Friday, January 29, 2010

Cultural Analysis of Cosmopolitan

It is one of the most popular magazines of our time (for females at least). It can be bought at almost every grocery store, will the assurance that it will fill you in areas ranging from the seasons top trends to how to snag a guy. You can't go wrong. But, have you always wondered what type of magazine it is? The cultural significance it has upon society today, how is it influencing society today? Who is the magazine aiming primarily towards, me or a college graduate? And especially, what are the gender roles within the magazine, if any?
If you feel so inclined to read further, I have analyzed the magazine and delved into the answers to the questions.

First, we know that the magazine is directed toward a female audience. The reasoning behind this can be supported by the fact that the cover states, "What He's Dying to Hear During a Date" "Gut Feelings You Should Never Ignore" and "What's in Style Now". Honestly, I highly doubt a male would pick up this magazine because he belives in gut feelings, whats in style now, or even what "He" is dying to hear during a date (unless, however, this magazine was directed toward a different audience. If so, then it would be plausible). But anyway, now it should be clear how easy it is to label something as gender specific. Yet, that would just be gracing the surface. Cosmo is not only directed toward females, but specifically females who may just fit this criteria: Successful, young (Above 21), intelligent, stylish, and independent. Reason to back this assertion is that first, and foremost, the magazine includes various advertisements for alcohol, and encourages types of drinks. Thus, it is safe to say that it is targeting an audience above 21. Another way to demonstrate how this is targeting my stated criteria is the type of clothing featured in the magazine. It is not your average 17 magazine “deals and snags” types of clothing, but clothes that takes well paid people to buy. It touts $600 handbags, $200 blouses, and shoes whose prices would make you weep if you read. The magazine clearly aims towards females who can afford these types of luxuries. Thus, they must be educated and well paid. Another support for my criteria is the independent factor. The female featured in this magazine is always her own person. There is no cooking for a family, buying a family car, how to care for kids, and so forth. Cosmopolitan is absolutely independent of factors that affect married women. Also, most married women are not particularly interested in the how to’s of catching the right guy.

If anything, the one phrase Cosmo would use to describe women is, “in charge” which also plays into the answer to “what is feminine”. The magazine lets women know they can have anything they want, all they need to be is cunning, smart, and know what they want; exactly. From ways to control dieting, to how to make a guy fall for you, or run after you, Cosmo delivers; which brings us to gender roles. Cosmo does and does not play into gender roles. It plays into gender roles in the sense that women must dress and appear a certain way. Follow trends, dress girly, shoes are important, makeup is imperative, and hairstyles are a must. It lets women know “this is what a woman should look like”. As much as it covers the women’s role when it comes to appearance, it discourages gender roles in terms of a societal factor. Like I said, women are independent, in charge, intelligent, and successful. It does not stress anything about home life, family, kids, cooking, and so forth. It lets a women know there is world out there that does not have to include a home and family. It lets the world know that women are just as powerful as men.

When it comes to sexuality, the magazine covers a theme of heteronormativity. The support for this is that the magazine will always cover topics on male and female based relationships, but never male-male, or female-female. It basically caters to the female audience who is interested in guys. There is also the factor of visual images. The magazine extensively pictures men and women together in relationship-type embraces. The images relate to the language used in the article they are paired with by relating the type of expression and embrace with the writing. For example, there is a article titled, “The Guy Report”, and above there is a woman hugging a guy and both are smiling. This relates to the article because it is about relationships, and how to improve them. The two in the picture can be seen as being in a relationship.

Overall, this is my analysis of cosmopolitans cultural influence. Although it may be directed toward a specific audience, it is not a particularly good or bad thing. There are various magazines that cater toward certain groups of people, and cosmopolitan is directed toward a certain female audience, which does influence our culture today.


  1. I found this analysis really interesting! While I don't really read Cosmo magazine I definitely can see that it is solely targeting women audiences and you have many sources of proof of this. I find it interesting that in many women's magazines the focus on of advertisements is for women to stay home. Product advertisements are usually for foods, baby products, shampoos, SUV's and other "mom" icons. This magazine is an exception in that it therefore doesn't support the stereotype that most women should be the traditional "stay at home mom " with the kids and an SUV; but rather supports the idea of individuality and having a career.

  2. I am an avid reader of cosmo and I have to say I have never stopped to analyze what it is that they are actually saying through the various stories and topics. I know the next time my cosmo comes in the mail I am going to think of the many ways they are showing women in charge and empowering their readers :)