'Cosmopolitan' to Be Put Behind Blinders at Thousands of Drugstores

Rite Aid and two East Coast grocery store chains have decided the glossy deserves the same treatment as men's pornography titles.
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Chantal Fernandez
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Rite Aid and two East Coast grocery store chains have decided the glossy deserves the same treatment as men's pornography titles.
Cosmopolitan's August 2015 cover. Photo: Cosmopolitan

Cosmopolitan's August 2015 cover. Photo: Cosmopolitan

If you're looking for a copy of Hearst-owned Cosmopolitan at Rite Aid or the East Coast grocery chains Food Lion and Hannaford, be sure to check behind the kind of newsstand blinders usually reserved for pornography. According to Victoria Hearst, granddaughter of the publishing company's founder, it's where the magazine belongs. She and the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCSE) count this move as a victory towards protecting minors from the magazine's "glorification and desensitization of porn and sexual violence."

A spokesperson for Rite Aid, which has 4,566 stores in 31 states, says it will continue to carry the title but is "working to place future issues of this publication behind pocket shields." A spokesperson for Food Lion says its blinders will be installed in the coming months in its 1,100 stores in 10 states. A representative for Hannaford, which has over 180 locations, did not immediately respond for comment; neither did Food Lion nor Hannaford's Belgium parent company, Delhaize America. 

News that those retailers were planning to put Cosmo behind blinders was first reported by WWD.

Victoria Hearst has been campaigning against Cosmo for several years, arguing that it is pornographic content and should not be exposed or sold to minors. In a press conference at the National Press Club in April, Hearst joined the National Center on Sexual Exploitation to launch a campaign against the magazine with the hopes of putting pressure on its publisher to "wrap the magazine and put a warning label on it," she said. The campaign's website, endsexualexploitation.org/cosmo, encouraged visitors to contact Hearst executives and editor in chief Joanna Coles with complaints, as well as lobby retailers to hide the magazine behind blinders and only sell it to adults. 

The fact that Cosmo's sexualize content has caused scandal isn't as surprising as the fact that the most outspoken voice comes from inside the Hearst family. Hearst said she appealed to Hearst executives directly 15 years ago when she took a closer look at a copy of the magazine, which was sent to her along with the rest of Hearst's titles as a courtesy, and was scandalized by the cover image and articles. 

"This is not family feud, this is not 'Mommie Dearest,'" Hearst said in April. "We're not trying to censor Cosmo. We're not trying to put it out of business. All we're saying is: you want to print pornography, I can't stop you. If I was Queen of the Hearst Corporation, this magazine would no longer exist and the editor in chief and all the people there would be on unemployment. But since I don't have that power, all we're saying is look — you want to print this junk, then print it. It's adult material, it's clear it's adult material. Label it as such."

And now with National Center on Sexual Exploitation's support, Hearst seems to making some headway in her campaign against the magazine. The organization's president, Dawn Hawkins, even went so far as to challenge Coles to a public debate if the magazine is not "covered from minors" and sold to them. “If Joanna Coles, Cosmopolitan’s editor in chief, doesn’t agree to this modest step, then I challenge her to debate before an audience of parents in any city, in any state, at any time, on the question of whether a magazine promoting explicit instructions on group, anal and torture sex should be displayed and sold to children," said Hawkins in a statement. 

Hearst and Cosmo have declined to comment directly on the subject, releasing the following statement:

"Cosmopolitan is the most successful global media brand for young women, publishing 60 editions in 79 countries and 32 languages. Its award-winning content is produced for adults by leading female journalists. We are proud of all that the brand has achieved for women around the world in the areas of health, relationships, career, politics, equality and social issues.”

Cosmo has focused on a fearless, feminist attitude since Coles took the top job in 2012, the same year Hearst said the title "really jumped the shark" with sexual content, according to her remark's at April's press conference. "The people in authority on the board — in executive positions at the Hearst corporation — they are producing it, they are responsible for it. And they are the ones who need to take responsibility for what they print."