Of Kegels, Kotex, and Kate MossA Look at February's Women's Glossies


Irony of the month: While the Editor’s Letter says, “Shut up and eat,” and bemoans the fact that women are always “self-surveilling” their caloric intake, the mag gives information about: “Aromatrim” products (you smell them and they make you eat less); a new diet pill; “liposhaving” (you can guess what that is).

But they also tell us about the negative effect of dieting on brain power.
Further confusions: an ambivalent article about how actresses gain and lose weight for their roles; an article about how smoking is not an effective form of weight control.
Huh? A page of altered celebrity photos—with captions making fun of how ugly they look without their teeth.
Shameless shilling: Nothing specific—only a constant barrage of all manner of fashion and beauty products.
Explicit feminist content? No. Some writers tiptoe around a feminist analysis—and then run away. Fast.
Relationship advice: None.
Health coverage: None.
Bonus: No mention of Valentine’s Day. (Don’t forget that this was the February issue.)
Overall: Fluff-o-rama.
Percentage of the magazine you might actually want to read*: 15%
*excludes ads, fashion, beauty coverage & particularly stupid or boring stories.

Marie Claire

Huh? Sports bras and bike shorts brought to you by the makers of the Wonderbra.
Most disturbing: “The Other OJ,” an article that uses and promotes stereotypes about interracial relationships and the trope of the violent black man. The differences between the two cases are bigger than the similarities—for one, James Foster admitted to killing his wife—but the superficial and racially charged parallels wipe out any complexity. Warnings about interracial relationships seep into the prose like toxic sludge until the assumption that violence is inevitable becomes skin-crawlingly apparent.
Shameless shilling: The usual.
Explicit feminist content? Yes—ambivalently. The Editor’s Letter is about pro-choice politics, and there’s an article about the proposed ban of a late-term abortion procedure that is often used when the woman’s life is in danger. But it’s about an anti-choice woman who wanted the baby but had to undergo the procedure for health reasons, thus deflecting attention squarely away from the political issue of choice.
Relationship advice: “How To Get the Right Man Addicted to You.” Basically, act the way he wants you to, even if that’s sometimes disguised as “being yourself.” Well, at least sex is valued—”Seven Sex Sins You Should Commit” says so.
Health coverage: Information is commonplace, but also explicit and helpful.
Bonus: No food or diet coverage to speak of.
Overall: Schizoid.
Percentage of the magazine you might actually want to read: 23%


Huh? “Guilt” cologne for men. Wonder what that smells like…
Shameless shilling: A four-page article on all the new “high-tech” moisturizers and why you must use them. Liberally peppered with brand names.
Explicit feminist content? Well, no—but there are plently of implicitly feminist attitudes: the fact that women are smart and capable at work; that we often take the initiative in realtionships. Hey, it’s better than nothing.
Relationship advice: Pretty evenhanded, often with a nice tongue-in-cheek tone. There’s some good: “I think we’re all evolved enough to agree it’s the man’s job to initiate that first meeting, make the plans, pay for dinner, dazzle, amuse, call the next day, flatter, cajole, seduce, get laid, and—pfft!—vaporize by morning, never to appear again. Or not.” And some bad: a men’s roundtable, billed as a discussion of why men can’t commit. Of course, what the guys actually say doesn’t really reveal a fear of commitment—it’s just another convenient opportunity to mouth that cliché.
Health coverage: Includes a regular feature that’s only ok, and an article on HIV that emphasizes the “innocent victim.”
Bonus: Excellent sense of humor evident in sarcastic editorial remarks.
Overall: No surprises.
Percentage of the magazine you might actually want to read: 27%


Irony of the month: An article on chromium picolinate and how dangerous and untested it is coexists with three full-page ads for diet aids with—you guessed it—chromium picolinate. (Should we feel good that they didn’t let their advertisers coerce them into pulling the article?)
Huh? “The Skinny on the Turnip,” a veggie profile that includes “Occupation” (which, by the way, is “root vegetable”—what a surprise), “Career Highlights” and “Loves.”
Most disturbing: “Peel Away Wrinkles,” about chemical peels—mentions the dangers and side effects, but still comes out strongly in favor.
Shameless shilling: Product samples and coupons are available directly from the magazine.
Explicit feminist content? Not really.
Relationship advice: None.
Health coverage: Good: lots of general health information, some women’s health news, and also reports of feminist medical activism. Bad: nutrition coverage that makes you feel like you need a checklist every time you sit down to dinner (or breakfast or lunch…).
Bonus: Also remarkably Valentine-free.
Overall: Fitness obsessed.
Percentage of the magazine you might actually want to read: 24%


Irony of the month: An article on sexual fantasy tells you exactly what to do and what to imagine. (Extra gag factor: in their world, the point of fantasy is to make you a better lover, not to give yourself a good time.)
Huh? “Are You a Fitness Fraud?” about women who only pretend to work out.
Most disturbing: A lot of competition for this category, but we had to pick one: the roundup of “Nice Things To Do for a Man: Make love even if you have a headache…say ‘I’m sorry’ first, even if you aren’t…tell him you admire him—the ultimate compliment.” Unfortunately typical.
Shameless shilling: The usual.
Explicit feminist content? You must be joking.
Relationship advice: Do whatever you have to do to make a man—any man—want you.
Health coverage: Not much, nothing special.
Bonus: Lots of sex.
Overall: Welcome to the planet Cosmo, where men are men and women are passive-agressive schemers who want them…
Percentage of the magazine you might actually want to read: 18%


Shameless shilling: The usual.
Explicit feminist content? Lots: Women of the Year Awards; an essay by Anita Hill on feminism and black men and women; the “Women Right Now” section, with mini-profiles of successful women, mini-essays, legislative news, and statistics; “18 Reasons We Still Need Affirmative Action”; “Bridges,” a regular feature by women of color about racism and cross-cultural concerns.
Relationship advice: High on complexity, low on stereotypes. Treats both women and men respectfully.
Health coverage: Includes both general and woman-oriented advice; longer articles on specific cases—highlighting the failures of HMOs—are scary as hell.
Bonus: “Alone Time,” a regular feature, acknowledges that time spent alone is positive and necessary.
Overall: If there weren’t so much fashion and beauty coverage, it just might be glossy heaven.
Percentage of the magazine you might actually want to read: 26%

This article was published in Issue #2 Issue #2 | Spring 1996

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2 Comments Have Been Posted


This is the first time I've heard anybody sound off on cosmopolitan like that! Plus it's good for trying to find other magazines to read (besides this one!)

The more it changes...

You'd never guess by reading the summaries above that this article goes back to 1996. Heck, it could have been written this year. :P

BTW, thank you for posting at last the early issues online!!! I've been a reader of Bitch since the fall 98 issue, so it's great to catch up with the early stuff I missed out originally (those that weren't published in the Bitch anthology, of course!).

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