Cosmopolitan in the Candy Aisle: The Battle Continues ~ Foot Soldiers Needed

Cosmopolitan Magazine, Lollipops, and Doritos in the Checkout Aisle

I was standing in line at our community’s newly opened Dollar General store a few days ago when I happened to glance over and notice the September issue of Cosmopolitan magazine.  I immediately blushed.  Cosmo and I go way back—but not as friends.  For nearly 20 years I have been waging a private battle to get this vulgar publication placed beyond the view of the young eyes that pass through store checkout lanes.   In the early days, my biggest beef was the scantily clad women on the cover.  But in recent years, the titles of the cover stories have become more and more shocking, making the exposed cleavage seem rather tame by comparison.  (If you’re feeling brave or need to be convinced, you can find a gallery of Cosmo covers with a quick Google search, but be forewarned—they are explicit.)

Joe Camel is a vile offender, but smut-laden Cosmopolitan covers are kid friendly?

Is this the same culture that’s determined that a gas station sign with Joe Camel is a heinous assault on childhood?  Why is it that the graphic sexual content emblazoned in bold type across the Cosmo cover gets a pass? Ladies and gentlemen, these are not articles about relationship basics with innocuously vague titles.  It’s the kind of stuff you would never, ever bring up in polite conversation, and they would probably be awkward topics even among the closest of friends. And yet, there it is.  RIGHT IN THE CANDY AISLE—AT CHILD’S-EYE LEVEL!

This is not something that I complain about every time I go shopping. It’s more of an occasional endeavor, and I’m sure there are others whom I’ve never met who are taking a stand as well.  We’ve had some success getting action in our town, but it has taken time, patience, and changes of strategy.  For instance, after getting nowhere with our Wal-Mart Super Center in spite of numerous attempts, a former WM corporate insider gave me an invaluable tip.  He said that while store managers and district managers have little control over the merchandising arrangements within their stores, the corporate office has initiatives in place to adapt to local community values.  He advised that I change to a “This is not acceptable in our community” approach.  A call to their consumer services hotline and a brief but pointed letter got the desired results:  Content shields that obscure everything but the face of the model and the name of the magazine. (I followed up with a letter to the editor of our local newspaper, thanking Wal-Mart for their action.)

Another strategy that has been effective is to actually repeat the titles of the articles out loud to the person receiving the complaint.  This is not for the faint of heart, and it certainly goes against my nature.  But I’ve found that the embarrassment that ensues when I actually refer to the content specifically highlights just how inappropriate it is for children.  The conversation usually goes something like this:

Thanks so much for taking a moment to speak with me. I wanted to share a concern I had about this magazine.  I picked up right over there—next to the Ring Pops and Snickers bars.  Would you agree that that’s right about at the eye level of an elementary school student?


Well, take a look at the cover stories here.  This one is about (*insert exact title of graphic content*).  Is that a subject you’d feel comfortable discussing around your family’s dinner table?

Absolutely not.

If you overheard two of your employees discussing that topic within earshot of customers, would you give them a reprimand?


Then I think you can understand why parents of young children wouldn’t want these topics thrust upon them without their consent.  It’s a really bad idea—just completely inappropriate.  So I’d like to ask you to do whatever is necessary to get this kind of product moved to an area that is not easily visible by children.

Yes, ma’am, I’ll speak to (*whoever’s next up the ladder*).

Here are a few other things I keep in mind when addressing this issue:

To avoid the censorship debate, I keep my focus on moving the magazine away from kids—not on removing it from the store entirely. (That’s a separate issue.)

I make sure that the situation is right for me to make my complaint without inconveniencing the folks in line behind me, or drawing the attention of any minors in the area.

I ask permission to take a picture of the magazine and surrounding kiddie foods, so I can document the relative proximity.  This request has never been denied.

I treat the store staff kindly and respectfully.  After all, they had no part in the decision to sell the magazine or to merchandise it in such a foolish manner.

I know we can turn the tide back toward decency, but it’s going to take a lot of concerned shoppers who aren’t afraid to voice their objections.  So I’m asking…if you’re tired of the premature sexualization of our kids…if you’re sick of seeing the delicate beauty of human intimacy promoted as common vulgarity…if you’d rather not have half naked women put on display for a captive childhood audience…will you take a moment to speak up if the opportunity presents itself?  Will you ask friends and family to do the same?  After all, if we all do a little, we can do a lot!

Would you like some Nilla Cakesters or Mini Oreos to go with your graphic sex tips?