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It’s the irony of ironies. The person leading the charge to have “fun, fearless, female” magazine Cosmopolitan (a Hearst publication) placed behind pocket shields in retail outlets is none other than Victoria Hearst, one of the granddaughters of Hearst founder William Randolph Hearst. Victoria Hearst, as it turns out, who has nothing to with the Hearst Corp or its management – has been campaigning against the what she considers the overtly sexual covers and content of Cosmo for years, joining with the National Center on Sexual Exploitation this past April to put pressure on retail outlets to shield the magazine’s cover and slap it with a warning label, claiming the content is not suitable for minors.
Now she and the group have won at least one battle: Rite Aid and East Coast grocery chains Food Lion and Hannaford, have agreed to semi-hide the title behind what they call ‘pocket shields’ — which will conceal the sexy cover lines Cosmo is famous for. It’s a similar idea to the wrappers used to hide the covers of mens‘ porn magazines from minors on newsstands – but this is just a partial concealment of cover lines. Rite Aid has 4,566 stores in 31 states, and Food Lion has 1,100 in 10 states. Hannaford is owned by a Belgian company and did not respond to requests for comment.
As it turns out, Victoria Hearst has been vocalizing her not-subtle anti-Cosmo views to Hearst execs for fifteen years. Cosmo is without a doubt one of company’s biggest earners, and has one of the largest circulations of all women’s magazines (Hearst also publishes Harper’s Bazaar, Oprah, Town and Country, Marie Claire and now Elle, which it acquired in 2011).
The National Center on Sexual Exploitation’s website has even made this issue public and put out a call for interested parties to contact Hearst execs and Cosmo‘s editor-in-chief, Joanna Coles, to limit its sales to adults only. Now this outcry is starting to at least have some effect. Victoria Hearst and the NCSE organization made a statement that this recent move by Rite Aid, etc., has been something of a triumph in keeping young girls from being exposed to what they consider “glorification and desensitization of porn and sexual violence.”
At a National Press Club press conference in April, Victoria Hearst claimed, “This is not a family feud, this is not ‘Mommy Dearest.’ We’re not trying to censor Cosmo. We’re not trying to put it out of business. All we’re saying is, if you want to print pornography, I can’t stop you. If I was queen of the Hearst Corporation, this magazine would no longer exist and the editor-in-chief and all the people there would be on unemployment. But since I don’t have that power, all we’re saying is, look — you want to print this junk, then print it. It’s adult material, it’s clear it’s adult material. Label it as such.”
Meanwhile, camouflaging the covers — famous for their cover lines touting orgasm improvement, etc. — and its actresses sporting mega cleavage – at Rite Aid and Food Lion – will have at least some effect on its very large international circulation. Cosmo currently publishes 60 editions in 79 countries and 32 languages. It was founded by the late Helen Gurley Brown, famed as one of America’s most successful and outspoken editors of the last half century.
Hearst issued this statement and refused to comment further on what’s clearly a media blow to the mag’s content: “Cosmopolitan is the most successful global media for young women. Its award-winning content is produced for adults by leading female journalists. We are proud of all that the brand has achieved for women around the world in the areas of health, relationships, career, politics, equality and social issues.”
Porno — or fun and fearless? Without a doubt, this battle to shield Cosmo from minors is an embarrassment to the Hearst Corporation, and one of the more interesting and public family feuds in the history of media.
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