Studies in Crap: Only Old Cosmopolitans Hate Ladies More Than Ladies Hate Themselves

Each Thursday, your Crap Archivist brings you the finest in forgotten and bewildering crap culled from basements, thrift stores, estate sales and flea markets. I do this for one reason: Knowledge is power.
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Cosmopolitan magazine

Date: April, 1960

Discovered at: Antique mall

The Cover Promises: Woman troubles might be out of style, but floral scrubs are perennial.

Representative Quote:
  • "When menstrual pain is so clearly a mental problem, the reasons are usually closely associated with a woman's fear or resentment of being female." (page 34)
Bad news, America! It turns out that Cosmo is not infallible.

There's that time in '88 when it claimed than the missionary position prevented the transmission of HIV.

More recently, in June 2009, the cover promised "Gutsy New Tips Are Guaranteed To Give Him The Most Badass Orgasm Imaginable." That's impossible, as this world has already been shaken by the most badass orgasm imaginable, the one that conceived Evel Knievel.

And then one time, way back before Helen Gurley Brown began sharpening the one-time lit rag into the man-pleasing, hoo-ha judging destroyer of self-esteem we enjoy today, Cosmo insisted that menstrual cramps were an "imaginary ailment." Their only sufferers: hopeless neurotics and sneaky wives. From Evelyn Archer Adams' April, 1960 article "Are Woman Troubles Out of Style?"
"Men now make it easy to perpetuate the menstrual-cramp myth. One wife and mother illustrated this quite graphically, saying 'If you think I'm going to give up menstrual cramps, you're out of your mind. That one day a month is the only time my husband feeds the kids, does the dishes, and sees that Mommy gets her rest!'"
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A Dr. Hilliard explains that young women are taught to fear cramps, which inspires them to expect and imagine cramps.
"Pain is perfected by repetition. 'If you practice enough you can even work up a dandy pattern of headaches,' [Dr. Hilliard] says. 'It's just like playing the piano.'"
Our grandfathers were right! Women's problems are all in women's heads, so shut up and get me a beer!

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Adams and her doctors also dismiss food cravings during pregnancy and pain during childbirth as "archaic bugaboos" that should not trouble well-adjusted modern women. Then the article goes from unsettling to downright cruel: "Some doctors maintain that fear causes miscarriage," Adams writes. "Says one psychiatrist: 'Because of emotional factors, a woman may develop an abortion habit . . .There is even evidence that prematurity and stillbirth have emotional as well as physical precipitants.'"

By "abortion habit," the unnamed doctor is referring to spontaneous miscarriages. Your Crap Archivist is surprised to discover that I prefer today's "50 Fun Things to do Bare-Assed" Cosmo to its "Worrying About a Miscarriage Caused You to Miscarry!" sister.

So, how could 1960's women feel better about themselves? Toast-colored jump-suits!

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How could anyone be anxious with a drop-seat back?

Other ads reveal that some ailments are not imaginary.

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Fortunately, a revolution was coming in women's health. Thanks to the tireless work of pharmaceutical companies, doctors today will treat even the most made-up symptoms!

Shocking Detail:
Here's this old Cosmo by the numbers.
  • Pages of ads before table of contents: 2
  • Relationship quizzes: 0
  • Pages of short fiction: 50, including the scandalous story "He Intended to Stay for Breakfast"
  • Articles suggesting that cancer is "encouraged" by "forces within your personality": 1
  • Sexperts consulted: 0
  • Book-club ads touting Ulysses and Remembrance of Things Past: 1
  • Articles promising that deafness will soon be cured: 1
  • Articles that assume and encourage self-loathing among the subscriber base: 5. At first I thought 6, but it turns out the all-capped "MY VICTORY OVER MS" is about the disease rather than early feminism
  • Gutsy New Tips Are Guaranteed To Give Him The Most Badass Orgasm Imaginable: 0
  • Ailments the writers can admit women actually do suffer: 1, "fatigue."
  • Suggestions that women's "fatigue" might have something to do with the strain of fulfilling the countless contradictory expectations placed upon them: 0
Highlight:
In recent years, retailers like Kroger and Wal-Mart have complained about the sexual explicitness of Cosmopolitan's covers. Last August, Cosmo tweaked them with the perfectly innocent headline "5 Things That Can Blow a Job Interview."

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Even fifty years back, Cosmo dared to hint at fellatio.

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Bonus Crap!
Enough Cosmo! For the best in mid-century lady-hating periodicals, let's return to that Studies in Crap favorite Coronet!

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I've spent ten minutes staring at this cover, and I still can't figure it out. What meaning could this juxtaposition of text and image possibly be meant to suggest?

[The Crap Archivist lives in Kansas City, where he originates his on-line Studies for the Voice's sister paper, The Pitch.]


The mighty Studies in Crap e-mail list updates you whenever a new SiC post hits. Sign up at studiesincrap@villagevoice.com.

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