The world's largest retailer will now sell the Hearst Corp. publication just in its magazine aisle, spokesman Randy Hargrove said on Tuesday. The National Center on Sexual Exploitation—a group with roots in fighting pornography—said it had been working "behind the scenes" with the retailer for months on the decision, which is intended to make Walmart's checkout aisles "family-friendly."
"While this was primarily a business decision, the concerns raised were heard," Hargrove said in an email.
Walmart's move comes amid rising sensitivity to sexism and gender discrimination. Internally, the firm has made gender diversity a bigger priority over the past decade, yet is still facing lawsuits from women who say they were denied opportunities for promotion.
"Cosmo sends the same messages about female sexuality as Playboy," said Dawn Hawkins, the Washington-based group's executive director. She portrayed the campaign as a part of the #MeToo movement, which has focused on sexual harassment and discrimination, especially in the workplace.
Cosmopolitan's removal from the checkouts represents "an incremental but significant step toward creating a culture where women and girls are valued as whole persons, rather than as sexual objects," Hawkins said.
Hearst calls Cosmopolitan a "bible for fun, fearless females" that reaches more than 17 million readers a month. It's published in more than 80 countries, according to the title's website. The media company didn't respond to a request for comment. (UPDATE: In a statement, Hearst defended the magazine's value for women and business success. "With our focus on empowerment, we are proud of all that the brand has achieved for women around the world in the areas of equality, health, relationships, career, politics and social issues," a spokesman said.")
—Matthew Boyle with assistance from Gerry Smith, Bloomberg News