Cleo’s demise signals the end of an era

Many Australian women may be mourning the loss of the iconic magazine Cleo, but there are a tonne of Aussie blokes who also owe a debt of gratitude to this pioneering publication.

German publisher Bauer Media yesterday formally confirmed the shutdown of Cleo in Australia, with the publisher now turning its attention to revamping Dolly magazine as a bi-monthly digital edition. 

The closure of the Australian edition will not affect the Cleo Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia or Indonesia editions.

Launched by Kerry Packer in November 1972 with Ita Buttrose at the helm as founding editor, Cleo quickly became an icon for Australian women because of its controversial content. The premier edition featured the first nude male centrefold in Jack Thompson, and from that day forward the magazine included detailed sex and relationship advice, and provided a significant source of information for young women on topics ranging from fashion, beauty and celebrity news to social and lifestyle issues. 

The magazine’s editorial philosophy was summed up as, “Cleo gets women and it also strikes the perfect balance, offering a bright, light-hearted tone and aesthetic without shying away from the more serious issues that are important to their readers.”

Now, after 44 years, the life of this trailblazing periodical is at an end.

I don’t know about you blokes, but as much as you want to shrug your shoulders and say “who cares”, you should all tip your caps to what the often ‘liberal’ views presented in Cleo did for you – whether you know it or not. It may be the opinion of a one-track mind, but when I saw by-lines such as ‘How to please your man in five easy steps’ or ‘How to strip for your man’ or ‘How to make your relationship even better’, I would quietly hope that my other half would pick up a copy.

Cleo may have been hailed as a serious publication promoting discussion (and subsequent liberation) of sex and relationships aimed mainly at women, but men were certainly the beneficiaries of such content.

It could be fair to ask if Cleo actually did more for men than for women’s liberation. After all, most of the content seemed to promote benefits for men. Did that advance the cause of equality? Or did it set women back a few years, maybe even decades? It’s a question with which Ita may not agree, but a fair one to ask nonetheless.

Either way, today we say farewell to yet another victim of the continuing decline of print publishing. Cleo, you will be missed by more than those who mocked you. You assisted the sexual liberation of women and men alike. You were an important catalyst for happy relationships and talk of all things sexy, social and political, and you paved the way for, as editor Ita Buttrose puts it, “the rapidly changing personality of the Australian woman.”

The final March edition of Cleo will be on sale 22 February.

Are you sad to see Cleo go? Ladies, do you have a favourite centrefold? And fellas, how do you think you benefited from this ground-breaking publication? Who do you think benefited most from Cleo – men or women? Do you feel that some of Cleo’s content may have set back the women’s movement?

Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca has worked in publishing and media in one form or another for around 25 years. He's a voracious reader, word spinner and art, writing, design, painting, drawing, travel and photography enthusiast. You'll often find him roaming through galleries or exploring the streets of his beloved Melbourne and surrounding suburbs, sketchpad or notebook in hand, smiling.
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