A petition with nearly 15,000 supporters is urging Walmart to bring Cosmopolitan magazine back to its checkout aisles, after a conservative group won its fight last month to get the publication away from those lanes in its 5,000 stores nationwide.
The group, called the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE), claims Cosmopolitan displays “hypersexualized and degrading article titles that regularly promote pornography, sexting, BDSM, group sex, anal sex, and more, all while marketing toward young teens with Disney star cover models."
“Cosmopoliton [sic] is a magazine for women — primarily staffed by women,” petition author Rebecca Gerber wrote.
“The articles include empowering advice on money, careers, relationships, politics, fashion, activism — and yes, sex. Consensual sex. These are not subjects that women should made to feel ashamed to read,” she continued. “By publicly pulling Cosmo from checkout aisles, Walmart is telling women and girls that their sexuality is something to be embarassed of, that their interest in their own sexual education is obscene — and that their bodies and choice of clothing could be the cause of any harassment they receive.”
NCOSE had previously stated that Walmart’s removal of Cosmo from checkout lines “is an incremental but significant step toward creating a culture where women and girls are valued as whole persons, rather than as sexual objects.”
NCOSE also praised Walmart for doing “their part to change #MeToo culture,” referring to a recent social movement.
"Someone needs to remind Walmart and the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) that #MeToo is NOT about policing women's sexuality," Gerber wrote on the petition page. "It's about the systematic power structures in our workplaces and communities that allow sexual harassment and assault to happen."
A Walmart spokesperson told USA Today that the move to pull Cosmo from its checkout aisles “was primarily a business decision,” but that the company had heard of recent complaints. Walmart continues to carry the magazine, just not at its checkout lanes.
Cosmopolitan has been known to discuss sex openly since Helen Gurley Brown became editor in 1965, when the magazine began to market itself as a publication for independent, single women rather than one focused on family life.
NCOSE is backed by activist Victoria Hearst, who founded the cosmohurtskids.com campaign. Ironically, Hearst is a granddaughter of publishing titan William Randolph Hearst, and heiress to the eponymous company that owns Cosmopolitan.
Earlier this week, the industry group American Society of Magazine Editors also came to the defense of Cosmopolitan. “Whether the source is Bentonville or Washington, the target Cosmopolitan or American Rifleman [magazine], ASME opposes any attempt to muffle free speech,” Sid Holt, chief executive of the industry group, told The New York Post.
“If the self-proclaimed moral guardians of NCOSE are truly interested in joining the struggle for gender equality, they should respect, rather than attempt to regulate, the right of all Americans to read what they want," he added.