The Cosmopolitan Divide, part 15


I’ve also done a modicum of research for the second half of this series, to try to answer the question of why cleavage was being used to sell a product to women. My coverage of the literature is going to be spotty and incomplete.  I feel like I need this kind of disclaimer (read: apology) since I’m a librarian and part of my job is to encourage students to be as thorough as they can when searching for academic resources on a topic.  Get more than you need and winnow, I say.  Check their bibliographies for further relevant research, I say. Use Web of Science to see newer pieces that cite what you already have, I say.

I say a lot of things.


The Cosmopolitan Divide, part 14


And, yes,

“sought confirmation” = sneakin’ peeks at breasts because I was 13,


“sought confirmation” = everyone’s a scientist whether or not they want to admit it.

It can be both!

My hunch was, with only a couple of exceptions that I can remember, validated and re-affirmed each time. To sum up what I’ve said so far: hunches have value; hunches have shortcomings, hunches need data. And I’m building what could, if you’re feeling generous, be termed a dataset.


The Cosmopolitan Divide, part 13


And so we come to Cosmopolitan, and my fascination with the fact that it seemed as though I had never once seen this magazine not feature cleavage on the cover. Once the pattern was noticed, I sought confirmation every time I went through the checkout.


The Cosmopolitan Divide, part 12


Going to the grocery store, or to big box stores like Wal-Mart, has been for the majority of my life an almost-weekly ritual. And the last part of the rite is passing through the narrow gate of purchase. Seen from the perspective of the corporate theocracy, this is the last chance to get you to purchase more items. We are presented with low-cost, mass-appeal products which tap into the caveman parts of our mind. Food (meat, sugar, recipe magazines), entertainment (toys, celebrity magazines), and sex (breath mints, magazines promising better positions, fashion, bodies).


The Cosmopolitan Divide, part 11


That should be enough theory for the moment, and we’ll come back to more academic stuff later on. But I want to talk awhile about me and boobs.  I’m not sure when I started noticing this “pattern”, but I think it’s safe to say it was after the time when my body had developed enough for me to become aroused when seeing breasts.


The Cosmopolitan Divide, part 10


But the point I’m stressing here is that you must seek out information that will either confirm or disagree with your ideas. You must disprove the null hypothesis to believe your main hypothesis.


The Cosmopolitan Divide, part 9


Basically, when we encounter information that does not match our patterns, our idea that we are right, we experience what is called cognitive dissonance. This dissonance causes mental discomfort. There are many responses to it; creating subcategories (“you’re one of the good ones”), discounting the source (“these scientists are liberals and have a bias that distorts their data and conclusions”), changing one’s mind (you can think of examples from the final act of your favorite films), or if you’re really cool, just sitting with the conflicting thoughts for awhile.


The Cosmopolitan Divide, part 8


We must, to differentiate ourselves from our knuckle-dragging forebears, seek out information that will help us confirm or deny the patterns we see. We must also be very careful to be open to acceptance of information that goes against the patterns we have told ourselves we see. Ego is an essential part of functioning. I think it likely necessary to one’s mental health to believe that the vast majority of our thoughts are based in reality and are true. Can you imagine how crippling it would be to doubt every thought, to the point of doubting your doubts, or your ability to doubt?


The Cosmopolitan Divide, part 7


At this point, we are hard-wired to notice patterns. We are this way because the cavemen who survived long enough to have sex ran away every time they heard a rustling in the bushes, or didn’t eat the yellow mushrooms because they observed fatal diarrhea amongst the cavemen who did.  But we have more complex concerns than diarrhea (or, at least, I hope you do). The cavemen may have decided to not eat any yellow mushrooms, and even though some could have been nutritious, it didn’t hurt to not eat them. But assuming that all Muslims are terrorists leads to bad behavior and worse policy towards them.


The Cosmopolitan Divide, part 6


But sometimes what looks like a pattern is not. Seeing two or three examples of some aspect of x that actively catch your attention can lead you think that this is the only aspect of x. If, while flipping television channels, you come across three different crime procedural programs, each starring a left-handed brunette with a mole on his upper lip, you may make the assumption that all crime procedurals star left-handed brunettes with a mole on their upper lips. The example is purposefully ridiculous so that I may point out that it is also ridiculous when the patterns “observed” are that black students underachieve, members of other religions do not share your moral sense, pot smokers are lazy, clothes are an indicator of sexual activity.



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