Where is the feminism in this (Cosmo)?

By Giselle Fierro

Throughout the last couple of weeks, I have been exploring the online space of Cosmopolitan UK in order to figure out whether it is a feminist/anti-racist space. I have done this by creating forums and partaking in the discussions that have taken place within these forums. I have also explored and analyzed the site in order to get a sense of what makes this Cosmopolitan UK online space what it is today and the type of audience it attracts.

From pure observation, I realize that the site is not an online feminist/anti-racist site. Although the site is currently involved in a push for feminism campaign, everything that Cosmopolitan UK pushes for in this campaign is completely hypocritical about what is portrayed throughout their site. Cosmopolitan UK continues to perpetuate the stereotypical ideologies of what and how women are supposed to present themselves in online spaces, which ultimately ends up being represented in actuality, in real-life. The representations of women in Cosmopolitan UK do not help counter any of the already-existent beliefs of the ideal “woman beauty:” a white, slim, heterosexual woman. Furthermore, much of the content on the site talks about the necessity to please their male partner and the needed-reliance on their male partner.

The forums have been very helpful in getting to know the audience that is involved in the online world of Cosmopolitan UK. When I posed the question asking whether Cosmopolitan UK was really an online feminist space, I had numerous responses that claimed that feminists only want special treatment and want dominance over men. I was even called a “feminazi” and a “whiner.” Many users turned the phrase, “safe space,” into the idea that I, as a feminist, am intolerant of any ideas that are outside my feminist viewpoints and am unwilling to have my ideas counter-argued. I was then attacked for this for numerous posts.

To continue the discussion that is already going on in my forum, I have posted the following response:

I, as a feminist, am perfectly fine to discuss topics that counter my own beliefs. I am just trying to figure out whether Cosmopolitan, keeping in mind that Cosmopolitan is in the middle of a feminist campaign, is ACTUALLY working towards a more feminist space or simply perpetuating what already exist in the “feminist” culture.

Although I appreciate what Cosmopolitan is trying to do in terms of making their online space a more feminist space, I just don’t see any progress is being made. I mean, the models being shown throughout the website are, for the most part, still being portrayed in a very hyper-sexualized manner, as sex icons. The women are representing the ‘ideal beauty’ of the culture: slim, white, heterosexual, with perfect blonde hair, glazing blue eyes and with perfect smooth skin. You see no other skin colors being represented. To add on, much of the material being shown on the website talks about ways women can please men. Why does it always have to be for the purpose of pleasing men, depending on men, from the viewpoint of a heterosexual? I’m a lesbian woman. Where is the material for me on this site? I’m also a Latin@ woman. Why don’t I see faces similar to mine on this site? I’m of average body type. Why don’t I see woman that look more similar to my body type on this site?

This site continues to perpetuate the already existent white, heteronormative, patriarchal culture that exists outside this online space. Where is the feminism in this?

I have now integrated race and sexuality into this discussion. I am curious to find out how this audience will respond to these questions. From this, we will find out whether Cosmopolitan UK is truly and online feminist/anti-racist space.