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Gender Studies in 2015 Cosmopolitan Magazine Coursework

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Updated: Sep 21st, 2022

Past and Present

It is a necessity to explain findings discussed in Inventing the Cosmo Girl: Class Identity and Girl-Style American Dreams by Ouellette, as it provides the understanding of the primary concepts, which occurred in the past. Firstly, Brown, who was editor of Cosmopolitan in the 1960s, focused on delivering the message to a particular class (Ouellette 116). One of the primary findings discussed in the analysis is cultural discourse, as this feature made the women feel like special “historical subjects” (Ouellette 117). It can be comprehended, as Brown was the first lady, who addressed the sexism issues and taught her first readers not to pay attention to the double standards, which occurred in the society (Ouellette 117). She wanted to form a particular class of Cosmo Girls, which have a complex and “sexualized identity” (Ouellette 117).

Secondly, Ouellette pays special attention to the book Sex and the Single Girl by Brown, as it was an essential element, which contributed to the formation of Cosmo Girl identity (Ouellette 117). The book focuses on the detailed tutorial of how a girl, whose life is a complete challenge, can become successful in the modern world. It covers important aspects such as flirting and budgeting (Ouellette 117). It encouraged women to be financially independent and have active control over their lives. It could be concluded that Cosmo Girl is “a sexualized symbol of pink collar femininity” (Ouellette 118).

Brown encouraged women to spend money on cosmetics and clothes to change the personal identity. She paid a significant amount of attention to the articles, which helped women to construct new personal images of themselves (Ouellette 120). It was one of the primary focuses of the magazine.

Additionally, the falsity of appearance was emphasized as a primary tool to pursue the changes of personality (Ouellette 121). The articles paid significant attention to the improvement of the outlooks by fake eyelashes and makeup. As it helped cover all the possible drawbacks of the appearance.

The ideal characteristics of Cosmo Girl were “white, heterosexual, upper-middle class” (Ouellette 121). The attention of the other races was only briefly discussed in the magazine, as the ‘white’ girl was ideal. However, it was possible to change the position on the social ladder. A girl could use the tips from the magazine and marry to a well-educated man. In this case, the Karl Marx theory could be applied to change the social position. The girls should have a tendency to become more successful, as “Poor girls are not sexy!” (Ouellette 123).

Additionally, Brown suggested that the only way to overcome the challenges of the class is “hard work” and “conspicuous consumption” (Ouellette 123). She also claimed that the existence of the class differentiation is a natural phenomenon (Ouellette 123). Furthermore, it was suggested that the identical sharing of cultural capitals was present, and women could transfer between the classes by marrying the right people.

Nonetheless, it has to be mentioned that “female sexual desirability” was restricted by the cultural codes “of the working class prostitute” (Ouellette 123). The girl, who represented the social class, appeared on the cover of the magazine wearing luxury clothes and makeup. She usually combined all the attributes of the social class identity. Continuing with the prostitute topic, Brown emphasized that sexuality is a unique instrument, which can change a girl’s life. One of the examples is sex for presents, as “charitable girls” were having sexual intercourse for meals, jewelry, and so on (Ouellette 124).

In the end, Cosmopolitan contributed to the construction of a new image of the American dream, as it encouraged self-development and denied “Victorian sex norms” (Ouellette 125). Sex was discovered as a primary tool for the social mobility and improvement of living conditions. Lastly, the women were understood as competitors, as they needed to fight for the hot spots (Ouellette 125).

Now, it is vital to apply the findings presented above to the modern version of Cosmopolitan, as it helps see, which concepts have changed over an extended period. However, the aspects will be summarized and divided by several major topics. As we live in the modern era, equality is an essentiality of our lives. This point can be seen in new Cosmopolitan September 2015. Cosmopolitan does not focus anymore on the particular races, and people of all ethnicities are present. For example, Sephora advertisement is a pure representation of equality, as it shows the beauty of women of different races (Coles 27). Moreover, the equality between social classes is also emphasized. For instance, it has a unique part named “confession”, where people can tell ridiculous and embarrassing stories (Coles 64). It shows that individuals of all social classes can make mistakes. As for the independence, women are highly independent in the modern society, and there is not a necessity to express this position in the journal. Moreover, any woman can read it, and it is not aimed at a particular social class or sexual orientation.

The appearance and the primary attributes of the cultural codes are presented on the cover of the magazine, as Demi Lovato is a celebrity, who stands out for her good looks and luxury clothes. Moreover, modern Cosmopolitan contains many advertisements, which also represent the main features of the social identity, for example, the publication of Black Opium by Yves Saint Laurent reflects the sexuality and the luxury of the perfume (Coles 1). Moreover, the magazine consists mostly of advertisements, which promote the luxurious lifestyle.

Despite the changes in the other topics of Cosmopolitan, makeup and clothing are essentialities of the magazine since it is vital to dress according to the trends. Section “Style” shows potential clothing combinations, which are actual for September (Coles 92). As for the makeup, the modern magazine has a section called “Beauty” to present new trends in the makeup (Coles 116). In this case, these features are also the tools to express women sexuality. However, they are mostly devoted to the beautiful looks and self-development than using it as a primary tool to attract men.

It still focuses on self-improvement and independence. However, its context is broader and pays particular attention to the broadening the horizons of different knowledge. For instance, now Cosmopolitan has a special section, where it advises what books to read (Coles 30). However, it provides tips how to change one’s habits and dressing style and become like Demi Lovato (Coles 58). Self-development remains an essential factor to improve the position on the social ladder.

The relationship between men and women and flirt remains in the priority. As the equality is present even in the clothing, particular attention is paid to the problem of how clothing can ruin the relationship (Coles 86). As for the sexuality, one of the rubrics is “Sexiest Gentlemen alive” (Coles 71). The photos are rather funny. In this case, the sexuality is not taken seriously. Nonetheless, it also pays attention to the other more serious matters related to sex, such “Why don’t I want to have sex?” (Coles 154). Lastly, it addresses the office topic and certain negative accidents, which might occur at the workplace (Coles 158). Sex is important, but it is not discussed as a potential tool to change a position in the social hierarchy. It is discovered as an entertainment, and Cosmopolitan offers various tips to improve the pleasure of the process.

In conclusion, Cosmopolitan partly lost its idea of being a success, sexuality guide, and initial features of the American dream. Now, it is just a potential source of entertainment, as it helps relax and enjoy the quality of pictures since the photos dominate. Moreover, it provides interviews with the stars, which will help spend the leisure (Coles 163). Its primary goal is to inform and advise the possible trends, but it does not insist on using them.

Reading the Codes

This chapter presents the analysis of the pictures of men and women given in the Cosmopolitan with the help of Erving Goffman’s frameworks. Firstly, Goffman addresses the feminine touch and mentions that women’s hands are displayed delicate and often positioned as holding themselves (Morris and Warren 5). The following aspect can be seen in the advertisement by Tacori (Coles 10). The model’s hands look feminine and hold each over. In turn, man’s hands are usually shown as strong and masculine. The advertisement by Ralph Lauren uses the man model, who has powerful hands (Coles 80). His power and strength are also emphasized with the help of the red color.

Moreover, the Goffman claims that women have a cultural identity of being passive in the advertisements (Morris and Warren 6). This factor is a primary determinant of female sexuality. In turn, men look mighty and strong. This correlation can be noticed in the advertisement by Revlon, as the man seem to be powerful, and the woman is dependent (Coles 73). The woman looks fragile and corresponds with the principles of sexuality emphasized by Goffman.

Another unique feature, which was vehemently emphasized by Goffman, is the fact that it appears that women have no control of the situation compared to men (Morris and Warren 7). In this case, the Revlon’s advertisement can be used again. As it was mentioned earlier, the man looks convincing, and the woman is fragile and feminine (Coles 73). Moreover, it seems that the woman is not in control of the situation, as her smile intends to show her absence and happiness of being with the man. However, it has to be mentioned that this perception of gender cannot be used in the advertisement, as it creates the misconceptions about the woman’s exaggerated vulnerability (Morris and Warren 7).

Moreover, Goffman claims that women are often shown as being childish (Morris and Warren 8). It can be seen with the help of the advertisement of Burt’s Bees (Coles 131). The model’s expression contributes to being childish and having no control of the situation. Her lips are in a position that she is about to laugh. Her curls also contribute to carelessness.

In conclusion, it could be said that all of the principles can be applied regarding the advertisements in Cosmopolitan. It is clear that women will always be portrayed feminine, as even sportswomen, which seem strong and powerful, still cover the primary principles of female sexuality. For example, the model in the advertisement of Sketcher’s Sport displays firm determination, but she looks rather feminine due to the position of her hands (Coles 145).

Works Cited

Coles, Joanna 2015. Cosmopolitan: Web.

Morris, Scott, and Katherine Warren. Media Education Foundation Study Guide: The Codes of Gender, Northampton: Media Education Foundation, 2014. Print.

Ouellette, Laurie. “Inventing the Cosmo Girl: Class Identity and Girl-Style American Dreams.” Gender, Race, and Class in Media. Ed. Gail Dines and Jean Humes. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, Inc., 2003. 116-128. Print.

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