On Holy Wednesday, as we were praying and fasting our way toward Good Friday, when Christ in his mercy nails our sins to the cross, I was asked to write a commentary about Walmart removing Cosmopolitan from its checkout lines at 5,000 stores across the country.
Why me? Because, as a sinful old journalist, I’m sad to confess, I worked first on staff and then as a freelance writer for Cosmo for more than 20 years. As one of Cosmo’s well-paid freelance writers, I fabricated sex-revolution copy to sell young women the lie that sex without marriage or babies would somehow set them “free.”
The “Cosmo Girl,” at least when I wrote for the magazine in the 1970s and 1980s, was almost entirely a fictional character. The stories about those “liberated” women sleeping with men they barely knew — all of the stories I wrote — were entirely fabricated. We’re talking here about a whole new level of “fake news.” Cosmo even had a list of “rules” on how to make up stories that sounded convincing. Those women literally did not exist.
Now Walmart has yanked Cosmo from its checkout aisles and stashed it on a less conspicuous magazine rack so families with children won’t have to see its sexually graphic covers when they’re standing in line to buy groceries.
“We are grateful for Walmart leadership’s recognition that corporations must do their part to change the #Metoo culture,” said Dawn Hawkins, executive director of the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, which helped to instigate the policy change.
“Cosmo sends the same messages about female sexuality as Playboy. It places women’s value primarily on her ability to sexually satisfy a man,” Hawkins observed in a press release. Further, she added, “Cosmo targets young girls by placing former Disney stars on its covers,” despite the detailed erotic content inside.
Since Helen Gurley Brown (1922-2012) redesigned Cosmopolitan for the Hearst Corp. in 1965, the magazine has masqueraded as a feminist vehicle for women’s “liberation.” In truth, it’s nothing of the sort. On the contrary, its underlying philosophy (“sex without kids will set you free”) reduces women and girls to mere sex objects to be used for men’s sexual pleasure.
It may surprise you to learn that Betty Friedan (who launched the modern feminist movement in 1963 with the publication of her book The Feminine Mystique) called Cosmo “quite obscene and quite horrible.” She even called for women to boycott the magazine and its advertisers. Friedan viewed the “sex-glutted novels, magazines, plays and novels” in our culture as “symptoms of the increasing depersonalization, immaturity, joylessness and spurious senselessness of our sexual over-preoccupation.”
Friedan said any view of female liberation that reduces a woman to a mere sex object (as we were doing at Cosmo) is a false freedom that denies a woman’s full personhood. And freeing a woman to express her full personhood is what Friedan said the feminist movement was all about.
The #Metoo movement has unveiled the sad reality that, for some predatory men, “You’ve come a long way, baby,” means “Yippee! You’re liberated. Now I can have sex with you whenever I please.” And Cosmo, with its false images of a woman simply as a sexual animal without a soul or any relationship with God, promotes this twisted way of thinking.
We need to tell our daughters that Cosmo is not real. It’s an illusion, a glamorous sex fantasy designed just to sell makeup, hair products, perfumes, singles travel, contraceptives, abortions and other products a woman will feel she “needs” to buy if she’s to lead the sexy, consumerist lifestyle Cosmo is peddling.
Contrary to what Cosmo’s ad copy and articles claim, it’s not “all about you” (the young, gullible reader). It’s all about their money.
Flip through an issue of Cosmo sometime (if your stomach can take it) and see how many products are being hawked and sold in the name of setting women sexually “free.” In reality, of course, Cosmo and its clones (Teen Vogue, for example) are only attempting to free women and girls from their paychecks. Sex sells. And an insecure, lonely young woman who longs to attract a man is an easy, vulnerable marketing target.
How a woman consciously or unconsciously defines her personhood affects all the other decisions, large or small, she makes in her life. To the extent a young woman unconsciously adopts a sexual lifestyle based on the underlying, unspoken assumption that she has no soul, she will find it easier to abort any baby who happens to appear as a consequence of her lifestyle. Imprisoned in a Cosmo mindset, she will come to believe (without fully thinking things through) that her baby doesn’t have a soul or a relationship with God either. So why all the fuss over abortion? After all, it’s just a “clump of cells.”
Pulling Cosmo from the checkout-line racks is a small victory. But it’s a significant step forward for women and children. The false “feminism” Cosmo promotes wrecks young women’s lives, shatters marriages through divorce, and has led to millions of babies being aborted.
Judas sold Christ for 30 pieces of silver. For 20 years, as a journalist trained to protect the public trust, I betrayed women and children — for money. Congratulations, Walmart, for having the wisdom to see the truth and the courage to act upon it.
During this blessed Easter season and beyond, let us keep ourselves and others from being deceived by sex profiteers like Cosmo. And, please, pray that God will view the sins of repentant journalists like me only through the water of our tears.