Helen Gurley Brown is turning over in her grave right about now.
Walmart, the nation’s largest retailer, will no longer sell Cosmopolitan at its checkout lines. That means no more browsing Cosmo’s glossy pages for the latest in lipsticks, or liptricks.
“Walmart will continue to offer Cosmopolitan to customers that wish to purchase the magazine, but it will no longer be in the checkout aisles,” the company said in a statement. “While this was primarily a business decision, the concerns raised were heard.”
This is a big deal for Cosmo. The retail space near cash registers is coveted for magazines. That’s where all your impulse buying happens.
Somehow, Walmart execs thought they were making a power move when, at the behest of the National Center on Sexual Exploitation — once upon a time the Morality in Media Inc.— it decided to pull Cosmo from its most prominent top of the store spot. “This is what real change looks like in our #MeToo culture,” says Dawn Hawkins, executive director of NCOSE, in a statement. She said that Cosmo “places women’s value primarily on their ability to sexually satisfy a man therefore plays into the same culture where men view and treat women as inanimate sex objects.”
Twitter was vocal about the matter. Some agreed that it was a victory for the #MeToo movement, praising the big-box retailer for making the checkout aisle a safe place for their children. One, Mary McClusky, thanked Walmart for “chipping away at the harmful messages that #YOUTH will see in the checkout aisle.”
— Mary McClusky (@MMcClusky) March 27, 2018
I consider it a gross misuse of the #MeToo movement, started more than 10 years ago by former Philadelphian Tarana Burke. It’s become shorthand as a way to let men know that it’s never appropriate to pull out your business in front of a woman. And, it’s certainly not OK to penalize her if she wrinkles up her nose, grabs her purse, runs out of the room and tells all of her friends (or the cops).
In other words, the #MeToo movement is about empowering women, not blaming them for men’s poor behavior.
And like #MeToo, once you peel back the glossy layers that show you how to up your shoe game, rock his world, and have your world rocked, that’s what Cosmo is all about: women’s empowerment.
In 1962, even before Brown took over the helm of Cosmo, she wrote the groundbreaking book, Sex and the Single Girl, that blew the lid off the fact that — gasp — unmarried women not only had, but enjoyed, sex. Under the late legendary Brown’s tutelage, Cosmo taught generations of women the same thing.
And, I repeat, just because I enjoy sex doesn’t mean I have the right to be sexually harassed. Period.
By removing Cosmo from it’s checkout line, Walmart is playing into the archaic idea that women are at fault when men behave grossly. I’ve been afraid that this will be an unfortunate biproduct of the #MeToo movement because, from the very beginning, “well-meaning” men — and women — are quick to point out that it is women who are responsible for how men treat them. Boys will be boys, they say. But by subliminally blaming women, Walmart is helping to keep sexual harassment alive in our workplaces, on our streets and in our homes.
If Walmart executives were truly concerned about protecting women, maybe they’d turn their attention away from Cosmo and consider removing guns from their store’s shelves. That will do far more than protect women than blaming them for learning how to understand, appreciate and love their sexuality.
An earlier version of this article stated that Walmart sells machine guns. It has been corrected to reflect the error.