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Cosmo Transnationally Introduction I became interested in tracking and analyzing the production of subjectivities (raced, sexualized, gendered, and classed) through the process of transnational consumerism as an interesting way for me to put together my local interests in the representation of black women in popular U.S. print media with the interests of a transnational feminisms class I took with my mentor Dr. Lessie Jo Frazier. With funding from the Friends of the Kinsey Institute Collaborative Grant, Dr. Frazier and I obtained subscriptions to international issues of Cosmopolitan to allow for a more focused study of a particular ³Western´ artifact of popular culture that now freely circulates in the global marketplace. Examining the ³fun, fearless, female´ branded form of womanhood that is published and disseminated by the largest diversified communications organization through the best selling women¶s magazine on the planet, Cosmo, which ultimately allows us to reflect on the implications of American influence in the kinds of cultural production from emergent democratic (capitalistic) development projects worldwide. Ultimately, Cosmo is important because it has a long history rooted in the Great American tradition of the free market and has become, as mentioned before, the largest circulating women¶s magazine in the world. Cosmopolitan magazine is useful as a tool of analysis to explore theories of globalization as they relate to consumer practices, advertising, and women¶s magazines, because while Cosmo is creating ³imagined´ subjectivities²the fun, fearless, female²it is literally helping to build up and legitimize ³real´ world cities and by extension nations that are able to participate in the lucrative endeavor of publishing and distributing Cosmopolitan.
Sources and Methods This paper utilizes primary resources materials and comparative and critical content analysis for investigative research, and when I was limited by language, I engaged in interviews to access and discuss findings. [THE DATA SET] The primary resources discussed herein include eight issues of Cosmo UK published 1997-2008, one Cosmo France published September 2000, five issues of Cosmo South Africa, myriad Cosmo US and representing Cosmo¶s most recent market expansion into a newly developing free market economy, one Cosmo Russia published May 2007. Other primary sources include HMI (Hearst Media International) corporate documents including promotional materials, websites, court cases, merger and acquisition materials, and media coverage of the same. Our insights about the internationalization of Cosmopolitan Magazine is contextualized by theories of globalization, including Saskia Sassan¶s ideas about what constitutes a ³World city,´ in conversation with the critical feminist theory in Inderpal Grewal¶s Transnational America: Feminisms, Diasporas, Neoliberalisms. [cosmo brand blurb] First I am going to give you a bit of Cosmopolitan history, because it helps to us understand how Cosmo has proven itself as a ³successful´ vehicle of power for nation building in burgeoning democracies, as demonstrated by its own rise to the position of the premier women¶s magazine on the globe. Cosmopolitan Magazine is indeed a manifestation of the American Dream1 for the Hearsts who made
The American Dream is based at least in part on ³the Protestant work ethic´ and insinuates that America is a meritocracy where success and wealth is possible for anyone through hard work. Stuart Ewen claims that at the outset advertising appealed to the American Dream and created ³universal notions´ of human desire appealing to the ³human instinct´ to fulfill one¶s needs, while simultaneously connecting products to those natural desires; Walter Dill Scott, a prominent 1911 psychologist, argued all humans aspire for ³social prestige,´ ³beauty,´ ³acquisition,´ ³self-adornment,´ and ³play´ which are all facets of high social status and evidence of the realization of the American Dream. Advertising still nurtures ³universal´
their fortune by helping build the great nation of the United States. The Hearst fortune began the nineteenth century with George Hearst¶s foray into the American west to find gold. What he found instead were minerals for mining and an interest in American politics where he became one of the first U.S. Senators (to protect his business interests). Much like the mindset of his father who through mining took advantage of the land¶s natural resources, in 1887 William Randolph Hearst began to take advantage of business opportunities in publishing by purchasing other¶s failed endeavors; thus, it was through corporate mergers, acquisitions, takeovers, and monopoly that Hearst Corporation began its ascent to become the largest ³diversified communications´ empire in the world. 2 In the early twentieth century, William Randolph Hearst changed Cosmo to a women¶s monthly magazine geared toward one of the nation¶s first niche markets: married white women. The magazine was used as a means to connect advertisements for new products that were created in the American factory boom of early mass capitalism to the nation¶s growing white populace. By purchasing the magazine white American women and men interpellated themselves into the new capitalistic system playing their role as the good consumer citizens. Cosmo taught upwardly mobile white women the latest in American fashions and helped to solidify the white national beauty norms and standards that still exist today, but it also brought politics and popular fiction of the time to its readers who included men as well as women. The Cosmo reader was a cultured person of the world who read ³America¶s Best Fiction and Fact,´ as an early
human desires calling for coherence to the social order in accordance with progress and homogenization; Stuart Ewen, Captains of Consciousness: Advertising and the Social Roots of the Consumer Culture, (New York: McGraw Hill, 1976): 30, 35. 2 ³A Brief History of Hearst Corporation,´ Hearst Corporate Site, 2007, Accessed at the world wide web on June 15, 2008 at: http://www.hearstcorp.com/magazines/property/mag_prop_cosmo.html
cover boasts.3 While it successfully brought international politics and pulp fiction to its readers for a half a century, during the Second World War Cosmo dropped its focus on politics altogether. The Hearst Corporate Website reports that Cosmo was faltering by 1965 when Helen Gurley Brown, author of Sex and the Single Girl, became the editor. I would like to think that Cosmo¶s failure to reach its readership of the early 1960s was due in part to Betty Friedan¶s groundbreaking 1963 book The Feminine Mystique, which critiqued the media for exploiting women by using their ³femininity´ in what she called a ³sexual sell.´4 In Mystique Friedan connects women and men¶s rigid, limiting, and ultimately devastating gender roles to nation building through the fostering of false promises of ³individuality and freedom of choice´ in one¶s married relationships.5 In other words, the sexual sell was based on the fiction of gender roles in a capitalistic system. Friedan asked her readers ³what happens when a woman bases her whole identity on her sexual role; when sex is necessary to make her µfeel alive¶?´6 The answer for Cosmo magazine is simply that millions of dollars happen. When Helen Gurley Brown became editor in 1965, she transitioned the failing magazine known for its engagement in ³the cult of true womanhood´ into a sexy lifestyle magazine for young women. While the activist arm of the second wave of the feminist movement worked on such important women¶s issues as equal pay and the right to safe abortion, Cosmo covered other new topics, such as single womanhood and women¶s sexuality. Gone
Original emphasis, Cosmopolitan, September 1951, Vol. 131, No. 3, pages 45, 108-110, (New York, NY:Hearst Magazines, Inc., 1951). 4 Betty Friedan The Feminine Mystique, (New York, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1963); 209. 5 Friedan, 228. 6 Friedan, 265.
was the sexually repressed ³victim of the sexual sell,´7 here was a new sexually free woman, the ³fun, fearless, female.´ Richard Streitmatter in Sex Sells! The Media¶s Journey from Repression to Obsession compares Cosmo to Playboy in terms of the level of sexual freedom expressed, and although Cosmo has been rightly criticized by feminists for promoting a too narrow view of modern womanhood it did serve to open the media floodgates to (A CERTAIN KIND OF) public discourse about sex and sexuality for women.8 This change in the direction of the magazine marks a turning point in American popular culture, because it gave white heterosexual women (and men) if only rhetorical sexual citizenship that they had not heretofore experienced. Cosmo¶s readership took off and through acquisitions and merger opportunities, in 1971 Cosmo hit the international market in the UK and today the ³Fun Fearless Female´ Cosmo woman is a internationally recognized brand and a lifestyle in more than ³34 languages and distributed in more than 100 countries´.9 [cosmo dist.] Findings Cosmo Russia The magazine as a text cannot be interpreted at this time, however, the Russian edition of Cosmo is strikingly different in appearance than its counterparts listed herein (see footnote ii). The magazine is 98 pages²nearly one hundred pages fewer in length than the U.S. Cosmo at 244 pages, the French Cosmo at 170 pages, and the UK Cosmo at 320 pages, which debuted on the market ten years ago; according to The Moscow Times, Cosmopolitan was the first glossy magazine to appear in post-Soviet Russia and has since entered the Guinness Book of World Records as the magazine with the highest circulation rate in Europe.10 The magazine is filled with American celebrities that have arguably left the spotlight, including Sylvester Stallone and Barbara Streisand, but Angelina Jolie, who is featured on the cover in a modest grey t-shirt, is still a popular American figure and the
Friedan, 209. Richard Streitmatter. Sex Sells!The Media¶s Journey from Repression to Obsession. (Cambridge: Westview Press, 2004): 68. 9 ³A Brief History of Hearst Corporation,´ Hearst Corporate Site, 2007, Accessed at the world wide web on June 15, 2008 at: http://www.hearstcorp.com/magazines/property/mag_prop_cosmo.html 10 The Moscow Times / FIPP (International Federation of the Periodical Press), ³Russian Cosmo becomes Europe¶s official top seller,´ accessed on the World Wide Web on May 6, 2007: http://www.fipp.com/Default.aspx?PageIndex=2002&ItemId=11977.
corresponding article appears to be her filmography (pursuant to the imagery accompanying the text which depicts scenes from her films). The magazine appears to have very few feature articles, but includes multitudinous advertisements featuring American or ³Western´ products, such as Gillette Venus razors, Chanel, and three different makeup ads for L¶oreal Paris. There are no women of color in the magazine and only one small image (2x3) of an Asian girl of about ten years old smiling directly into the camera in what appears to be a feature about travel (determined from the photo of Paris also on the same page).11 Images that illustrate men and women together are few, but appear as candid photos of lovers dancing and kissing paired with what appears to be a quiz (a characteristic of Cosmo magazine in general). Cosmo France While heterosexuality is the primary mode of sexual preference or sexuality in the Russian edition of Cosmo, the French September 2000 issue acknowledges and politicizes at least one aspect of queer identities, male homosexuality. ³Elles aiment les homes qui aiment les homes,´ or ³women who love men who love men´ is a four page feature article that first discusses American films that introduced female desire for the ³feminine´ or ³sensitive´ man into popular culture; the article then discusses French parity²bureaucratically enforced gender equity in the French government²and moves into the deeply felt frustration of French women who fall in love with gay men.12 Paris is overemphasized and women are presented in a stereotypical French manner, cigarette in hand wearing a beret paired with text that valorizes Paris. The French edition of Cosmo magazine is distinctive from its transnational counterparts in that the fashion is distinctively Couture (³high brow´), a high art form that originated in Paris, France. The pairing of high art in Couture fashion with nude women¶s sexualized bodies is an interesting layout maneuver. This particular issue of French Cosmo features fully nude women showering in an article discussing ³webcam´ girls. Collins and Lutz in ³The Color of Sex: Postwar Photographic Histories of Race and Gender in National Geographic Magazine,´ argue that ³art´ lends to interpretations of images (and things) as aesthetic, which can (and often is) extended to a ³potential´ interpretation of images as pornography.13 The images of women dressed in Couture clothing are not overtly sexual, rather they depict fully dressed women in urban environments like New York, but the articles surrounding the fashion layouts explicitly depict sexualized nudity and discuss American sexuality (in movies and on the internet). Thus, the imagery paired with the articles about voyeurism lends the magazine to a pornographic interpretation. [change slide] Cosmo UK Unlike the French edition¶s overt acknowledgement of male homosexuality in a feature article, the September 2000 UK Cosmo contains a small advertisement (one
Cosmopolitan, Russian Edition, May 2007, (see endnote ii). Insights and translations of French Cosmo are from information interviews with Jordi and Anne, April 26, 2007. 13 Catherine A. Lutz and Collins, Jane L. Collins, ³The Color of Sex: Postwar Photographic Histories of Race and Gender in National Geographic Magazine,´ in Lancaster, Roger N. and Leonardo Mcaela di (eds) The Gender/Sexuality Reader: Culture, History, Political Economy. (New York: Routledge, 1997): 299.
inch by one inch) for a lesbian magazine (found in the end of the magazine), along with many small ads for ³walk in´ abortion clinics. According to The Observer UK, abortion has been openly discussed regularly in Cosmo UK since its groundbreaking introduction to British readers in 1972.14 The UK Cosmo, like the French edition, is arguably more ³dangerous´ than the American edition. In addition to regularly and openly discussing women¶s political issues like abortion and sexually transmitted diseases and prevention it also willing to exhibit nude women¶s bodies. However, the manner in which this occurs is very different from the French edition (and there is no nudity in the American and Russian editions) as the images depict nude women without being sexual: the images are medicalized. Advertisements for cosmetic surgery are more abundant in the UK edition of Cosmo than in the three others; the last fifteen pages contain multitudinous referrals to clinics that fix women¶s ³problem areas´ while photographs feature bear breasts and buttocks. Lutz and Collins argue that while art aetheticizes, science ³dissects, fragments, and desexualizes´ creating a safe distance between the viewer and the object.15 Nude women are featured in advertisements for cosmetic surgery, thus medicalizing their nudity and eradicating the possibility of a pornographic interpretation of the images by women (but likely not by male readers); however, the text and articles in the UK edition of Cosmo are more descriptively pornographic in ³how to´ sex feature articles than in the other transnational versions. One article explicitly asks women to ³try the Venus Butterfly´ and describes exactly how to do it ³use one hand to stroke his penis and with the other hand, rest two fingers on his perineum²the area between his testicles and his anus´;16 such explicit sexual language is not present in the other three transnational versions of Cosmo explored herein indicating, at least, linguistic and cultural differences in the countries represented in the editions herein. Marjo Vapaakoski, in ³Differences in Language in British and American Editions of Cosmopolitan Magazine,´ performed a comparative linguistic analysis of British and American Cosmo and found that ³many distinctively British expressions are being replaced by American, or International English. During even the short time span between 1997 and 2000 many words that have been characteristic of American English increasingly are appearing in British articles, but never the other way around. It would really stand out if you saw the word ³telly´ in an American publication but it does not even catch your attention to see ³movie´ in a British one. 17
The Observer UK, ³Cosmo at 35 - still sexy and campaigning but now faces sharp competition: Rebecca Seal charts the rise of the British edition of a magazine that fought for women's rights but now faces sharp competition´ February 4, 2007, accessed on the World Wide Web at http://observer.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,,2005648,00.html Ibid. Cosmopolitan, British Edition, August 2000, (see endnote ii), ³Your 14 Day Sex Holiday´: 94. 17 Marjo Vapaakoski, ³Differences in Language in British and American Editions of Cosmopolitan Magazine,´ The FAST Area Studies Program, Department of Translation Studies, University of Tampere, 2000, accessed on the world wide web on May 6, 2007 at: http://www.uta.fi/FAST/US1/P1/USGB/mvcosmo.html
16 15 14
Cosmo America While the French and British Cosmo seems to celebrate women¶s bodies, the U.S. Cosmo treats sex and sexuality with a particular tension. The text protects overtly sexualized language, using words like ³package´ instead of penis and never totally exposes women¶s bodies, but alludes to nudity instead by showing only sections of women¶s bodies out of context with the rest of the body (for example, a bare midsection with no legs or head). At the same time the magazine is hyper-sexual with features that expose ³Naughty Sex Tricks!´18 Every claim in the U.S. edition of Cosmo is bolstered with the authority of science. In fact, heterosexuality is legitimated through medical language making the connection between men and women literally biological in nature. For example, the article that correlates with the cover blurb ³Naughty Sex Tricks!´ lists the stages of the (hetero)sexual relationship beginning with the first six months² when sex is characterized by chemical responses caused by adrenaline²and ending with ³two years or more,´ when a ³chemical called oxytocin (known as the cuddle hormone) [is released] more than adrenaline,´ thus, indicating the necessity of keeping ³things´ interesting in the bedroom: these claims are all bolstered by medical fact by author and clinical psychologist Linda Mona, Ph.D., ³director of research at MyPleasure.com.´ 19 What is perhaps most striking about the U.S. edition of Cosmo though²in addition to the scientific legitimization of heterosexuality²is the depiction of African American women against their Caucasian counterparts in the advertising. Cosmo South Africa [slide] The May 2008 issue features a story ³What Makes Us Different from Other Guys?´ about two UK transmen Jay McNeil and Lee Gale living in South Africa. (119). The feature is describes how the two transmen dealt with their ³Gender Identity Disorder.´ The article features the names of local transsexual organizations, including clinics in the area, and resources about gay and lesbian community and health centers. The feature quotes American scholar Patrick Califia, author of Sex Changes: The Politics of Transgenderism, who discusses the difficulty of being recognized as a man by society. However, the article also acknowledges male privilege. What might be most radical about this piece aside from the informative information about clinics and hormones is the information about McNeil and Gales embodiment. Both men had top surgery only, keeping their ³female´ organs intact. South Africa and Spain are the only two countries in the world that allow legal gender identity change without surgery. Transsexual subjects of South Africa describe the pleasures and dangers of an enlarged clitoris and an enjoyment of sexuality²a full sexual citizenship. ARGUMENT (findings) Locating the Cosmopolitan Subject Transnationally How does one explain the fact that while Cosmo U.S. encourages heterosexual sex²³How Long Should You Wait to Sleep With a Guy? Finally, a Straight Answer´ (Cosmo U.S. March 2007)²its international counterparts engage in discussions about
Cosmopolitan, American Edition, March 2007, (see endnote ii), ³How to Keep Sex Naughty´: 138. Ibid., 138-139.
homosexuality? How does one make sense of seemingly conflicting values in magazine editions, like Cosmo France, that openly promote heterosexual relationships, but then work to subjugate hyper-sexuality by using ³real´ stories about women who have fallen in love with homosexual men? There is an interesting disarticulation here between what is actually going on in U.S. Cosmo, as an almost ³repressed´ version of Cosmo international, versus the United State¶s global reputation as the Great Nation and ³the leader´ in all things. The disarticulation manifests as a result of locating Cosmopolitan magazine within an international framework. Internationalism is an insufficient framework for this project, due to the insinuation of the connection between two nations and the presumably one-way flow of information and money as with much foreign aid legislation. Further, Amanda Lock Swarr and Richa Nagar argue that international ³development theory´ tends to ³simplistically equate gender with women.´20 This is a problematic correlation, however, once one understands the nuances between the international editions of Cosmo magazine. Because Cosmo is published in more than one hundred countries around the world, while simultaneously demonstrating a somewhat different take on the ³fun, fearless, female´ within each region, it is helpful and necessary to locate Cosmo within the framework of transnationalism, which then allows for cultural exchange rather than a one way flow of information. In the context of this project, transnationalism should be understood as a form of what Grewal describes as networks of ³connectivities´ among and between nations that work through capital flows. 21 Cosmo functions as a
Amanda Lock Swarr and Richa Nagar, ³Dismantling Assumptions: Interrogating µLesbian¶ Struggles for Identity and Survival in India and South Africa,´ Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 2003, vol. 29, no. 2, 492516; 494. 21 Grewal, 4.
representative artifact of a product emanating from what Saskia Sassen identifies as ³global cities.´ Sassen argues that global cities are developed in an evolutionary manner on a scale of hierarchy where certain cities ³function as command points for the organization of the world economy.´22 [flows slide?] American Cosmo is distributed from nine U.S. cities, the top three of which are Chicago, New York and Los Angeles; as a part of their seduction of advertisers in promotional materials called ³Cosmo¶s cool Cosmillion´ they claim that from these nine cities advertisements will reach 6 million readers in America alone.23 Therefore, transnationalism should be understood in the context of this project to indicate racialized and gendered power relationships comprised of capital and ideas that move ³across nations and national boundaries,´ but that also produce subjectivities that remain intimately ³tied to national imaginaries.´24 Thus, while Cosmo U.S. takes a particular form within the U.S., that basic template is altered once the magazine is produced in a different region/country/nation. The transnational version of the Cosmo woman will demonstrate the overall ideal of the ³fun, fearless, female´ (as indicated paratextually), but with a region specific flair, like the overrepresentation of Paris in Cosmo France. Thus, the frame of transnationalism helps to explain variations in the Cosmo template, which helps to understand that our perception of disarticulation is actually regional variation. Conclusions
John Beynon and David Dunkerley (Eds.) Globalization: the Reader. New York: Routledge, 2000: 7172.
This paper can only speak to the distribution methods of HMI in America as this information is posted on the web, whereas international methods for distribution are not listed; ³Cosmo¶s Cool Cosmillion,´ Hearst Corporate Site, 2007. Accessed at the world wide web on April 13, 2007 at: http://www.hearstcorp.com/ 24 Grewal, 11.
Cosmopolitan magazine is enmeshed in this nation¶s past through its roots in the Hearst fortune, a fortune that helped build America to what it is today. Being the largest diversified communications corporation means the Hearst name is linked to many if not all different forms of mass media²publishing, radio, television, movies²worldwide. Cosmo participates in the globalization of ³femaleness´ through the ³fun, fearless, female´ brand womanhood, where desire deployed through the branding of femininity, earning Cosmo women citizenship in the world¶s marketplace based upon their hyper(hetero)sexuality and consumerism. Cosmo is important because this idealized or imaginary woman is part of an active construction of 100 and growing national narratives for a democratic capitalistic marketplace. The Cosmo brand woman represents sexual agency and freedom for ³female,´ or rather, feminine women reminiscent of Friedan¶s ideas in the Feminine Mystique. Alternatively, womanhood that is actively constructed and perceived in newly developing democratic nations, such as South Africa, India, Russia, and Portugal provides rhetorical freedom of sexual expression for women. Paradoxically, advertising, which propels the Cosmo enterprise, commodifies women¶s bodies as sexual objects, thus (re)inserting the ³new´ Cosmo woman into another globalized system of patriarchy.