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“Victory,” declared The National Center on Sexual Exploitation on Tuesday, after Walmart announced that it will remove Cosmopolitan magazine from over 5,000 stores nationwide. With its mission “to defend human dignity and to oppose sexual exploitation,” the socially conservative organization, originally founded in the 1960s as Morality in Media, has worked for months to push the Arkansas-based retail corporation to sweep the magazine from its shelves.
“Families and individuals will no longer be automatically exposed to Cosmo’s hypersexualized and degrading article titles that regularly promote pornography, sexting, BDSM, group sex, anal sex, and more, all while marketing toward young teens with Disney star cover models,” said a statement on the NCOSE site.
“This is what real change looks like in our #MeToo culture, and NCOSE is proud to work with a major corporation like Walmart to combat sexually exploitative influences in our society,” NCOSE executive director Dawn Hawkins said in a press release. “Cosmo sends the same messages about female sexuality as Playboy. It places women’s value primarily on their ability to sexually satisfy a man and therefore plays into the same culture where men view and treat women as inanimate sex objects. Walmart’s removal of Cosmo from checkout lines is an incremental but significant step toward creating a culture where women and girls are valued as whole persons, rather than as sexual objects. We are grateful for Walmart’s cooperation and for Walmart leadership’s recognition that corporations must do their part to change #MeToo culture.”
Cardi B graces the cover of Cosmopolitan magazine for April 2018! pic.twitter.com/7X79M82BYe
— Daily Pop Culture (@nash82_nash) March 22, 2018
Cosmopolitan was first published as a family-oriented magazine in 1886 and transformed into a women’s magazine in 1965, when feminist Helen Gurley Brown took over as editor-in-chief and shifted the content to frank talk about sexuality and other women’s issues, often considered racy, and established its now-signature sexy cover shots.
The Hearst magazine has a history of grocery store backlash. Albertsons supermarkets pulled the September 1996 issue of Cosmopolitan from its stores after company officials decided that cover model Tatiana Dragovic was displaying a bit too much bosom. In 2000, the Kroger grocery store chain announced that it would install “blinder” racks in its 2,200 stores to block sexually explicit cover lines on the magazine in response to customer complaints. And in 2016, Marsh Supermarkets removed Cosmopolitan from checkout stand shelves at its 72 locations in Ohio and Indiana, after a similar NCOSE campaign.
Other incidents that brought the magazine’s titillating covers under fire include a Change.org petition in 2011 by former model Nicole Weider that garnered over 22,000 signatures, proposing to bind issues of Cosmopolitan in a non-transparent wrapper and sell it only to customers over 18 years of age. Virginia Hearst, a granddaughter of William Randolph Hearst, joined Weider’s efforts to classify the magazine as “pornography” under state laws.
The contentious magazine and one of its former editors-in-chief, Joanna Coles (who helmed the magazine from 2012 until 2016), serve as inspiration for Freeform’s television dramedy The Bold Type; Coles serves as executive producer on the series, which underlines feminist views and female solidarity. Season two is set to kick off June 12, and the show has additionally been renewed for a third season.
In the current climate, where porn star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy Playmate Karen McDougal are front-and-center on news channels telling their explicit stories about sexual encounters with President Donald Trump, does pulling Cosmopolitan magazine (and its headlines about “sizzling foreplay techniques”) from checkout stands really protect children from exposure to hyper-sexualized headlines? Just saying.
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