William & Mary

Indian Cosmopolitan

Researching the effects of Cosmopolitan on women in India.

  • Annie Brown
    Annie Brown  An interest in examining women's magazines within the framework of gender construction and global consumerism led Annie Brown '10 to India.  Photo by John Wallace
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In spring 2009, while studying abroad in India, Annie Brown '10 received word that her research project would receive funding from a William & Mary Honors Fellowship. The support that the fellowship provided allowed her to stay in India to research the economic and health ramifications of Indian Cosmopolitan's marketing image, which "promotes an obsession with beauty and wealth in order to create markets for beauty and luxury products," according to Brown.

Cosmopolitan magazine, first published in the United States, is now distributed in more than 100 countries. Indian Cosmo includes some of the same articles featured in the U.S. version alongside other stories tailored to cultural and regional specific interests. Brown's research involved interviews with the leadership of Indian Cosmo, and also examined the perspective of Indian feminists and everyday women that she encountered at the all-women's hostel where she stayed. In addition, she interned for a month with Manushi magazine, a women's rights/human rights magazine in India. "The William & Mary fellowship gave me the opportunity to live in India on my own," Brown says. "It's one thing to read a book, but I got to be a part of it."

These experiences gave Brown first-hand exposure to India's culture, and to the images of wealth and sexuality that are portrayed by its media. These findings allowed her to approach more in-depth research and seek direct solutions. Brown's summer of research is also serving as a basis for her honors thesis. Aside from the personal and academic satisfaction that comes with completing an honors thesis, Brown hopes her work also helps others. She plans on sending her completed paper to Cosmopolitan magazine editors, as well as Madhu Kishwar, asking for advice. Madhu Kishwar is one of India's most famous feminists and the editor of Manushi magazine.

Brown's experience is an excellent example of how funding for all disciplines can provide experiences and resources for students to perform high quality research that can have real world results.

"The thing I love about women's studies is its focus on real world applications of feminist theory," she says. "As I see it, the goal of women's studies research is to make people's lives better."