An Open Letter To Cosmo Magazine
My oldest daughter just turned the big five. Yep, she's one whole hand of fingers old now. This reality is exciting for her, but slightly terrifying for me. My baby girl is growing up fast. Too fast for me. So my wife and I soaked up every minute of her birthday, everything from opening presents and eating cupcakes and seeing her eyes light up at her first ever trip to Build-A-Bear. The sweet innocence of little girls is so refreshing.
As I was with my oldest girl recently at the grocery store, I saw in the checkout line the latest issue of your magazine. I thought to myself how fortunate I was that she can't read yet. This is what your cover looks like:
Trust me, I'm not naive. I know these attention grabbers sell magazines, and hey, we all want to make money right? And I obviously recognize you're not targeting girls like my 5 and 3 and a half year old ones at home. My concern is what will the questions be from them when they are old enough to read your salacious headlines?
My wife and I spend our time doing the best we can to let our girls know how special they are. We let them know they're beautiful, but that what's inside is more important than their appearance. I know once they get into middle school and high school the pressures to be prettier and yes, (gulp) sexy are going to be ever present. I accept that and the challenges that come along with that.
So what's my beef with you? I'd be a hypocrite if I said I didn't at some point in my life appreciate your magazine. In my high school days us guys would scam a Cosmo from the girls and read the (sexual) stories of readers and articles you'd publish. Why? Because we were 16, and immature, and perverts.
As a 33 year old married man raising two daughters, I cringe to know they will, at some point, be subject to many of the same stories and articles. See Cosmo editors, what your magazine implies is that young women are valuable only if they're physically attractive. Only if they have the right figure, the right clothing, and the right sex moves will they have worth. Only if they do the right things to arouse guys around them will they have worth. How does a dad trying to teach his girls the depth of which their true beauty exists compete with that? How do I compete with a teen idol like Lucy Hale?
Please Cosmo, don't write me off. I know I'm just coming across as some moralist dad trying to keep my kids in a bubble, but hear what I'm trying to say. I have dreams for my girls. Dreams that go beyond them having tan skin and perfect hair. I have dreams that they'll want to be an engineer or a pianist or doctor. I have dreams that they'll want to spend summers doing service projects overseas when they're older. I have dreams they'll learn the importance of the arts. I dream they'll appreciate jazz music and family game nights. I have dreams they'll want to spend time reading a good book. I have dreams they'll grow up with big hearts filled with compassion for others just like their mother. I have dreams they'll see their value in the things they do and say, in their values and integrity, and not in what the mirror tells them.
I know you've noticed, but we exist in a world saturated with sexuality. Unfortunately, I think your magazine only adds to the problem. Whether you intentionally target teenagers or not, they're reading your words. They're seeing your pictures. The mirage of high-gloss beauty is real enough to cause emotional pain for many girls who just don't stack up. They're just not skinny enough, not pretty enough, not sexy enough.
I'm not asking you to stop your magazine. I'm not asking you to not cover things you feel will grab attention (a.k.a. profit), I'm asking you to reach out to our girls by empowering them. They don't need attention from boys to feel valued. They don't need to wear skin tight skirts and cleavage showing tops to feel confident. They don't have to spend time worried about how toned their bodies are.
What they need is to know they can do anything they work hard at doing, whether its sports (I think my youngest will be a heck of a gymnast one day), academics (my oldest might just be a Rhodes scholar), social service (my girls love spending time with folks at the nursery home), civil service and volunteer work, and dreams and goals that may seem unattainable to others. Those are what today's teenage girls need to know.
If those things are what today's teenage girls think about, maybe that's what your magazine will begin to focus on. And then when the teenage boys sneak a peek at their classmate's Cosmo, they will begin to see girls differently too.