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Walmart removes Cosmopolitan from its checkout areas

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Is it a step forward, a step back, or a useless move?

Feminism has never been a monochrome movement, and this has been all too clear this week in the impassioned reactions to Walmart’s decision to remove Cosmopolitan magazine from its checkout aisles. Though Walmart has not chosen to ban the publication altogether, the removal of the magazine from the checkout aisles has prompted no less enthusiasm on all sides.

With influence from the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE), Walmart chose to enforce the new regulations on the grounds that the magazine is sexually exploitative, but not everyone agrees with this diagnosis. Many women have criticized this change as an oppressive move that silences female sexuality.

Haley Halverson, a vice president of advocacy and outreach at NCOSE, responded to these critics, saying, “Especially in this #MeToo world, it’s time to start addressing the fact that we can’t treat women as objects in these ways in our popular culture and then expect individuals to treat women with respect in their day-to-day lives.”

In a Facebook live video, Halverson explained, “You can go through and buy your groceries with your family knowing you don’t have to be exposed to this graphic and often degrading and offensive material.”

Besides those who maintain that Cosmopolitan’s content is empowering, others have objected that the decision is hypocritical and inconsistent as the magazine is relatively harmless compared to other publications and internet content. Still, the decision is not without supporters. Many women have voiced their approval towards Walmart for enforcing these rules.

In a statement by the NCOSE, Executive Director Dawn Hawkins said, “It’s time to abandon the tired trope that just because Cosmo talks about sex it’s automatically empowering or liberating. […] I hope our culture can start talking about women’s sexuality in healthier and authentically empowering ways.”

It’s unlikely that the pro-woman movement will become a united front any time soon, but the goal to remove exploitation and encourage respect for human dignity must always remain at the center of this conversation.

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