Devil’s Advocate: Removing Cosmopolitan from Walmart checkout lines shelves women’s progress

In Devil's Advocate, Opinion
An illustration of Cosmopolitan Magazine on a shelf between Entertainment Weekly and The Atlantic. The people on the other magazines are looking at the woman on Cosmopolitan who is surrounded by words like "Love," "Hot," and "Sex" and is saying "You know, they used to put me at the front of the store."
(Amanda Tran / Daily Titan)

Over the past year, women have made strides to stand up for themselves and take control of their own lives, including Catt Sadler who left E! News after discovering her male counterpart earned a higher salary than her.

It finally started to seem as if women were recognized as equals and not taken advantage of. However, the recent announcement of retail chain Walmart removing Cosmopolitan magazine from its checkout racks is a huge step back in this new wave of feminism.

Last week Walmart announced 5,000 of its stores will be moving Cosmopolitan from its usual place near the cash register to a separate magazine aisle.

“While this is primarily a business decision, the concerns raised were heard,” said Megan Kring Walmart’s spokesperson, to USA Today.

This extremely vague answer hardly satisfied those who wanted to know why the female-focused magazine is being pushed out of eyesight, while ones that target men, like Sports Illustrated, are still on display.

The concerns mentioned in Kring’s statement refer to complaints made by the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, an organization that aims to expose all forms of sexual exploitation. The group sent out a press release soon after the news broke and praised Walmart for its decision to keep the magazine out of children’s eyesight and by extension, put an end to the demeaning of women.

The organization cites a national survey, reasoning that most participants believe the magazine normalizes sexual objectification and pressures people to take part in risky sex. This explanation makes it apparent that no one at the National Center on Sexual Exploitation has ever read an issue of the magazine.

Cosmopolitan frequently publishes articles informing women about different types of birth control and addresses current issues relating to women’s political status and medical needs.

Examples of recent articles include “Here’s What You Need to Know About Non-Latex Condoms,” which informs women of how to have safe sex with a latex allergy and “32 Quotes on Equal Pay From Inspiring Women.”

It doesn’t make sense for the organization to say it is worried the magazine teaches young girls to lead with their sexuality, when instead it actually empowers women with the knowledge it provides.

All children eventually find out about sex, whether it’s in a classroom or through an older sibling. They have all kinds of questions about it, but due to the negative stigma around openly talking about sex, questions hardly ever get answered.

A magazine like Cosmopolitan allows women to read about questions they might feel too embarrassed to ask.

Only about half of the high schools in the United States teach students essential information about sex, according to a 2015 report from the the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Cosmopolitan can be a helpful resource for girls who plan on having sex but don’t have sufficient knowledge of safe sex.

Taking away this source of sexual education from women might lead women to figure it out on their own, enter potentially unsafe situations and put them at risk for sexually transmitted infections.

This is the antithesis of feminism, as it tells women their sexuality is not something they should take control of. If the National Center for Sexual Exploitation thinks talking about sex in a magazine equates to treating women as sexual objects, then it should also be concerned about the way sex is addressed in Sports Illustrated and Men’s Health.

Those magazines give sex advice to men, so why are those magazines not being moved from the front of the store?

Women’s sexuality is celebrated in Cosmopolitan. The magazine’s articles focus on women’s pleasure, not men’s and educates and encourages women to embrace their gender and sexuality, as well as any issues that may come with it.

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