CosmoGirl's Pot Calls the Kettle Black

Editors at CosmoGirl would do well to remember that when they point at somebody else, three fingers are pointing back at them.   


The popular teen magazine tackled the question “What is Sexy?” in the March 2008 issue, bemoaning the increased amount of sexual imagery being thrown at young girls but failing to acknowledge its own contribution to the problem. 

Writer Marina Khidekel pointed out that girls are exposed to sexual imagery at younger ages than ever before, citing the popular Bratz dolls and the fact that “stores such as Limited Too sell lingerie like push-up bras and skimpy low-rise underwear for pre-teens.” 

Khidekel also rightly lamented that TV shows “with smart female lead characters (like Gilmore Girls and Veronica Mars) are being cancelled, while shows that survive (like America's Top Model and The Hills) focus mainly on girls' appearance and hookups.”   When girls are bombarded with the message that appearance is the only thing that matters, Khidekel notes, they start to feel that it's their “sexual power – not [their] talent, brains or ambition – that counts most.” 

While it's encouraging that CosmoGirl recognized that young women should take pride in more than just their looks and sexual experiences, the editors need to turn the lens on themselves and assess whether they're sending the same sex-laden message to their readers.   

One-third of the March issue of CosmoGirl focuses on either fashion or beauty.  Twenty-six percent focuses on celebrities.  This means more than half of the content of the magazine (not including advertisements) is devoted to looks and celebrity worship, both of which sell the idea that to be attractive is to be accomplished. 

Only 26 percent of CosmoGirl's content examines personality development or career goals.  This 26 percent includes a column on how to “love yourself” (masturbate) under the guise of “sex health.” 

Khidekel ultimately defined “sexy” as “much more than just your looks or your sexuality – it's your confidence in what you have to offer the world,” but the rest of the magazine makes this definition look like mere lip service. 

If Khidekel is correct in her definition of “sexy,” shouldn't these teen magazines place more emphasis on encouraging girls to develop other areas of life – school, sports, art, music, theater – and less on the right beauty techniques and the latest fashions? 

Colleen Raezler is a research assistant with the Culture and Media Institute, a division of the MediaResearchCenter