We Heart: The #CosmoVotes Campaign

Screen shot 2014-09-23 at 6.04.13 PMIt’s been proven time and again that the gender gap can decide elections. In the 2012 presidential election, women voters, in favoring President Obama by 10 percentage points, helped usher him into his second term. If only men had voted that November, Mitt Romney would be president. Women wield considerable power in our nation’s electorate and in the halls of Congress.

It only makes sense that any women’s magazine, not only feminist publications such as Ms., would want to delve into the political dialogue surrounding pay equity, reproductive rights, domestic violence and countless other women’s rights issues. Take Cosmopolitan, for instance: As one of the most widely read women’s lifestyle magazines, it’s in a unique position to tell its millions of readers which pro-women candidates they should vote for, what state measures they should vote for or against and most of all, to show up to the polls on November 4.

And this month, for the first time in the magazine’s history, Cosmo did just that. The new #CosmoVotes campaign will endorse political candidates for the midterm Senate, House and gubernatorial races, run women’s issues pieces written by a freshly hired political writer and launch a social media push to get young women to the ballot box.

Following the leanings of their readers, the #CosmoVotes endorsement criteria toes a feminist line: pro equal pay, pro marriage equality, pro Violence Against Women Act and most importantly, pro-choice. On Cosmopolitan.com, the editors wrote:

We know that the decision to have a child is one that shapes the rest of a woman’s life and that reproductive freedom is a fundamental human right, a cornerstone of gender equality, and a key to financial and personal stability. Because women cannot be equal if we don’t have the right to dictate our most intimate decisions, Cosmopolitan will be looking at candidates’ positions on abortion rights, and we will endorse politicians who trust women to make their own reproductive choices.

This move by Cosmo—a magazine which has long been controversial among feminists because of its focus on buxom women and articles about pleasing men—is something that should be celebrated and encouraged, but of course it’s also led to an expected conservative backlash. Pundits at Fox News and other conservative news outlets mocked the #CosmoVotes campaign, with one commentator saying the campaign was “beyond the purview of what the readership of this magazine actually wants to see” and another saying the magazine should “stick with fashion and orgasms.” Way to demean young women! It’s not enough to coin us as unmarried “Beyonce voters” who “depend on the government because they aren’t depending on their husbands.”

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These pundits seem to be under the assumption that women who care about style and starlets can’t possibly care about what the next Senate will look like, or whether anti-choice ballot initiatives pass in their state. It’s the typical demonization that casts women into “either-or” categories. You can’t be trendy and politically knowledgeable. You can’t keep up on your celeb marriages and care about issues that affect women in your community. Cosmo was quick to strike back with their senior political writer, Jill Filipovic, writing:

One of the reasons we started #CosmoVotes was because we saw how regularly young female voters are derided, condescended to, and insulted. Women hear so often that we’re dumb and uninformed that even the most politically savvy among us start to believe it. … We think you’re perfectly capable of reading an article about shoes and still walking yourself to your polling place to cast an informed, thoughtful vote.

Ms. commends Cosmo for taking a stand on women’s rights in their political coverage. With a reach of 18 million print readers and 30 million unique visitors to their site every month, they have an invaluable platform for educating women and ensuring they make themselves heard this November.

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Associate editor of Ms. magazine