Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Problem with Cosmo Magazine...

Sitting in the veterinarian’s waiting room the other day, my non-existent ability to remain patient was, well, non-existent. In an attempt to distract myself from the wait, I grabbed my phone to surf Facebook—no signal. I dug through my purse for something interesting to fiddle with, remembering that I’d recently cleaned “interesting” out of my bag and was left with a hair brush, Chap Stick and my wallet. Boring. Last resort was a pile of magazines on a small table to my right. I thumbed through the pile: Better Homes and Gardens, Veterinarian Weekly, and towards the bottom of the pile, Cosmopolitan. I grabbed the Cosmo and began to flip the pages, quickly reminded why I HATE women’s magazines like this one. 

A few article titles included: Can getting fit get you a date?, Bluff your way through anything, How to make your man commit, and Hilarious sex fails that can land you in the ER. Puke. Cosmo is reported as being the world’s highest grossing women’s magazine since 1972, with an estimated 20 million monthly readers. So, it’s pretty safe to say that there are potentially millions and millions of pre-teen through middle-age women in our country and around the world seeking their ideals of beauty, worth, expectations, and what roles they should pursue from a magazine that promotes sex, material, value in physical image, and more sex. Sure, Cosmo and other women’s magazines like it throw in a few women’s empowerment articles here and there; writings about a gal who has conquered cancer and started her own non-profit or about someone who has devoted her life to documenting the lions of the Serengeti. I don’t intend to sound flippant about these types of features—there are amazing women doing spectacular things all over the world. But let’s not fool ourselves—these types of articles aren’t what sell Cosmo. 

From my perspective, there’s a significant number of women today (both in the Church and those who are not) who seem to live somewhere in between attaining the titles of “ultimate sex goddess” (who pursue the attention of men and are only fulfilled by such) and “aggressive b*%^&” (who are determined to reach the top of the social and/or professional world with no concerns about who she tramples or how low she might stoop to get there—see my earlier post In the Jungle, the Lion(ness) Doesn’t Sleep Tonight…). These current trends are incredibly apparent to me when I see young women (or even younger girls), in the midst of the formation of their own identities, are tossed about in a culture of self-pleasure, entitlement, sex, seeking value in obtaining stuff (whether material or relational), and often times come out on the other of this process lost, confused, directionless, hurt and picking up the pieces of their poor choices. But quite frankly, when we run to sources like Cosmo Magazine (or dare I say it, 50 Shades of Grey) what should we expect?!  


In the first chapter of her book Radical Womanhood, Carolyn McCulley discusses a connection between some of the attitudes women have today and the roots of those attitudes stemming from the feminist movement. McCulley argues that the fight for women’s equality (which is positive, take a woman’s right to vote, for example) has crossed over into a complete shift in thinking on just what it means to be a woman—one that is radically different than who God created us to be. McCulley states, “Feminism has profoundly altered our culture’s concept of what it means to be a woman.” The fallout (yes, there is negative fallout) of feminism has taken women to the extreme. We hear from Jim and Scott that too much of a good thing can become a bad thing, and a drive for female liberation has actually spiraled women into a much deeper, darker oppression, one in which we’re convinced that the truths we were created to live in are actually lies, and the lies we don’t think much about are “just how the world is today.”


In an attempt to take back control over our choices and break free from either real or perceived domination, an attitude of female empowerment has given way to several things, one of them being a focus on sexual independence (think “its my body—I’m a fierce, sexual being and will make all my own choices”). Being a modern, liberated women has come to be associated with a bold sexual appetite and cultural influences (of which there are many) educate women on how to use our bodies as a tools to obtain the independence “we deserve”, which is a compliment to an aggressive, “I can/should do everything men can/should do” attitude that a women of today is to maintain. Seem extreme? A multi-billion dollar advertising industry thrives on principles such as these. 


We’ve all missed the target at some point. We’ve all bought into some type of lie and wandered away from the truths that make us whole in Him. Who did God create us to be? His followers, his worshippers, the ones who live in the promises and grace of Jesus. Over and over again, we trade being images of the Perfect Creator for being reflections of our broken world. In Romans 12:2, Paul says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” When we pour over the messages of our culture, whether in print, electronically or socially, the world’s choices are reinforced in us, not Christ’s. 


Here are a few other things you won’t read in Cosmo:

-     For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. (Psalm 139:13) My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, everyone one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. (Psalm 139:15-16) You were created with intention and are intimately known by God.

-     For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10) We were created for a purpose; not to just wander aimlessly through life, tossed here and there.

-     He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him. (Psalm 103:10-13) We’re forgiven. His grace has covered our sins. No matter how far we’ve wandered, we are still His.

-     For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39) Nothing, nothing will separate us from the love (and forgiving grace) of Jesus.


In a culture where oppression and demands placed on women are many, these verses are true liberation—the liberation only Jesus can provide. 

Amanda Brown is on staff with the Women’s/Community Team at Flatirons.

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