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Cosmo Will Endorse Pro-Women Candidates. When Will It Stop Sending Anti-Feminist Messages?

Emka74 /

For the first time in its history, Cosmopolitan magazine will endorse political candidates for the midterms. The monthly women’s magazine known more for its sex tips than political coverage says it will sing the praises of candidates who embrace policies that are important to young women: equal pay, abortion, and birth control coverage.

Expect a lot of endorsements of Democratic candidates.

“We’re not going to endorse someone who is pro-life because that’s not in our readers’ best interest,” Amy Odell, who is leading the effort at Cosmo, told Politico. “[P]eople say that’s a liberal thing, but in our minds its not about liberal or conservative, it’s about women having rights, and particularly with health care because that is so important. All young women deserve affordable easy access to health care, and that might include terminating a pregnancy, and that’s OK.”

Cosmo does seem sincere in its efforts to explore new feminist directions: Since Joanna Coles joined Cosmo as editor-in-chief in 2012, she has pushed the magazine to do a broader range of journalism. The magazine has begun covering political issues, and educating young women with an insert on “Your Cosmo Guide to Contraception.” The latter recently earned the magazine a Personal Service award from the National Magazine Association for the first time in its history. Under Coles, Cosmo is managing to change the perception that a woman’s magazine can't be serious.

But Cosmo also has a long history of objectifying—often by airbrushing—women. Its print covers reliably feature women in overly sexual poses and revealing clothes.

Cosmo promotes an extremely specific idea of beauty that's unattainable for most women. A 2012 feature on celebrity Demi Lovato's "painful past" addressed her struggles with eating disorders, and yet Lovato's waist was likely whittled down in her cover photo.

The magazine's advice to readers isn't all ridiculous sex tips. Sometimes it sends a troubling message, like a 2010 story that the “secret to getting any guy” is to show more skin to “lure him in.”

Now Cosmo is trying to lure readers to the polls. It'll take more than a loose strap or Photoshopped waist to accomplish that.