Cosmo November 2013: Working the Ratio


Cosmo p.146, Nov. 2013. Photographer: Craig Cutler. Annotations by R.

Article: Working the Ratio

Author: Jessica Grose

Summary: This article boils down to one sentence: How to find a man while living and working in a female-dominated environment. That’s right everyone, this entire five page spread is about how to carefully craft yourself so that the few men around you will scoop you up into the wonderful world of coupledom.

Cosmo chooses to present this information by focusing on three situations in which you may face a dearth of guys: university, your profession, and your city. The magazine gives us a wide variety of advice, but, ultimately, most of it boils down to engaging in various activities because they will help you attract a man, not because they could be enjoyable experiences. Basically, make yourself super attractive bait.


Part I: The Introduction

The article naturally begins with a personal story of a woman who has serious trouble finding a man in the Raleigh-Durham area of North Carolina. She complains that all she can find is “uncouth nerds” who enjoy talking about Harry Potter or womanizers. But never fear! Cosmo is here to save the day with “some stealth strategies to zero in on quality when quantity is not on your side. It’s called working the ratio.”

Now, this isn’t too bad yet. However, it does flat out reject any man who has stereotypical nerd interests, criticizing some man simply because he doesn’t hide the fact that he likes Harry Potter. Plus, the final sentence is problematic, but its problems are best illustrated in the next sections, which talk about some naturally man-scare environments. So get excited, cause we’re moving on!

Part II: If You Go to a Female-Dominated University

Before we begin, let’s establish that this is the least objectionable part of this article despite the fact that in this section we learn that if you are a male at a female dominated university, get ready to live the life a a Greek god! You see, you’ll have your pick of the women around you, so there is no reason to act “like a gentleman.”!


We just came from cat-calling girls on the street.

Now, to Cosmo‘s credit, it does advise their readers to avoid the womanizers, but it does so through a series of overly elaborate and unnecessary analogies. First, remember that dating is like bobbing for apples at the end of a party because “it’s messy and the good ones are gone.” Then, remember to go “boy hunting” off campus, because the dating within your school is “incestuous.”

Let’s summarize. Don’t date at your school because the single dudes are like rotting apples with bite marks, and don’t date anyone at your school since it’s like dating your sibling. Oh, and don’t forget, finding a boyfriend is like bringing down wild animals or capturing a Pokemon.

You Have Encountered a Man

A wild Dude appeared!

Now, the idea of leaving campus and meeting new people is, in and of itself, fine. Go out, have a good time, meet a guy if you want to. However, the advice is continually presented as though there is no choice; you HAVE to go off campus, and you HAVE to meet a guy. If you stay on campus, then you have absolutely no chance of finding man or succeeding generally. And that’s a problematic message. But hold on to your hats, because the final two sections go further down this rabbit hole.

Part III: If There’s a Shortage of Men in Your Profession

Here, our first piece of advice comes from Amy Webb, the author of Data, a Love Story, which is evidently an advice book regarding attracting men via online dating.  Ms. Webb tells Cosmo that:

“To find a good guy. . . [y]ou can’t just say your audience is men. It has to be more specific.” After some terrible online dates, Webb created 10 fake male profiles on to see how popular women on that site attracted men. She found that smart, attractive men (a pretty good target) were most responsive to women with upbeat profiles that had fewer than 500 words. More than that and the women started to sound braggy – or worse- desperate, she says.

So, that’s great. We start with glaringly obvious advice to not just look to date any man (no shit), and then we are instructed to, basically, keep our mouths shut. 500 words and only 500 words. Ok, got it. What other advice do you have for us?

She also discovered that leading with your hobbies rather than your career is preferable [because] . . . a lot of high-powered men are still intimidated by successful women.

Oh, great. That sounds like EXACTLY the kind of man everyone would want; someone who doesn’t respect a woman’s career.  Many women really like their careers and find it to be an important aspect of their lives; why wouldn’t they want to tell potential partners about it? Hell, it might even be a good way to weed out men. If you love your career and spend a lot of time on it, I seriously doubt a man intimidated by your career is going to be someone you want to attract.


But, moving on from that STELLAR piece of advice, Cosmo gives us some advice that is not abhorrant, but it is shockingly obvious. For example, weddings are a good place to meet people, and to meet new people you should put yourself outside your normal circle of friends. You know, I NEVER would have thought of that one on my own.


For example, readers are told to look into charity events in the community since evidently lots of “hunky guys” have good hearts. Habitat for Humanity is evidently “one of the [best] date-hunting grounds” because “you can help build a house with some good-hearted dudes, then go for beers.” Here, women are encouraged to engage in charitable activities because good-looking men might be there. No mention of giving back to the community or your own personal fulfillment, because obviously that isn’t a valid reason to take part.

And finally, we conclude this section with some really awesome advice. Your final resort should be spending time every night before bed to see if any of your friends’ Facebook friends look interesting. If they do, you need to then ask to be introduced obviously. Because “It’s an empowering and free way to become your own matchmaker.” Alternately, it sounds like a great way to revert to being about 12 years old and in middle school.


Cosmo’s target audience?

Part IV: If Your City Has Tons More Single Women Than Single Guys

And finally, we have reached the worst section of this article. In this portion, Cosmo advises its readers to choose their hobbies based entirely on what will net them a man. Not their own interests. Not their own hobbies. Instead, readers must discover what activities eligible bachelors will show up at and then go do those.


See, the goal is to put yourself in a situation where there are a lot of men and a only a few women. This idea by itself isn’t bad if you are actively looking for a relationship/a hook up/etc. However, Cosmo explains this simple fact of ratios by stating that “men work best when under pressure, not when presented with a cornucopia of options.” Let’s translate this: men’s brains can’t process the idea of a large number of available girls around them at once. They short-circuit and malfunction in a way that makes them incapable of connecting with you. Good job Cosmo, you stereotype all genders equally.


Going along with the whole sweeping generalizations theme, Cosmo apparently rejects essentially all non-Southern cities on the east coast of the United States. In DC engagements are “minor miracles,” NYC’s dating scene required a woman to write a book in order to “exorcise those demons,” and Philadelphia had all women competing for the “same three guys who didn’t get married at 25.” This seems patently ridiculous. R has either lived or spent significant time in all of those cities; she did not notice any cat fights in the street over men and has friends who got married in each of those cities. So, Cosmo, let’s rethink this whole “don’t live in the Northeastern/Mid-Atlantic region of the US.”

From this the article moves on to a few suggestions. First, Cosmo thinks that it might be a good idea to start some happy hours with the young professionals around you. However, they mean the young MALE professionals. For example, there is the suggestion to start a happy hour for the young bankers’ association, and, quite frankly, this seems stupid unless you are also a banker. What, do you send an email to an entire association of strangers asking them to come to some happy hour this strange woman is planning? That sounds like a phenomenal idea.


Their next suggestion is to develop your own passions. Which is great! Do that, everyone! But don’t do the advice that comes next, because Cosmo says that you should do this because it makes you more appealing to potential dates! Making yourself happy just becomes a pleasant little side benefit to securing a date.

Then we have the radical (and this is not sarcastic) suggestion to actually travel to meet men. Specifically, travel for the sole purpose of meeting a man. This seems like a lot of money and effort for very little possible pay off, and why must you travel to meet this man of your dreams? Maybe the man of your dreams will happen travel to your area.

The idiocy is compounded by the fact that it is supported by a personal anecdote of a woman who traveled to Denver. Apparently, in Denver “there were packs of guys surrounding each single girl.” A lived in Colorado for a time; men did not magically turn into wolves when near the Rockies. Though, she probably would have been more interested in them if they HAD turned into wolves.


We were human until we reached Colorado.

And then the article ends with a very oblique reference to the “uncouth nerd” from the opening section. Because Cosmo has really got to pound home the point that some men’s interests make them flat out undateable.

Overall, this entire article was incredibly rage-inducing and frustrating. R’s notes covered entire pages, and she only stopped because she ran out of space. The best part of the whole thing was the fact that R created her own narrative for the article by “improving” the accompanying photographs.

Cannibal Rapture

Cosmo p.150, Nov. 2013. Photographer: Craig Cutler. Annotations by R.

But seriously, if you are looking for a man, whether for a relationship or a short-term fling, maybe some of the strategies may work. You might want to socialize outside of your circle more, join some new groups, or simply go out more.

However, this entire article is based on the idea that you should have these hobbies and do these activities, not because new activities can be fun and interesting and a great way to expand your circle of acquaintances, but because they can help to attract a man. According to this article, attracting a man isn’t just one benefit of engaging in new activities that you enjoy; it’s the entire reason to do them. And this is a problem since it is implicitly discouraging a woman from developing an identity independent of a man.

So, here’s some advice from us to you: be yourself. Do what you want. Expand your horizons, try new things, travel, and do all the other fun things this article suggests. But don’t do them just because you want a boyfriend because, news flash, you might get a guy that way but you’ll lose yourself.

Vegetarian Way

In other words, just say no to cannibalism.  Cosmo p.146, Nov. 2013. Photographer: Craig Cutler. Annotations by R.


2 thoughts on “Cosmo November 2013: Working the Ratio

  1. I’m pretty sure the target audience for Cosmo is literally junior high aged girls. I mean, who seriously reads it as an adult? (You keep doing it though, because this was hilarious.)

    • Thanks! Cosmo is pretty low-hanging fruit considering probably no one outside of high school takes it seriously, but it is incredibly frustrating that anyone at all takes this seriously. Plus, high schoolers are generally a pretty impressionable bunch. On another note, Cosmo also had the added bonus of lots of pictures that I could improve, so that was a legitimate consideration.

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