Cosmopolitan: Dear Ladies, Ambition is a Turn-off!

Posted by Alex Hodor-Lee

A recent article in Cosmopolitan Magazine listed Skidmore College as one of the ten worst schools to find single men. 

The article is disturbing on several levels. 

It reinforces our pervasive hetero-normative culture (in the course of researching for this article I learned what "cisgender" means). This type of hetero-normativeness often means that there is no room in the discussion for those with other preferences--a cultural bias that runs rampant in our society. 

It's also clear there's very little science or even research involved in crafting the article (but then again this is Cosmo). The article, written by Jennifer Grose, is unrelentingly anecdotal, citing several women who lamented their woe-is-me single-life plight in New York City, among others. It's clear that the research done for this article (though calling it "research" feels like a violation of my academic sensibilities) was lazy and proximal. A research design that can be likened to a drunk guy looking for his lost car keys under a street light. 

Cosmopolitan offers up a cautionary tale of young women who went to college to meet single men and (drumroll!) failed. Their repugnant solution? Reevaluate what's important to you (casual things like your career path, major or even what city you live in) in hopes of meeting more single men. 

Much like your aunt who grew up in the 1950's, Cosmo warns against the career-oriented woman. Another of Grose's scholarly endeavors entails the creation of a fake J-date profile. Her "experiment" revealed that men don't like women who write more than 500 words in their profile descriptions, or women who mention their careers (admittedly, both a little true: most men are generally intimidated by career-oriented women; and we are too lazy to read more than 500 words).

But Jennifer Grose--known for her musings about how women should speak in the workplace--also cited an interview with an "18-year-old freshman" Skidmore student.

It turns out that "18-year-old freshman," Brianna Barros, is actually a 19-year-old sophomore. She met her boyfriend while touring Skidmore College. Cosmo paints an evergreen account of their relationship. 

Antithetical to Cosmo's theory about men at Skidmore, her boyfriend was unwavering in his courtship. 

They met during a tour before freshman year. "He just kept pursuing. He wouldn't leave me alone." said Barros in an interview with SN. "Then he inboxed me over the summer and I was like 'you know what? I don't want to start off Skidmore being a jerk.' So I was nice, but limited." 

"Then I got to school and I really wanted to enter the business competition and I saw him talking to my marketing professor. I overheard [their conversation] and I was like, 'he really knows what he's talking about.'" said Barros, whose tune begin to change with the raising stakes of the business competition, "I thought, 'I really don't like this kid, but I need a partner...we ended up working together...and he actually ended up being a pretty cool kid." Barros told SN.

The Cosmo article also warns, "You might want to brush up on your coding if you want to go to a school that's majority-male--many of the universities with a predominately male student body tend to have strong engineering, math and computer-science programs." 

Or, women should learn to brush up on coding because they want to. At a time when female representation in STEM fields is scarce, we shouldn't impel women to pursue the hard science because men are there. We should ask them to pursue the field because women aren't there. The author's advice wreaks of the dirty, dangerous and inhibitive scent of phallocentricism.

Just like Brianna Barros, other young women might find dating success if they don't chase men, but instead their dreams.  

"I think the [Cosmo] article is sort of saying to girls 'reconsider these choices...If you go to a school you really need to learn these skills if you want to pick up new men'--because God forbid the ratio's off! I think what should be said is that girls need to be more confident." Barros, who never spoke to the Cosmopolitan writer directly, told SN

"You have to be outspoken and pursue what you love and if you meet a guy on the way that's awesome." 

The truth is that ambition is sexy. It's why Brianna and her boyfriend have what they have and why many couples are...couples. Unfortunately, writers of Cosmopolitan Magazine are adept at drawing in their audience, luring out their sexual instincts while simultaneously poking and prodding at their insecurities. All the while they maintain rigid gender binaries and reinforce unhealthy cultural norms. 

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