Every woman wants to be a Cosmo girl
My wonderful niece sent me something in the post this week. It was a copy of Cosmopolitan Magazine. At first, there was this brief moment where I stared blankly into the abyss and thought that the past few weeks of feminist conversation had only happened in my head. Then I saw a post it note “Turn to page 77. Cosmo are doing a feminist campaign”
Cue huge sigh of relief and unwrapping of the chocolates she also sent (she knows her aunt well). So yes, Cosmo have indeed launched a campaign “Do you use the F word?” Now, technically, this is not a campaign, this is a very worthy educational activity. Trust me, there is a difference that more people need to recognise between education and campaigning (I’m sure I will go into detail another time) – but as you read on, you realise that despite the improper use of the word ‘campaign’ to describe the article, there is actually a political campaign that Cosmo seems to be engaging in…I know, maybe I should have got you to sit down before I let you read this.
Cosmo has started a campaign called the ‘Wage War” and are calling on readers to sign a petition to Westminster stating:
“We, the undersigned, call on the government to make equal-pay auditing compulsory from 2013 for all companies who employ 250 people or more. This information (the average wage of women employees and how this compares to men) should be made public, for example on companies’ websites. We believe that without this commitment from the government, the pay gap will be allowed to widen at a time when women across the UK are already finding it harder than ever to make ends meet.” Hmm..not bad. In fact, there are a few MPs who have signed up to it and there seemed to be some Twitter #tag action on the go from them too!
So well done Cosmo! But, the thing is, you, like all women’s magazines, let yourself down. Everything before and after p77 confirms this. I’m not a fan of these magazines, there has to be a substantial, mind numbing, transport – related delay for me to purchase one (well, unless it comes with a free mascara or lipgloss, then it’s just good economic sense). You see they are seeped in hypocrisy and contradiction, I’m taking more than even a religious text.
Let’s just take Cosmo because it is in front of me (but replace it with Heat, Glamour or Star and the story is much the same). The cover is a sultry picture of Holly Willoughby ‘as you’ve never seen her before’ Well, admittedly, I haven’t ever seen here in tight black leather and a sexy pout…At this point I had to check I hadn’t accidentally been sent the cover of a lads mag. Oh wait, it’s because Cosmo assumes women want to look like this. Brilliant. Now, let’s skip through a few pages and give you a run down of what you’ll find:
- Endless make up and fashion tips/ advertisements for the consumer in you
- An article asking men to rate the style of female celebrities – because that’s why you get dressed in the mornings ladies, for the men in your life to be attracted to you. Note while I write this I’m in joggers and a jumper with some of the chocolate stuck to it that my niece sent. (Yeah, you know you want this.) Kevin, 26, says “I’m quite critical of a girl’s fashion sense…I like it when they make the effort” Well Kevin, as long as you are satisfied.
- A Q and A, enquiring whether you can be a feminist and get a vajazzle. (I secretly love this article, for so many reasons!)
- The ‘Sexpert’ answers emails from men and tells us women, how we can solve his sex woes. GIVE ME STRENGTH.
- The next 3 pages are just filled with (almost) naked men…I’m not even sure why. Well, I guess if they objectify us, us objectifying them cancels it out, right?
- And then the almost regular feature…weight loss tips. Excellent.
Now, from reading this, you would presume I leave the house with a giant two fingers to capitalist consumerism, bare faced and wearing my hemp skirt and sloganed ‘anti patriarchy’ t-shirt. You would be wrong. I, like millions of other women, enjoy looking good. My red lipstick and matching red velvet stilettos are like my children. But, I do it for me (here, is where I stop typing and consider if actually I have been trained to say that by a male owned consumerist system) but on the whole, I think, I do it for me. There is nothing wrong with looking good, there is nothing wrong with your choice in clothing, there is nothing wrong with wanting to lose a bit of weight. BUT it is the intention and mindset behind why you are doing it that matters. What Cosmo and many women’s magazines get wrong is that they pitch it to you in a way that make you believe that your appearance is the single, most important thing in the world, far more superior to your intellect or skills and that you should prioritise it, because everyone else expects you to – especially your boyfriend/partner/potential heterosexual lover. This is just unhelpful in the fight for equality. It reinstate everything that is keeping us from being around that boardroom table or all that is allowing us to be treated as objects.
Woven between these self-esteem destroying articles are actually pockets of good intention and decent discussion – credit where it is due, Cosmo is actually better than most others. Much like the campaign they’ve launched, there is talk about finding a good career, even the relationship advice is, almost, empowering – but Cosmo, you do yourself no favours by having it hidden behind layers of unintentional misogyny.
But back to the article my niece actually wanted me to read. Cosmo you’re trying to do something good. I am a complete believe in making feminism more mainstream, so, here are few words of advice to help you along your way:
Dear Cosmo Editor (whom I believe is a woman),
I applaud you on your “F-word” and “Wage War” campaign. I, as a proud feminist, want to see equality in all quarters of society, by focusing on the gender pay gap, you have highlighted one of the most important struggles in the women’s movement’s fight.
You have, however, put into question the credibility of your campaign by ignoring the other fights for equality; the fight to end objectification and the fight for self esteem. All of these fights lead us to equality. By simultaneously fighting the Wage War/reclaiming feminism and then telling women how to dress ‘sexy’ or end their mens’ sexual worries you are cancelling out the good work you are trying to do. You see, we women, do not have equality because we have, for generations, been seen as objects or a ‘weaker’ substitute for human. This fight to end the gender pay gap cannot actually be separated from the fight to end objectification – they two do not exist in isolation. As such, don’t you think that you, as a popular women’s magazine, have a social responsibility to take the fight for feminism as a whole? wouldn’t we be closer to women’s liberation if the literature aimed at women didn’t objectify us too (or worse, convince us we want to be objectified) and make us worry about losing weight for our summer bikinis?
You have the means and the platform to do a lot of good – please take it. This is a step in the right direction.
Just something to think about in time for next month’s edition.
Lots of love