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Legatus Magazine

Cover Story
Sue Ellen Browder | author
May 01, 2018
Filed under Ethics

“Cosmo Girl” is concocted derision of Our Lady

Since Editor Helen Gurley Brown (1922-2012) redesigned Cosmopolitan for the Hearst Corporation in 1965, the magazine has masqueraded as a feminist vehicle for women’s “liberation.”

Yet Betty Friedan, who launched modern feminism in1963 with the publication of The Feminine Mystique, called Cosmo “quite obscene and quite horrible.” Friedan said any view of female liberation that reduces a woman to a sex object (as Cosmo does) is a false freedom that denies a woman’s full personhood. What’s more, freeing a woman to express her full personhood in all aspects of life (motherhood included) was what Friedan said the women’s movement was all about.

How a woman consciously or unconsciously defines her personhood affects all the other decisions, large or small, she will make in her life. So how does Cosmo define a woman’s personhood?

Answering this fundamental question requires examining the view of a woman’s personhood presented by Alfred Kinsey in Sexual Behavior in the Human Female (1953). A zoologist by training, Kinsey spoke of a woman as a “human animal.” Anthropologist Margaret Mead observed that in Kinsey’s view there was no difference between a man having relations with a woman or a sheep.

Kinsey’s view of a woman as a pleasure-seeking animal without a soul entered our culture partly through magazines like Cosmopolitan. As a counterpart to Hugh Hefner’s Playboy, Gurley Brown invented “the Cosmo girl,” a fictitious persona designed to sell cosmetics, clothes, contraceptives, and other wares to women ages 18 to 34.

When I wrote articles for Cosmo in the 1970s and 80s, the Cosmo girl had to follow certain unspoken rules to be considered “sophisticated” and “smart.” She had to be sexually active, use contraceptives, and have free access to abortion.

Yet there were two things our reader couldn’t do if she wanted to be “free.” She couldn’t be a virgin or a mother. In other words, she couldn’t resemble Mary, virgin and mother. In ways that I failed to see at the time, Cosmo’s view of a woman’s personhood involved an unseen-but-direct attack on Our Lady.

The good news is that Cosmo has taken what would otherwise be an invisible problem — Kinsey’s reduction of a woman’s personhood to that of a soulless animal — and has made this corrupted view of femininity visible. All-toofrequently in our fallen world, the differences between truth and error lie hidden and silent. In this case, thanks to the Hearst Corporation’s skilled marketers, the contrast between truth and error is fully visible and being shouted to the skies.

On Cosmo’s covers on every magazine rack, it’s evident (particularly in many of the models’ eyes) how angry, sad, frightened, and empty women feel when they’re falsely reduced to mere sex objects. Conflicted within, the Cosmo girl is always having problems with men because she’s always having problems within herself. Her interior life is in turmoil. There is no true happiness here.

To reveal the truth, girls can be shown images of “liberation” being foisted off by the Hearst Corporation. And these ugly images can be contrasted with the incomparable beauty in the light-filled icons of Our Lady: the authentic model for all persons (men and women alike) who long to be fully human and to be set truly free.

Next time you spot a Cosmo cover while standing in a checkout line, don’t be disturbed. Simply recognize the unseen war being fought, and silently say a “Hail Mary” to the Virgin Mother, our leader in battle. The good news is that her victory is assured. God’s Truth about a woman’s personhood is real, and Cosmo’s lies are only made of dust.

SUE ELLEN BROWDER has published hundreds of magazine articles, and was a featured speaker at the Legatus 2018 Summit. Her latest book is Subverted: How I Helped the Sexual Revolution Hijack the Women’s Movement (Ignatius).



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