Walmart, Cosmopolitan, and the Check-out Aisle

Walmart, Cosmopolitan, and the Check-out Aisle

When I became a mother thirteen years ago I suddenly became more aware of all the “normal” images and headlines that surround my family. As my daughter got older I would often turn over magazine covers in the check out line before she could see (or read) them. The check-out aisle is the place my children are tempted with the worst possible “food” to consume and some of the worst possible messages about beauty, relationships, and ultimately value. It’s almost humorous the hoops one must jump through with our children to get bread and apples. I guess I can say no to the candy bar and give the reason not to eat one is to be able to look like the sexy skinny woman on the cover of a magazine (ironically placed next to each other.) “If you want to look like this, don’t eat that.” But do I want my daughter to look like the women on those covers? Last week Walmart attempted to discreetly remove Cosmopolitan Magazine from the check-out lines of its stores to a different location. Walmart had been in dialogue with the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, a group that is vocal about the “hyper-sexualized and sexually objectifying” content found in Cosmopolitan Magazine. Many advocates say this is a step forward in light of the #MeToo movement. However, there are many men and women criticizing Walmart’s decision. On twitter many voices expressed sentiments like this one, “Walmart using the #MeToo movement as an excuse to stop selling Cosmopolitan in checkout lines is pretty ridiculous. Censoring frank information about sex feeds into rape culture by denying girls knowledge about their sexuality and choices they can make for themselves” Many folks blamed religion and fundamentalism as part of the motivation to remove the magazine from the check out aisles. Interesting since Cosmopolitan describes itself as a, “bible for fun, fearless females.” Perhaps it does have a message or belief system attached?  Vogue magazine raised their concerns in support of its fellow magazine and I have argued about their messages in my blog post here.

Unfortunately this worldview is completely wrong concerning what is best for girls. Statistics and specialists have voiced informed concerns for years about the dangers found in the message of a magazine like Cosmopolitan. Out of curiosity, I googled covers of Cosmopolitan. The images month after month are eerily similar. They all have a flashy thin white women with large breasts in provocative positions with some catchy headline about SEX. There were a couple covers with women of color and I found one that had a plus size model (normal sized person). Somehow talented female actors and musicians also allow themselves to be graced on the cover in provocative positions and sultry expressions. We call this beautiful. We call this empowered. Neither of these descriptions could be farther from the truth according to the research.

So what do the specialists and the statistics actually say about the effects of young women looking at pictures like this over and over again? What do they say about how the explicit material affects young women as they develop sexually? Is Cosmo a source of empowerment or rather, is it enslavement to a narrow, shallow idea of beauty and sexuality?

Consider the following statistics:

  • 78% of 17 year old girls do not like their bodies
  • 40% of 9-10 year old girls have been on a diet
  • 60% of teenage girls compare their bodies to fashion models (and fall short)
  • Over 80% of ten year olds fear being fat
  • At age 12 a girl’s self esteem plummet compared to boys. There is a direct correlation between this number and societal beauty ideals placed on young women.
  • Adolescent girls believe they would be happier if they were thinner and better looking
  • Girl Scouts did on online survey in 2010 with over 1000 girls between the ages of 13-17. 9 out of 10 girls felt pressure by fashion and media to be skinny (and beautiful).
  • By the time a girl is 16, she has seen more than 50,000 images aimed at her appearance.

The statistics above are linked to insecurity, eating disorders, earlier sexual encounters, depression, and the list goes on.

Statistics reflect that defining beauty in a narrow way repeatedly has a harmful effect on the young women in our lives. Rather than young women flourishing in the bodies and faces they have been given, they are given the false message of a narrow beauty ideal that is virtually impossible to achieve. (However, according to magazines like Cosmo, much of the beauty ideal can be achieved by purchasing the beauty products that pay thousands for ads in their magazines.)

What about the written sexual messages in the magazine? Are the articles found within the pages of Cosmopolitan bringing life and flourishing to young women? Some of the recent titles included, “How to Make Sex Videos less Awkward”, “WTF is Outercourse”, “Have Sexier Sex, Naughty Tips to Get you There”, and my favorite, “Sex Your Way, Kisses, Touches, and Positions to Get You There, Get it Girl!” So, sex is a means of achievement, videoing yourself having sex is normal, and naughtiness is a good thing. (Remember when it was a bad thing?) The key messages found in articles above suggest: sex is a casual activity, it’s a way to get what you want, it’s an activity for anyone, anytime. There is little or no mention of commitment, intimacy, love, or meaning when it comes to our sexual lives. Sex is communicated as a pleasurable, self fulfilling activity. There is also no denying a magazine such as Cosmopolitan communicates a direct correlation between what a woman looks like and how good her sex life can be. We owe our young women more.

Professionals have written numerous books and articles calling for change when it comes to our culture’s narrow and toxic beauty standard. One such writer, Laura H Choate, a professor at Louisiana State University, wrote a book called, Swimming Upstream, Parenting Girls for Resilience in a TOXIC Culture. The title alone speaks volumes. Our culture is toxic for young women. Toxic means poisonous, dangerous, harmful, injurious, virulent. Her writing beckons parents and others in authority to teach young women to go against the false messages found in beauty and fashion magazines. In Packaging Girlhood, Rescuing our Daughters from Marketer’s Schemes, Sharon Lamb and Lyn Brown encourage parents to consider the underlying messages found in the marketing of clothing and toys from little girls all the way through their teens. Toys and clothing are marketed as hot and sexy at a very early age. In their section on teens and musical lyrics they speak of this message, “Perhaps things have changed; the girls who withheld used to have the power. Now the sexy, the bold, and the addicted have a power all their own. The power comes from being looked at, from being acknowledged as out of control, a dirty girl, free, better than other girls.” The covers on magazines like Cosmopolitan convey the same message. It is a harmful one. A girl’s power should not come from being looked at but from who she is. Perhaps these books should be in the check out lines.

Just because a magazine publishes some informative articles on women’s sexual health and gender roles does not change the fact that the implicit message found throughout is narrow and harmful. Put a female psychologist on the cover and list her degrees and achievements. Or a young female CEO making a difference in her community. Or a teacher influencing her students. Adorn those women with the fashion of the day for all body types. If you really want to be a magazine that empowers, don’t limit your cover to sexual positions and tight clothing. I am thankful for Wal-Mart and their choice to move Cosmopolitan Magazine from the eyes of young women in the check-out line buying their groceries. Maybe I’ll go buy a candy bar.

Join My Mailing List

Want to receive my blog posts, or periodic news/updates in your inbox? Join my mailing list. Don't worry, your email address is never sold or shared.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Reader Interactions

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Address Book Address Card adjust align-center align-justify align-left align-right ambulance American Sign Language Interpreting Anchor Angle Double Down Angle Double Left Angle Double Right Angle Double Up angle-down angle-left angle-right angle-up Archive Alternate Arrow Circle Down Alternate Arrow Circle Left Alternate Arrow Circle Right Alternate Arrow Circle Up Arrow Circle Down Arrow Circle Left Arrow Circle Right Arrow Circle Up arrow-down arrow-left arrow-right arrow-up Alternate Arrows Alternate Arrows Horizontal Alternate Arrows Vertical Assistive Listening Systems asterisk At Audio Description backward Balance Scale ban Band-Aid barcode Bars Baseball Ball Basketball Ball Bath Battery Empty Battery Full Battery 1/2 Full Battery 1/4 Full Battery 3/4 Full Bed beer bell Bell Slash Bicycle Binoculars Birthday Cake Blind bold Lightning Bolt Bomb book bookmark Bowling Ball Box Boxes Braille Briefcase Bug Building bullhorn Bullseye Bus Calculator Calendar Alternate Calendar Calendar Check Calendar Minus Calendar Plus Calendar Times camera Retro Camera Car Caret Down Caret Left Caret Right Caret Square Down Caret Square Left Caret Square Right Caret Square Up Caret Up Shopping Cart Arrow Down Add to Shopping Cart certificate Area Chart Bar Chart Line Chart Pie Chart Check Check Circle Check Square Chess Chess Bishop Chess Board Chess King Chess Knight Chess Pawn Chess Queen Chess Rook Chevron Circle Down Chevron Circle Left Chevron Circle Right Chevron Circle Up chevron-down chevron-left chevron-right chevron-up Child Circle Circle Notched Clipboard Clipboard Check Clipboard List Clock Clone Closed Captioning Cloud Cloud Download Alternate Cloud Upload Alternate Code Code Branch Coffee cog cogs Columns comment Alternate Comment comments Compass Compress Copy Copyright Credit Card crop Crosshairs Cube Cubes Cut Database Deaf Desktop DNA Dollar Sign Dolly Dolly Flatbed Dot Circle Download Edit eject Horizontal Ellipsis Vertical Ellipsis Envelope Envelope Open Envelope Square eraser Euro Sign Alternate Exchange exclamation Exclamation Circle Exclamation Triangle Expand Alternate Expand Arrows Alternate External Link Alternate External Link Square Eye Eye Dropper Eye Slash fast-backward fast-forward Fax Female fighter-jet File Alternate File Archive File Audio File Code File Excel File Image File PDF File Powerpoint File Video File Word File Film Filter fire fire-extinguisher First Aid flag flag-checkered Flask Folder Folder Open font Football Ball forward Frown Futbol Gamepad Gavel Gem Genderless gift Martini Glass Globe Golf Ball Graduation Cap H Square Lizard (Hand) Paper (Hand) Peace (Hand) Hand Pointing Down Hand Pointing Left Hand Pointing Right Hand Pointing Up Pointer (Hand) Rock (Hand) Scissors (Hand) Spock (Hand) Handshake Hashtag HDD heading headphones Heart Heartbeat History Hockey Puck home hospital Hospital Symbol Hourglass Hourglass End Hourglass Half Hourglass Start I Beam Cursor Identification Badge Identification Card Image Images inbox Indent Industry Info Info Circle italic key Keyboard Language Laptop leaf Lemon Level Down Alternate Level Up Alternate Life Ring Lightbulb Link Turkish Lira Sign List List Alternate list-ol list-ul location-arrow lock Lock Open Alternate Long Arrow Down Alternate Long Arrow Left Alternate Long Arrow Right Alternate Long Arrow Up Low Vision magic magnet Male Map map-marker Map Marker Alternate Map Pin Map Signs Mars Mars Double Mars Stroke Mars Stroke Horizontal Mars Stroke Vertical medkit Meh Mercury Microchip microphone Microphone Slash minus Minus Circle Minus Square Mobile Phone Alternate Mobile Money Bill Alternate Moon Motorcycle Mouse Pointer Music Neuter Newspaper Object Group Object Ungroup Outdent Paint Brush Pallet Paper Plane Paperclip paragraph Paste pause Pause Circle Paw Pen Square Alternate Pencil Percent Phone Phone Square Phone Volume Pills plane play Play Circle Plug plus Plus Circle Plus Square Podcast Pound Sign Power Off print Puzzle Piece qrcode Question Question Circle Quidditch quote-left quote-right random Recycle Redo Alternate Redo Registered Trademark Reply reply-all Retweet road rocket rss RSS Square Ruble Sign Indian Rupee Sign Save Search Search Minus Search Plus Server Share Alternate Share Alternate Share Square Share Square Shekel Sign Alternate Shield Ship Shipping Fast Shopping Bag Shopping Basket shopping-cart Shower Alternate Sign In Sign Language Alternate Sign Out signal Sitemap Horizontal Sliders Smile Snowflake Sort Sort Alpha Down Sort Alpha Up Sort Amount Down Sort Amount Up Sort Down (Descending) Sort Numeric Down Sort Numeric Up Sort Up (Ascending) Space Shuttle Spinner Square Square Full Star star-half step-backward step-forward Stethoscope Sticky Note stop Stop Circle Stopwatch Street View Strikethrough subscript Subway Suitcase Sun superscript Sync Alternate Sync Syringe table Table Tennis tablet Alternate Tablet Alternate Tachometer tag tags Tasks Taxi Terminal text-height text-width th th-large th-list Thermometer Thermometer Empty Thermometer Full Thermometer 1/2 Full Thermometer 1/4 Full Thermometer 3/4 Full thumbs-down thumbs-up Thumbtack Alternate Ticket Times Times Circle tint Toggle Off Toggle On Trademark Train Transgender Alternate Transgender Trash Alternate Trash Tree trophy truck TTY Television Umbrella Underline Undo Alternate Undo Universal Access University unlink unlock Alternate Unlock Upload User User Circle user-md Add User User Secret Remove User Users Utensil Spoon Utensils Venus Venus Double Venus Mars Video Volleyball Ball volume-down volume-off volume-up Warehouse Weight Wheelchair WiFi Window Close Window Maximize Window Minimize Window Restore Won Sign Wrench Yen Sign 500px Accessible Icon Accusoft Adversal affiliatetheme Algolia Amazon Amazon Pay Amilia Android AngelList Angry Creative Angular App Store iOS App Store Apper Systems AB Apple Apple Pay Asymmetrik, Ltd. Audible Autoprefixer avianex Aviato Amazon Web Services (AWS) Bandcamp Behance Behance Square BIMobject Bitbucket Bitcoin Bity Font Awesome Black Tie BlackBerry Blogger Blogger B Bluetooth Bluetooth BTC Büromöbel-Experte GmbH & Co. KG. BuySellAds Amazon Pay Credit Card American Express Credit Card Apple Pay Credit Card Diner's Club Credit Card Discover Credit Card JCB Credit Card MasterCard Credit Card Paypal Credit Card Stripe Credit Card Visa Credit Card Centercode Chrome Cloudsmith cloudversify Codepen Codie Pie Connect Develop Contao cPanel Creative Commons CSS 3 Logo Alternate CSS3 Logo Cuttlefish Dungeons & Dragons DashCube Delicious Logo Deskpro deviantART Digg Logo Digital Ocean Discord Discourse DocHub Docker Draft2digital Dribbble Dribbble Square Dropbox Drupal Logo Dyalog Earlybirds Edge Browser Elementor Ember Galactic Empire Envira Gallery Erlang Ethereum Etsy ExpeditedSSL Facebook Facebook F Facebook Messenger Facebook Square Firefox First Order firstdraft Flickr Flipboard Fly Font Awesome Alternate Font Awesome Font Awesome Flag Fonticons Fonticons Fi Fort Awesome Alternate Fort Awesome Forumbee Foursquare Free Code Camp FreeBSD Get Pocket GG Currency GG Currency Circle Git Git Square GitHub Alternate GitHub GitHub Square GitKraken GitLab Gitter Glide Glide G Gofore Goodreads Goodreads G Google Logo Google Drive Google Play Google Plus Google Plus G Google Plus Square Google Wallet Gratipay (Gittip) Grav Gripfire, Inc. Grunt Gulp Hacker News Hacker News Square Hips HireAHelper Hooli Hotjar Houzz HTML 5 Logo HubSpot IMDB Instagram Internet-explorer ioxhost iTunes Itunes Note Jenkis Joget Joomla Logo JavaScript (JS) JavaScript (JS) Square jsFiddle KeyCDN Kickstarter Kickstarter K KORVUE Laravel Square Leanpub Less Line LinkedIn LinkedIn In Linode Linux lyft Magento MaxCDN MedApps Medium Medium M MRT Meetup Microsoft Mix Mixcloud Mizuni MODX Monero Napster Nintendo Switch Node.js Node.js JS npm NS8 Nutritionix Odnoklassniki Odnoklassniki Square OpenCart OpenID Opera Optin Monster Open Source Initiative page4 Corporation Pagelines Palfed Patreon Paypal Periscope Phabricator Phoenix Framework PHP Pied Piper Logo Alternate Pied Piper Logo Pied Piper PP Logo (Old) Pinterest Pinterest P Pinterest Square PlayStation Product Hunt Pushed Python QQ QuinScape Quora Ravelry React Rebel Alliance red river reddit Logo reddit Alien reddit Square Rendact Renren replyd Resolving Rocket.Chat Rockrms Safari Sass SCHLIX Scribd Searchengin Sellcast Sellsy Servicestack Shirts in Bulk SimplyBuilt SISTRIX skyatlas Skype Slack Logo Slack Hashtag Slideshare Snapchat Snapchat Ghost Snapchat Square SoundCloud Speakap Spotify Stack Exchange Stack Overflow StayLinked Steam Steam Square Steam Symbol Sticker Mule Strava Stripe Stripe S Studio Vinari StumbleUpon Logo StumbleUpon Circle Superpowers Supple Telegram Telegram Plane Tencent Weibo ThemeIsle Trello TripAdvisor Tumblr Tumblr Square Twitch Twitter Twitter Square Typo3 Uber UIkit Uniregistry Untappd USB us-Sunnah Foundation Vaadin Viacoin Viadeo Viadeo Square Viber Vimeo Vimeo Square Vimeo Vine VK VNV Vue.js Weibo Weixin (WeChat) What's App What's App Square WHMCS Wikipedia W Windows WordPress Logo Wordpress Simple WPBeginner WPExplorer WPForms Xbox Xing Xing Square Y Combinator Yahoo Logo Yandex Yandex International Yelp Yoast YouTube YouTube Square