As of 2014, the notion of femvertising has transpired to characterize pro-female messaging, empowering women through the media, and challenging traditional stereotypes associated with females in the media. Specifically, within the beauty industry, there is a heavy emphasis placed on employing models that iterate an unattainable beauty ideal for the majority of women – known as the thin-ideal. Scientifically, this has led to an array of findings that highlight the adverse implications of this approach, leading to but not limited to body dissatisfaction, low self-esteem, reliance on dieting habits, and depressive outlooks. This has become a recurring trend when utilizing the kind of women classified as the ideal cover girl. The consequence of this is hindering the progress that previous waves of feminism and post-feminism have fought to achieve. Thus, to ensure the continued success of their identity, many brands have opted to advocate for femvertising and include aspects of that within their advertisements. With a focus on the iconic Cosmopolitan magazine, this research investigates the ways in which Cosmopolitan applies femvertising when representing the ideal women on its covers. By conducting a thematic analysis on 104 covers ranging through the years of 2013-2022 and utilizing the five pillars of femvertising set forth by Becker-Herby, this research was able to classify the ways in which femvertising is present in Cosmopolitan. The pillars outlined are as follows: using a diverse pool of female talent; including messaging that is fundamentally pro-female in its essence; challenge the traditional gender-norm stereotypes society has grown accustomed to; reducing the unnecessary emphasis on sexuality and ensuring it does not gratify the male gaze; and holistically conveying women in an authentic manner through all aspects of the advertisement. The results led to the emergence of the following five themes and their respective subthemes. Theme 1 is that beauty can be diverse and inclusive, with the subthemes including all ethnicities are welcome and shape and size do not matter. Theme 2 entails that women are fierce and strong, through the subthemes of women can be independent, women have the power to dominate, and women can get what they want. Theme 3 is that some gender norms are here to stay, these include ways to fix your body, and control your food, do not let it control you. Theme 4 is owning your sexuality, and the subthemes consist of please men first, yourself second and all women want these things. The last theme is Cosmo inauthentically portrays women, and this is done by excessive skin exposure, sexual poses and expressions, and hindering women’s potential. In answering the research question, it is clear that Cosmopolitan does not fulfil all of Becker-Herby’s femvertising pillars, except for diverse and inclusive beauty (first pillar) and aspects of pro-female messaging (second pillar). Their most recent efforts illustrate an eagerness to partake in recent industry trends and transform their advertising efforts. It is difficult to argue that Cosmopolitan authentically portrays women, downplays their sexuality, nor that they challenge the mainstream perceptions of women.

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Hester Hockin-Boyers
Media & Business
Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication

Malak Elfar. (2022, June 27). Judge this magazine by its cover: A thematic analysis of Cosmopolitan’s ideal cover girl through femvertising (2013-2022). Media & Business. Retrieved from