I have a bad feminist confession: I read Cosmo. Not every single issue (though I used to when I lived with a friend who had a subscription), but sometimes I’ll be in a shop and I’ll walk past the magazines and think oh, oh I could go for a bit of Cosmo right now. Much in the same way that I find myself walking past shelves of crisps and suddenly have an urge to buy sixteen bags of Wotsits. I know it’s not healthy, I have no belief that either Wotsits or Cosmo do me any good.
So why do I read it?
Logically, I know that magazines like Cosmo are dangerous. The smoothed, buffed, lightened, lengthened, pinched, processed women on their pages promote damaging images of idealised, fictional women that directly feeds into the mental illnesses many women suffer from. Depression, anxiety, eating disorders and low self-esteem are common among women, especially young women, these magazines are targeted for and it’s hardly a surprise. I can’t remember the last time I looked at the fashion pages and saw anyone who looked anything like me.
Now, this doesn’t bother me. In some twisted way I am lucky; most of my issues about my body are distinctly practical. I spend my life worrying about the fact my legs don’t work, not about whether they look ‘fat.’ I don’t have the emotional or mental capacity to spend my time worrying about my size when I’m too busy worrying about whether my brain is falling out my skull (that is sadly an accurate description, not hyperbole). I’m not saying I never look at other women and wish I looked more like them but it’s a passing whimsy not an overriding urge. But I am in a minority in this respect. I have a close friend who cannot look at any ‘women’s magazines’ as doing so risks letting her anorexia rear its ugly head again. I know that the £1 I spend on this magazine feeds an industry that fuels these issues. Like I said, I am a bad feminist. Plus, I rarely know who the celebrities are. Seriously, who are these people? Do I live under a rock?
So, what makes me buy them? The answer is simplicity itself. No, seriously, it’s simple. We all need something in our hectic lives that helps us switch off for a while. If I set out to watch a film or TV I can’t just sit and watch, I need to be doing something else. Reading, writing, studying, planning, scrolling through Twitter, checking in with friends, tidying the tip that apparently is a bedroom. If I sit down to read a magazine I don’t have to do anything else at the same time, I can just shut off the rest of my brain and dull myself with the latest fashions, light articles and, best of all, the terrible first dates page.
Interestingly, when I spoke to my friend about writing this piece, she said she felt it was absolutely fine for me to buy them. If I enjoy them and aren’t affected by their messages why shouldn’t I? On one hand, she has a point. None of us are responsible for everything. On the other hand, spending my money on it sends a message to the industry to keep doing what they do. So, for now, I think I’ll keep buying them. But I’ll also keep feeling guilty about it.