Thursday, January 12, 2012

Cosmocking: February '12! Part Two!

I set out on this ridiculous quest to read every goddamn issue of Cosmopolitan, and now I guess I'm committed.  So let's get on with it!
[My husband's] lack of stereotypical maleness became particularly obvious when a piece of baseboard in our hallway broke off, and he suggested I "just call someone" to fix it. I did; the guy hammered three nails into the wall and was too embarrassed to charge me for his brief time and effort.  When stuff like this happens, I wish Scott would just man up, deal with random repair hiccups, and in general, do more traditional guy stuff.  Why do women like me marry our evolved, sensitive soul mates then secretly wish they'd be more macho?
So now I'm in a Triple Feminist Fury.

Fury 1: That being "evolved" and sensitive is treated as the opposite of being male.
Fury 2: That mechanical competence is treated as a masculine trait.
Fury 3: That mechanical competence is treated as not just masculine, but exclusive to men.  The writer couldn't get her man to man up, so she had to call another man--these were the only options!

Ideas like this construct a crappy world.  Women who can hammer are unattractively masculine; women who can't hammer are dependent; men who can hammer are insensitive caveman clods; men who can't hammer aren't Real Men.  There's no goddamn way to win!

Meanwhile in the real world I'm a manly woman who can hammer and cuddle, and I am a whole lot happier than Cosmo would ever let me be.
The move that makes him forgive you: Tilt your head so that you're gazing up, exposing your neck.  This is a submissive posture that lets him know you genuinely understand you're in the wrong.
Are you dating a wolf?
To really up the ante while he's down there, ask him to take your clitoris into his mouth and suck on it--it'll boost the pressure and feel awesome for you.
On its own, there's nothing egregious about this quote.  A little questionable if this should be a categorical imperative--"if this sounds good to you, then try having him do this" would be better wording--but by Cosmo standards it's fine.

It only becomes bizarre in the context of Cosmo (the Costext? no) because it tells women to ask their partners for something sexual.  This is an act all the advice and relationship columns forbid or treat as unthinkable in the first place.  How does "ask him to suck your clit" fit into a world where you can only ask for things via subtle hints and odd body language?  In the real world it's no big deal, but in the Cosmos (yeah, I'm owning that one), you can only ask for a sexual fantasy by leaving a romance novel open on the table or claiming it was a dream you had.  How are Cosmo readers supposed to make requests this immediate and explicit of their partners?  Every other article in the magazine explicitly disallows them the tools they'd need to do so.
Deadly Decision: Ditching Your Friends At Night
[Kenia Monge was a young woman who was abducted and murdered by Travis Forbes.] 
[...]Kenia and her girlfriends were partying happily that night. During the evening, she excused herself from their table to go to the restroom.  She left her purse, car keys, and phone with them, giving every indication that she planned to return, according to the Denver district attorney's office. 
[...]What went wrong for this girl who seemed to have everything going for her? The alcohol she drank must have blurred her thinking and led her to make the error that endangered her life: breaking away from her friends and leaving the club with a guy--not Forbes--she'd just met.  Minutes later, she was caught on surveillance tapes alone, no longer with the guy she'd left with, wandering between an apartment building and a hotel blocks from the club.
In other words, it was all her mistake.  Travis Forbes was a force of goddamn nature and bears no human responsibility for his decision to abduct and murder her.  Nope, the real problem here was that she took the wildly dangerous action of going outdoors.  How can we ever stop the tragic scourge of women going outdoors?  If only we could keep all the women indoors.  Then murderers would surely go home and go "aw drat, I guess I just can't murder anybody."

Why is Cosmo fucking doing this?  It really pisses me off, not even joking pisses me off, that they're framing this as some sort of suicidal recklessness on Monge's part.  (Hey... why is she "Kenia" and her killer "Forbes"?)  All she did was step outside for a couple minutes.  Forbes is the one who randomly murdered her.  Gosh, which one do you think made the worse decision that night?  Fucking hell.

Oh, okay, maybe she wasn't to blame, but maybe she could have been safer, right?  Maybe if she'd stayed home at her apartment altogether, right?

Something Cosmo doesn't mention: Travis Forbes assaulted another woman a month later.  He raped, beat, and tried to kill Lydia Tillman (trigger warning, everything in that story is horrible and will make you cry) in her own apartment.  What mistake did she make, how did she secretly doom herself?  She was in her home.

I guess it's too horrifying to face the idea that bad people are out there and they can't always be stopped.  (Then again, if Travis Forbes had been caught sooner, Lydia Tillman could have been saved. Talking about what the victims did wrong obscures things like that.)  We want to find some way to say "the victims were stupid, and because I'm smart, nothing bad will ever happen to me!"

The sickest part--sicker than the insult to the victims, sicker than the attention taken off the perpetrators--is that the criminals themselves sometimes use the same logic.  "She should have known better than to be out there alone."  Perpetuating the idea that women who take innocuous actions are asking for trouble isn't just insulting.  It's dangerous.
You find an amazing LivingSocial deal for a tropical vacation. Immediately, you:
A. Decide if it pops up again, it's a sign you should buy.
B. Forward it to your BFFs and ask if they'd be into it too.
C. Enter your credit-card info and handle any pesky details later.
Along with "colors," "the nervous system," "testicles," and "human decency," I think we can add "browser cookies" to the list of things Cosmo doesn't understand.


  1. I'm a manly woman who can hammer and cuddle,

    That sounds like a somewhat confusing session. 50% scared, 50% turned on.

    Please don't ever stop doing these. They are amazing.

  2. Maybe, rather than Cosmo not understanding cookies, their website might use them in a way that makes Cosmo want their readers to not understand how they work? Wouldn't surprise me as such.

  3. "Hey... why is she 'Kenia' and her killer 'Forbes'?"

    First-name usage creates intimacy. I think we're meant to see her as a girlfriend, as someone potentially close to us, so that her story will hit harder. The killer is someone we're not meant to be sympathetic to, hence the stiffer appellation.

    (Or maybe that was a rhetorical question. I can't always tell.)

  4. "This is a submissive posture that lets him know you genuinely understand you're in the wrong.

    Are you dating a wolf?"

    Showed this to my boyfriend; he started nomming on my neck, and when I managed to prize him off, said "Iz forgiven." It was quite sexy.

  5. I may have a hard time hearing Victim Blaming, because I have sat and listened to lectures from very traditionally masculine men telling a room (largely) full of other traditionally masculine men things like "Nothing good ever happens after 10PM" or "Don't go stupid places with stupid people and do stupid things" or "You can't lose a fight you're never in."

    And then there's "Hackathorn's Rule", named after former Special Forces soldier and law-enforcement trainer, that states simply "Don't Go Where You Don't Belong."

    1. I'm having trouble accepting "outdoors" as a place someone never belongs, and similar trouble believing those tough guys would never go alone outdoors at night.

    2. Tam: I think the issue at stake is that for those men this is special training which is being given to them to contradict the background messages they get all the time, whereas for women it IS the background message.

      I mean, I was reading, a while back, the International Red Cross' guide for volunteers in high-risk zones[1], and it's pretty much a long treatise on the topic of "You have voluntarily chosen to go into a place where not everybody wants you and where shit you only imperfectly understand is going down; conduct yourself with extreme circumspection", and that's not victim-blaming.

      But, consider: much of the advice given there was eerily similar to the advice women are giving about living in our own cities. What does that say about how we're supposed to view our world?

      [1] It's a valuable, often painfully funny read, because it is written by the head security consultant for IRC, and I can't help envisioning the look on his face as he, who has spent 15 years dealing with volunteers, writes things like "if you are given a grenade as a memento, do not keep it. And do NOT place it in the office safe. It can be downloaded for free from their website.

  6. That picture makes me think

    'Big Wrench little wrench,
    Wrench wrench wrench
    How many presses can you bench?'

  7. The blaming someone for being murdered thing just makes me sad and disturbed, so I'm not even going to get into that.

    But as for the oral sex tip: Shouldn't we be happy about this? I mean, it seems like this is evidence that at least one writer at Cosmo is at least sometimes thinking with a better attitude towards sexual communication.

  8. What mistake did she make, how did she secretly doom herself? She was in her home.

    But obviously not protected by a man with a hammer! See what feminism has led to!

    *vomits a little* :(

  9. Mildly relevant:

    ...if this is so well known, why continue to do it? Secret's out.

  10. WTF she called someone in to fix a baseboard? Seriously? No wonder the guy was embarrassed, she could have done it herself. Finishing hammer & nails, done and you've learned something. How irritating that she then told someone else about it LIKE THAT'S PERFECTLY OKAY.

    1. Indeed. She and her significant other are perfectly matched in DIY incompetence, and that's fine... but why on earth is she ragging on her boyfriend for not being able to do this embarrassingly easy thing that SHE ALSO COULD NOT DO!

    2. I really don't think anyone, male or female, should be embarrassed for not knowing how to fix things, even the most simple. It would have been good if one or both of them had learned how to fix it, but do you really think this is something to be embarrassed about? Not only are these things not as easy for everyone as they may be for you, but do we really need to be shaming people for a lack of home repair skills?

      I would, though, say that she should be embarrassed for insulting her boyfriend for not knowing how to fix the baseboard.

    3. "but do we really need to be shaming people for a lack of home repair skills?"
      That's beyond lack of skill. That's "I'm a delicate flower because I'm female and therefore that's not my job". She could have bought a hammer and nails and try to do this simple task. If she's really bad at it she could ask a relative, a friend to teach her, take a class, read a book,... Her lack of skill is definitely not the problem.

  11. I probably should not be laughing this hard...please, for my sake, separate the ridiculously funny shit from the ridiculously depressing shit.

  12. "The move that makes him forgive you: Tilt your head so that you're gazing up, exposing your neck. This is a submissive posture that lets him know you genuinely understand you're in the wrong."

    Sounds like a hint for 'him' to invite me to bed, if I did that at my primary...


  13. Now I would never be with a guy who couldn't do basic repairs like that, not because I think it's a masculine skill to have but because I think that's a skill set every capable adult should have. The flip side of that is I would never ask my partner to do a repair that simple because I'd just do it myself.

  14. Tilt your head so that you're gazing up, exposing your neck.

    This kind of advice always seems to ignore tall women (and short men, for that matter). I'm the same height as my husband. If we're both standing, it's physically impossible for me to look up into his eyes. And somehow, I don't think gazing into thin air over the top of his head would communicate a properly apologetic manner.

    As for the rest of it..I have no words, seriously.

  15. aebhel - Rowdy did the neck-tilt thing and I couldn't even reach to bite his neck. I was jumping up and trying to climb him and he was dodging and blocking like a basketball defender.

    Between me and Adele Haze, it's pretty amusing to see how this advice compares to the physical interactions in people-who-LIKE-each-other relationships.

  16. aebhel: exactly what I came here to say! I'm 4 inches taller than my boy. If I "gazed upward" and exposed my neck at him, he'd probably glance up at the ceiling trying to figure out what had me so captivated.

    I will say that he pulls that trick on me and it works well - not because of his exposed neck but because from that angle his huge Bambi eyes look even more huge.

  17. I hate to point out that there is only one thing I can see in subset of "stereotypical maleness" and it's a dick. I can't believe she could not hummer in those nails herself.


  18. I will still read this blog even if you decide you don't feel like doing cosmockings anymore!

  19. I'm still doing Cosmockings, everyone!

    My increasing frustration with them is just part of your entertainment value.

  20. I notice, not only was she unable to fix her own fucking baseboard, she didn't raise the possibility even to dismiss it. The idea wasn't even mentioned!

  21. I think the "man up" woman watched Dr. Horrible and got confused with that "The hammer is my penis" line.

  22. This comment has been removed by the author.

  23. Not shaming for not knowing how - shaming for not being willing to look it up (which is how I learn most things). That wouldn't have taken any longer than calling someone else. Believe me, baseboard-fixing blog posts are all over the place... I've written one or two myself. :)

    Also, yes, my point exactly that she felt HE should be able to do it but she couldn't. WTF.

    Yeah, okay, comment stuff is very broken.

  24. Women in news are often referred to by their first name, men are often referred to by their last name. As evidence I suggest any politician who's gotten national attention - Hillary, Carly, and Meg come to mind from recent years as women who even *ran* on their first names.

    Crazy people, it turns out, are usually referred to by their full name regardless of gender - Sarah Palin, Ron Paul, Lyndon LaRouche, Charlie Sheen.

    This is my observation, anyway - and it irks me weekly or worse.

  25. I think the oral sex advice is really good for Cosmos standards, but the cosmo world where nothing is negotiated (like not liking to much stimulation on the clit), how can sucking the clit not be part of the standard oral sex repertoire? I mean, it's like "next time you are performing fellatio, try taking his penis in your mouth"...

    Oh...I just realised that Cosmo would probably print this as the ultimate sex tipp...This and rubbing cocks with strange objects:-(

    And of course, Cosmo get bonus points for saying "clitoris" and not "pleasure pearl".

    Anyway, thanks for the awesome Cosmocking, as always:-)

  26. I think we are supposed to take it as given that rapist/murderers are bad and should be stopped and go from there. It isn't as though we can make any difference by writing things addressed to criminals so we try to keep women as safe as possible by suggesting staying in packs etc. Nothing keeps you completly safe but paranoia and wapons do help.

    1. Maybe weapons would help, but "wapons" probably don't.

      Also, the whole reason why some people are "criminals" (the philosophical basis for "crime") is that we all control our actions and choose to follow the rules (or not). If criminals aren't responsible for their own actions, kiss our justice system goodbye.

      Also, since in most cases of rape, the rape was committed by someone known to the victim, all this "no walking home alone at night" crap is useless in 90% of cases. It's an illusion of safety/preparedness/responsiveness so that people don't actually have to fundamentally change the culture we live in.

  27. Anon Who Always Pops Up In These Discussions - Staying in "packs" is, statistically, far more dangerous than going out alone. Far more kidnappings, rapes, assaults, and murders are committed by people who know the victim.

    Living or associating with other people is way more dangerous than going outdoors for a few minutes alone.

    Also, criminals are humans. They're not universal forces of evil. At some point in their life they learned to believe that hurting people would satisfy a need they had. There's no reason to pretend that they're sharks or something, that they have some immutable predatory nature. They learned it somewhere and in most cases that somewhere actually could have been different.

  28. I hate the way Cosmo has worded that 'deadly decision' headline. Because Kenia Monge didn't 'ditch' her friends. She went to the bathroom. She left all her stuff behind, which means she wasn't planning to leave the venue altogether. And yet they still use the phrase 'ditching your friends at night' as though they are trying to distract Cosmo readers from the horrible victim blaming by making them go 'oh, that bitch, I'd never ditch MY friends' even when they then follow it by saying she just went to the bathroom, and clearly was not able to come back because of the actions of Forbes. So their real advice is 'don't go to the bathroom' or 'make your friends escort you to the bathroom'. REALLY? Can't you just run the article as being about a terrible thing that happened rather than putting it in a section about DEADLY MISTAKES WOMEN HAVE MADE?!

  29. I learned the neck-tilt thing a long, long time ago, and I gotta tell you, if you're cute, petite, coiffed, and have cultivated an air of klutzy, incompetent sweetness, it works great. But not because it makes you look submissive. It works because it makes you look like a child. It's hard to stay angry at someone so dumb they couldn't have known any better, right?

  30. On that thing with the sucking of the clit:

    Am I the only one who thought of that snarking post you did of one of the 70s sex manuals, which said that a lesbian with an elongated clitoris was highly valued as she could use it as a miniture penis? (I think Holly said she felt disappointed about being under-endowed; this kind of mirrors the discovery of my own clitoris at a very young age and thinking 'oh, there's my willy!' and then wondering why it was so small...)

    That's what I thought of when it suggested sucking on the clit. I prefer licking it and rubbing it anyway. [/TMI]

  31. If Kenia Monge left her car keys on the table, how on earth was she so 'addled by drink' as to make such a 'terrible decision'? I am confused.

  32. "Are you dating a wolf?"

    I think I love you.

  33. People in general are safer if women DO NOT stay off the streets out of fear, because nearly-empty streets are more dangerous. We found that out here in Seattle when the off-leash dog parks went in. Crime dropped around them, because they were super popular, and having lots of people with dogs on the street day and night turns out to be a crime deterrent.

    Way too many of these "risk reduction" techniques are really about moving the risk around, not reducing it. If I don't go out at night and you get raped instead, nice for me, but no net gain for women in general.

    Let's do *real* risk reduction: Don't laugh at rape jokes, don't cover up threats of rape because "he's a nice guy", take accusations seriously, prosecute rapists. I strongly believe that getting one serial rapist behind bars will make more difference to women's (and men's) safety than all the safety tips in the world, plus it gets the pain where it *belongs*.

  34. @Holly Interesting comments, you have me thinking about rape prevention by getting people to stop raping people rather than getting people to protect themselves. It seems to me that there are basically two things going on with rape. Either someone going into it in order to cause damage or someone wanting a sex act and not caring what happens to the victim. I think there might have to be radically different approaches to dealing with indifference and the wish to destroy someone.

    Any thoughts?

  35. I must stop reading your cosmockings while I'm at work, because they make me furious, and then I find my hardcore Cosmo devotee colleagues insufferable.

    Victim blaming absolutely sickens me. The only comfort I have is that there are people like you who call the magazines on it publicly. It makes me wish your blog had a bigger circulation than Cosmo, because I can see so much good that would come out of women sitting down in the lunchroom at my office and discussing your posts over guilt free, full cream coffees.

    I honestly feel like I'm one socially acceptable sexist comment away from tearing my hair out, until I drop in on your posts and am reminded that there are people, at least you and some of your readers, who would never think for a second to blame me for what went down last time I went to New Orleans, or tell me that the 'incident' in that hotel room was a case of consensual grey area.

    Your posts, Holly, make me livid, furious, insane. And then they make my day.

  36. "So now I'm in a Triple Feminist Fury."

    And I'm in service-industry fury. I paid someone to clean my bathroom. You know why? Because I didn't want to clean my goddamn bathroom and it needed to be cleaned. Also I had some money with which to hire someone to clean my goddamn bathroom. Does it mean I can't clean? No. Does it mean I'm lazy? Maybe. But this is how the US economy works: I don't wanna do something so I pay someone else to do it for me. I can change my oil, but for $20 I can read a book while someone else does it for me. Not only do I get to read a good book, BUT SOMEONE ELSE CAN AFFORD FOOD. That sounds pretty goddamn win-win to me.

    " Nope, the real problem here was that she took the wildly dangerous action of going outdoors. How can we ever stop the tragic scourge of women going outdoors?"

    I rather think the point of this article is "wandering outdoors in a strange neighborhood by yourself while drunk at night is dangerous." I really, really, really have a hard time condemning them for that. Granted it could have been worded better, but really now. Don't drive without your seatbelt, don't ride a bike without your helmet, don't leave the stove on while you go out to dinner, don't make toast while in the bathtub...

  37. @ Superglucose What a great point! If you don't want to do stuff yourself, hire it done and give someone some much needed work. Just don't bloody well expect someone else to do it based on which set of chromosomes they have.

    As for "wandering outdoors in a strange neighborhood by yourself while drunk at night is dangerous." That was what I got too. The only problem I have with that is the idea that it should apply only to women. Who wanders around dangerous territory unarmed with no one to watch his back? Are my friends and I unusually cautious?

  38. I wanted to know if she can ask him to man up or not, so I pirated that issue and read it myself (sue me, I'm not giving those people money). The answer was, basically, no. You can encourage your guy to do more "manly things" by asking him to do easy stuff like checking your cars oil level whilst complimenting him about how incredibly hot that is, but pushing this further or being negative about the sure-to-come fuckups would make him feel inadequate and weaken your "bond". I guess that's actually true, and they even suggest that hey, maybe the author should get over those role models. It ends with her saying that she learned that "guy stuff is actually pretty damn easy". Better conclusion than I expected, still a terrible article.