I’m a terrible masochist, so today I pretended to myself that I was going to get myself a Sunday treat, and then I bought Cosmopolitan magazine instead. Complete with such articles as ‘Can you vajazzle and be a feminist?’ five pages from the front cover, I knew I was in for the intellectual equivalent of dragging a razor blade across my toenails. So, like any good twentysomething female, I kept reading.
‘Manthropology’ - one of those most excellent chicktionary portmanteau words - promises that if I go on a date with a man to a male-dominated area, he’s more likely to pay for my food. The ‘Women We Love’ section features a post-coital Holly Willoughby in a picture that implies she’s recovering from a fierce sexual encounter with a motorbike, gazing at us all from below the words ‘If you dress sexy, you feel sexy.’ She’s dressed in a short studded leather jacket and a bra. Later on, the jacket comes off and the bra acquires long metal spikes. I’m confused. I start applying metal to my work suit, but the glue’s getting everywhere. How will I ever feel sexy in front of my gorgeous colleagues now? Holly W’s star tip is: ‘When it comes to men, less is more: make up, clothes, etc.’ I’m losing the eyeliner and the jeans for my date-scouring night in a male-dominated area, and I’m pretty sure I’m investing in a vajazzle...
BUT HANG ON. What’s this? ‘The F Word’ campaign is getting in full swing now, with all sorts of women wearing little Cosmopolitan T-shirts and trying to convince us that even though the editor essentially argued against a member of our team on the radio last week that we should stop being meanies about insidious messages in women’s magazines and get over it since they have a bigger readership, they’re totally, like, behind feminism, yeah? Jameela Jamil thinks that Beyoncé is ‘the ultimate feminist’ because she looks good in a bikini and in a trouser suit. Caggie Dunlop, beloved amoebic presence on some show about being rich, says Rihanna is ‘a modern-day feminist’ because she ‘dresses sexy’ and ‘doesn’t take orders.’ Suddenly, the F Word column spontaneously bursts into flames and I have to move on.
One page after the column on Cosmo’s version of feminism-lite, ‘Inside Men’s Minds’ begins up again (remember the super-catchy, massively sinister tagline, girls and boys? Now say it with me: ‘What they really think of love, sex... and YOU!’) I can’t be bothered to actually read responses to such questions as ‘What’s your break-up style?’ from men I have never met and hopefully never will, so I move right on to the juxtaposed ‘Solve his sex woes’ section, a veritable goldmine of quality historical information (‘His cavemen ancestors didn’t consider the social implications of bending their women over a rock for a quickie without a by-your-leave’) and how to take the pressure of pleasing two whole people during sex off your hard-working lover’s mind (‘Lots of men want you to take the lead so they needn’t worry about making you happy.’) The caveman quote is particularly inspired: there’s nothing like a good old-fashioned rape joke to soften the blow of an ostensibly feminist campaign.
In classic ‘doth protest too much’ style, Cosmo has now added in a heavily narcissistic feature called - I kid you not - ‘COSMO CHANGED OUR LIVES.’ Six women are pictured laughing hysterically and saying ‘Thanks, Cosmo!’ before something that they did in their personal lives and then somehow attributed to the magazine (‘Thanks, Cosmo - I’m now living my London dream!’ as an example, and my own personal favourite: ‘Thanks, Cosmo - I found my inner sex goddess!’) Well, all I can say to that is: excellent.
On to the fashion pages, and these are the things you should wear this month:
-Bright green and orange
This conflicts quite heavily with Holly Willoughby’s proclamation that you need to ‘dress sexy to feel sexy’, where ‘sexy’ was qualified as ‘less is more.’ Should I wear a single pansy to cover my nipples under my studded leather jacket? A frilly garter? The glitter, I suppose, will fit comfortably in with my new vajazzle. Should the vajazzle have spikes, though? (Vagina dentata comes to mind.)
It’s a confusing world, and to add to the confusion, Cosmo then reports upon a highly scientific survey in which they asked men all sorts of important questions, like ‘Does a woman look sexier before, during, or after sex?’ and ‘Rate Lady Gaga, Kate Middleton and Beyoncé in order of beauty.’ It’s hard to know what to extrapolate from this endless array of total non-information, especially in a world where other media lend themselves so much more interestingly to what men think of sex. Only yesterday, I listened to a song where Kanye West used the lyrics: 'Have you ever had sex with a Pharaoh? I'll put that pussy in a sarcophagus.' If you're listening, Cosmo (and let's face it, by now you probably are): please can the next repetitive 'what men think' sex-tion deconstruct lyrics like these instead of conducting studies on where in the bedroom your make-up looks better to the man screwing you? Because I actually am interested in hearing what Kanye thought when he wrote that piece of unequalled genius.
So. After that slight digression, I move swiftly on, excited to see the latest ‘Body news.’
Good news is that the body section is no longer juxtaposed with a plastic surgery advertorial, which has been relegated to the back of the magazine along with its other suspect friends, the ‘minimally invasive’ laser clinic and the ‘natural bust enlargement’ solution. Bad news is that women’s magazines still aren’t off your back about calorie-counting - now they’re in your pocket as well, with the new calorie counter app that Cosmo has kindly road-tested for your, er, enjoyment. Their verdict? Needs improving, because it doesn’t currently recognise crispbread as a food. You know what the app is trying to tell you by that, Cosmo? EAT A FUCKING BURGER.