Cosmopolitan Encourages Readers’ Mistrust of Partners

This blog posting is too much fun to pass up (Cracked, 4/6/11).  Yes, it’s long on snark and ignores subtlety and nuance, but it’s funny and at the same time raises some important issues.

It’s about the magazine Cosmopolitan and, if you can stop rolling your eyes, check it out.  The writers, Dennis Hong and Katherine Smith have done what no decent person should have to; they’ve sifted through many issues of Cosmo and come up with what they refer to as its “psychotic” advice on male/female relationships.

Now, let’s be clear.  Cosmo is one of the most popular and widely-read magazines in this country.  It has a circulation that would make better-respected magazines weep with envy.  So whatever Cosmo is peddling, plenty of people are buying.  And of course almost all of those people are women; Cosmo is for and about women.

So whatever it has to say, a lot of women read, and they keep coming back for more.  The above facts lend a certain gravity to the Cracked piece that it wouldn’t have if the topic were, say, Ms.

The blog piece is about Cosmo‘s various takes on how to tell if “your man” is cheating or committing some other dastardly deed.  In a nutshell, we can say that if he’s breathing, he’s cheating. 

Hong and Smith point out that, for example, if he tells his wife/girlfriend too much about his day at work, he’s probably cheating.  If he shows renewed sexual interest in his partner, he’s cheating.  If he improves his personal grooming, ditto.  If he doesn’t give her unfettered access to his PC, iPhone, etc., he’s… well, you get the picture.

There’s more, but the bottom line is that to Cosmo pretty much anything a guy does or doesn’t do can indicate dishonesty or infidelity on his part.  And, to an astonishing degree, in the Cosmo cosmos, it does.  My guess is that just reading one of these articles would be enough to make any sane woman suspect that her guy is up to no good.  Several of them and she’d be sure.

But Cosmo doesn’t stop there.  It’s not enough for the magazine to torment its readers with usually unfounded notions of cheating by their significant others.  No, it goes a step further and recommends certain helpful remedies women can use to combat his real or imagined failures.

So, if a woman believes (at Cosmo‘s urging) that her guy is cheating on her, she should do things like crush his testicles, slip Ex-Lax into his food, put red-hot chili powder in his underwear, destroy his personal belongings and cheat on him with his best friend, just to name a few.

In other words, if you suspect your man of infidelity, commit domestic violence or other crimes against him.

Now it goes without saying that the vast majority of women who read Cosmo take all this with an enormous grain of salt.  Most are smarter and less violent than the magazine would prefer.

But does anyone but me find it a trifle sick that one of the best-selling magazines in the country thinks nothing of urging women to commit DV against men on the basis of their speech patterns and body language?  Anyone with a television can see female-on-male violence depicted positively pretty much any time of the day or night, and Cosmo falls right into the same line.

Beyond that, it’s worth mentioning that our laws, their enforcement by police and governmental funding to combat DV all assume that it’s men, not women, who commit DV.  They, like Cosmo, consider women’s domestic violence to be either non-existent or justified by wrongs committed by males.

The point being that if it were just one semi-sleazy women’s magazine promoting female-on-male violence, it wouldn’t be much to get worked up about.  But Cosmo fits into a much larger picture that ignores women’s violence against men while loudly and hypocritically proclaiming its opposition to DV.

We live in a culture that is wracked with problems relating to children and families.  Over the past 40 years, the American family has broken down as never before in history.  That breakdown is one of the major crises of our times for many reasons, not the least of which is its profound effect on children and the adults those children grow up to become.

So when a major magazine tells its female readers that (a) if you suspect him of infidelity at all, you’re probably right and (b) if so, violent reprisal is the right thing to do, it’s frankly aimed at making a bad situation worse.  Put simply, Cosmo is encouraging mistrust between partners and illegal behavior in response.

And we wonder why the divorce rate is so high.

Thanks to Patrick for the heads-up.

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