Cosmopolitan goes political [Commentary]

Magazine moves from the bedroom to the voting booth

September 14, 2014|Susan Reimer

Every news outlet you can think of has had something to say about Ray Rice. Plus one you might not think of.

Cosmopolitan.

On its website, the magazine famous for its naughty bedroom advice published a sad and searing commentary by author Roxane Gay on Janay Rice and domestic abuse.

The appalling number of battered spouses — one in four women and one in seven men — has not moved the needle on this issue, she said, and she didn't think a video record of it would, either.

Not exactly what you'd expect to hear from Cosmo. Not exactly "15 Best Boobs of September."

But the magazine that empowered women in the bedroom under the leadership of saucy Helen Gurley Brown is now trying to get women, especially young women, to realize their political power.

The #CosmoVotes campaign also includes, for the first time, candidate endorsements in Senate, House and governor races in which the editors feel women have a particular stake.

For starters, the magazine has endorsed Mark Udall for the Senate in Colorado, Alison Lundergan Grimes for the Senate in Kentucky and Mary Burke, who is challenging Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker — and all have strong stands on reproductive rights or equal pay.

The editors said they want to educate the magazine's readers about the candidates and the issues in those races so they will be motivated to vote.

Cosmopolitan is also launching a social media effort that features a "Save the Date" for Election Day with a photo of Beyonce with her nails painted with American flags. Clearly Cosmo has not completely abandoned its old self.

A team of women journalists is interviewing midterm candidates, and Cosmo will be rolling out more endorsements. At stake are, potentially, Cosmo's 18 million readers and 30 million online viewers.

Candidates' stands on access to birth control or abortion, as well as pocketbook issues that affect women, are critical because of the impact they have on the trajectory of a woman's life, editor Joanna Coles has said.

"These are about lifestyle issues for women," she told reporters. "The biggest single decision which will impact your life is when you have a child. I want women to have control over that, not a bunch of old white guys sitting in D.C. That to me is why I am doing this."

Democrats must be loving this. Young women are a key part of the party's political base, and Cosmo is lending its glossy heft to getting out the vote for the midterm races so many voters ignore.

Instead of just "10 Ways to Get Your Guy to (I'll let you fill in the blank)," Cosmo has this list: "10 Reasons Young Women Absolutely Need to Vote in the Midterms."

Though the elections are on the front burner for Cosmo this fall and its first-ever endorsements are getting a lot of attention, the magazine is also writing chilling stories about police rape of black women, restrictive voter ID laws and the fear African-American mothers have for their sons' safety in Ferguson, Mo.

This isn't Helen Gurley Brown's Cosmopolitan anymore.

However, when Ms. Coles made an appearance on "CBS This Morning" to talk about the endorsements, co-hosts Charlie Rose, Norah O'Donnell and Gayle King couldn't stop giggling and making silly sex jokes. The editor could barely get a sentence out before one of them would hijack the conversation.

I guess it is still tough for a pretty girl to get taken seriously.

Susan Reimer's column appears on Mondays and Thursdays. She can be reached at sreimer@baltsun.com and @SusanReimer on Twitter.com.


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