Dear Cosmopolitan Editors & Writers,
With certainty, the insensitivity of your decision to dichotomize fashion do’s and don’ts with the use of Black models, has been called to your attention. That must be the reason why you released this apology:
“This article focuses on beauty trends with images that represent those trends. Some images have been taken out of context, and we apologize for any offense. Celebrating all women is our mission, and we will continue to work hard to do that.”
As a 25-year-old Black woman invested in a career in the media and an avid fashion lover, I would like to take the time to explain to you why this apology is not only unacceptable, but also problematic and inexcusably dismissive. In that way, you will come to understand the reason why it simply will not suffice.
According to your public statement, the images that juxtaposed “good” with “bad”, Black with White, were somehow taken out of context. What context, precisely? Perhaps the context in which it is known that your magazine is known for inadequately representing the beauty of Black women, underscored by a 2014 diversity report that revealed White women are five times as likely to be featured on magazine covers than women of color? Or maybe within the context where Black beauty if often measured by White standards in the fashion and media industries? The same fashion industry that came under fire after former model, turned activist wrote a scathing critique of the blatant racism displayed by the industry’s choice to cast mostly White models in runway shows. I also wonder, how often multiple women of color even make it onto a single Cosmopolitan Magazine spread? I doubt with frequency.
It is in this way, magazines and entire industries that are supposedly created to represent all beauty– all women– come to serve the interest of only White people. Furthermore, it is within such context that your overt display of racism becomes even more egregiously inexcusable. With even a rudimentary understanding of the context of our time; the racism that continues to plague the institutions and industries built on the false premise of “inclusion” and “diversity”, the distribution of that article and subsequent failed attempt at apology are clearly not only offensive but dismissive.
And dismissal is certainly worse than offense. All people and organizations can sometimes be offensive. As our society continues to “evolve” and attempt to tackle important issues of racial discrimination and racism, indiscretions are inevitable. Imperfection is expected. However, the plight and struggle faced by women of color should never be trivialized. In blaming the glaringly poor choice to use only Black models to represent bad fashion choices on the fact that the photos were “taken out of context,” Cosmopolitan Magazine has done precisely that. Today’s “context” is highly racialized. Editorial unawareness of that fact is not only worrisome, but terribly bothersome. How can a magazine purported to represent all women, not be aware of and sensitive to the needs and struggles of all women?
For that reason, your relationship to your Black and minority readership is now at a crossroads. This issue cannot simply be ameliorated by a non-apology apology. Women of color deserve far better than that. Trust requires accountability. Accountability requires ownership of mistakes. Cosmo must own up to its dismaying, hurtful display of overt racism by taking full responsibility for the actions of its editorial board.
Otherwise, Black women and women of color simply will never be able to have trust in the publication.
@joansmalls Empowering and supporting all women is our mission, and here, we fell short. We apologize and will do better in the future.
— Cosmopolitan (@Cosmopolitan) April 3, 2015
Image Credits: Cosmo/Twitter