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On magazine stands in America the cover of Cosmpolitan's blaring sex tips are — though crass — commonplace. But what about in India? Or in the Middle East? 

In this week's New York Times Magazine Edith Zimmerman reports on the worldwide juggernaut that is Cosmo, which has 64 international editions and is in more than 100 nations, including ones where discussions of sex are off limits for women. Though articles often appear in varied forms across multiple editions, the magazine, Zimmerman explains, has had to amend itself based on laws and customs within countries. In India, for instance, sex toys are banned, so pieces on them are out. As for the Middle East: 

Most international Cosmos are run by their countries’ natives, but Kerrie Simon-Lawrence, the beautiful, redheaded editor of Middle East Cosmo, is from Sydney. “Obviously because of the cultural sensitivities within the Middle East” — where dating and premarital sex are, in some countries, punishable by law — “we can’t lift so much from international editions.” Throughout the Cosmic Conference, she and the magazine’s publisher joked repeatedly about needing good lawyers and the possibility of going to jail.

The global status of women has come up a lot as of late with the Olympics underway. Just today, the first woman ever to compete for Saudi Arabia did, and did so while wearing a hijab. Yesterday our Elspeth Reeve wrote about the talk surrounding a photograph of a Palestinian female runner competing with nearly her entire body covered. Earlier the Times noted that despite the fact that all countries participating have female athletes this year "true equality is far from being won."

According to Zimmerman: "to hear the Cosmo missionaries tell it, they’re promoting feminism with every issue." That's up for debate. But it's interesting to consider whether reading Cosmo in the Middle East is a step toward that "true equality" or just a trashy globalization of Western culture.

Read the rest of Zimmerman's piece here

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