirms this:
cosmopolitan.com hired me to bring a more empowered, feminist, sex-positive (and food positive, obviously) attitude to the site, as part of a big editorial revamp. i come from a strong feminist and non-womens-mag background (i used to write for jezebel), and they intentionally hired me to shake the old guard at Cosmo up a bit. (and i’ve been enjoying doing just that.)
She added that the author of 11 Things You Should Never Say To A Fat Girl, Laura Beck, currently works both as the weekend editor for cosmopolitan.com as well as the night writer for popular feminist blog Jezebel. She goes on to add that they are joined by many freelancers contributing likeminded material. Of the change, Breslaw says, “it’s a slow shift — and even slower on the print side — but i feel good about the direction it’s going in.”
PolicyMic.com noticed improvements to the print edition after the 2012 hiring of editor Joanna Coles:
There are several new features. One, “What’s on your mind,” has interviews with diverse women about their interests. Most responses are about politics or career, and one 18-year-old interviewee talked about her two year old son. “Fun, Fearless Females” features accomplished women; this issue includes an inventor, a political activist, and a Boston Marathon bombing survivor.
Many sections have been revitalized as well, in big and small ways. On the “Confessions” page, the feature picture is of a biracial couple. On a feature called “Summer Lovin’,” a collection of celebrity couple pictures, includes the lesbian couple Ellen DeGeneres and Portia De Rossi. The Fashion section feature the picks of successful female fashion bloggers or use college students as models, and the Work section has grown considerably (and none of the career articles were about clothes). Even the articles about sex focused on women’s pleasure rather than the man’s, one declaring, “Set a precedent and make sure you come first.”
It is clear these small things are harbingers of bigger changes to come. Hopefully Cosmo can popularize female empowerment in a life impacting way for its readers. Such ideas have the potential to improve women’s relationships, body image, and mental and emotional health.