Walmart appears to be tip-toeing into the #MeToo movement, but its approach may be misguided.
Walmart announced Tuesday that it would be removing women’s magazine Cosmopolitan from its checkout lines. “As with all products in our store, we continue to evaluate our assortment and make changes. 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,” the retailer said.
The National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE), an anti-pornography advocacy group, reportedly played a role in Walmart’s decision and called the move “what real change looks like in our #MeToo culture.”
“Walmart’s removal of Cosmo from checkout lines is an incremental but significant step toward creating a culture where women and girls are valued as whole persons, rather than as sexual objects,” the NCOSE said in a press release. The organization argues that Cosmo “sends the same messages about female sexuality as Playboy,” by emphasizing women’s “ability to sexually satisfy a man.”
The NCOSE has been at the forefront of a broader push to remove Cosmo from the shelves of retailers for years. In 2015, it successfully persuaded Rite Aid and Delhaize America to begin selling issues of the magazine behind blinders.
While the NCOSE deems the content and message of Cosmo to be harmful, it arguably overlooks the sexual education and empowerment that’s central to the magazine’s ethos. (Women’s magazines more broadly have secured a coverage niche in the Trump era, reporting on women’s rights and female leadership in addition to fashion and beauty tips.) The NCOSE’s reference to #MeToo also seems to miss the point of the movement against sexual harassment. As #MeToo stories have proved time and again, sexual harassment isn’t necessarily about sex, it’s about men abusing their upper hand in workplace power dynamics—a problem that won’t be fixed by hiding a magazine written by women for women from view.