Cosmopolitan will soon be removed from checkout lines at Walmart stores across the country, according to an announcement Tuesday by the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, a non-profit which says it fought for the change out of a desire to protect children from “the sexually explicit material that Cosmopolitan embodies and perpetuates.”
“Cosmo sends the same messages about female sexuality as Playboy,” said NCOSE executive director Dawn Hawkins in a statement, arguing that the magazine reduces women to their ability to sexually satisfy men, entices children by featuring former Disney stars on its covers and then describing “risky sexual acts” within its pages.
In a statement provided to Folio:, Walmart spokeswoman Megan Kring confirmed that it was pulling the magazine from store checkouts, but would still offer Cosmo to customers, presumably on the specified magazine shelves. The retailer claims it was “primarily a business decision,” but also seemed to imply that the NCOSE campaign’s concerns—that Cosmo “fuels pornified culture”—legitimately factored into the decision.
“As with all products in our store, we continue to evaluate our assortment and make changes,” said Kring. “Walmart will continue to offer Cosmopolitan to customers that wish to purchase the magazine, but it will no longer be located in the checkout aisles. While this was primarily a business decision, the concerns raised were heard.”
Reps for Cosmo have not responded to a request for comment.
Founded in 1962 and formerly known as Morality in Media, Inc., NCOSE has worked for years to convince retailers to remove or cover up Cosmo, and was most recently joined in that effort by Victoria Hearst, a pastor and granddaughter of company founder William Randolph Hearst, who purchased the magazine in 1905 and whose descendants still own it.
The two claim to have scored earlier victories against Cosmo at retailers like RiteAid and Food Lion, and the magazine regularly appears on NCOSE’s annual “Dirty Dozen” list, alongside others like HBO, Snapchat, “Fifty Shades of Gray,” and even textbook publisher EBSCO—whose research products the organization says allows students to access “sexually graphic articles.”
As it stands now, the news presents more of an image crisis for Cosmo than a business one, as the removal is unlikely to have significant impact on the magazine’s broader circulation. Retail sales made up just 6.3 percent of the 18.3 million copies the magazine sold in the 2nd half of 2017, according to data from the Alliance for Audited Media, with Walmart displays accounting for just a slice of that 6.3 percent. The vast majority of the magazine’s copies are mailed directly to subscribers.
But as the magazine stakes its digital future on being perceived as a source of inspiration and empowerment for young women growing up in a changing world, it has to be mindful of accusations—even misguided ones—that it’s guilty of propagating “#MeToo culture.”
This post was updated on Tuesday, March 27 at 4:56 pm to include Walmart’s statement.