Yesterday I published this post about an article in Cosmo which encouraged women to use street sexual harassment as motivation to lose weight. In the intervening hours Cosmo have removed the offending article, presumably in response to the number of negative comments they received about it. There were about 9 comments on the article itself when I looked, all of them reprimanding the editors for publishing the article. It’s good to see that people have been listened to!
That said, this does feel like somewhat of a missed opportunity to engage with the issue. One of the reasons I’m sometimes hesitant to write is that although I know the issues I write about are important, sometimes they’re so thoroughly dissected elsewhere it can feel like I’m trotting out the same arguments as hundreds of other bloggers. In fact, though, this is probably a good sign: a sign that widespread debate is becoming the norm. While in the past this might have remained on the periphery, feminism discussion that encourages women to demand respect and reject abuse has edged into the mainstream over the last few years – thanks, in no small way, to projects like The Everyday Sexism Project. Yet the popular women’s glossy mags such as Cosmo refuse to get involved, despite professing from time to time to support feminist values. The retraction would have been so much more meaningful had it been followed up with an editorial considering why so many women were unhappy with being told that they should respond well to cat-calling. It would be a bold move to admit they were wrong – and I think they’d get a lot of respect for it.
It’s a shame that this hasn’t happened, and more could have been said in response to the discussion; but perhaps this will encourage Cosmo’s editors to think more carefully about their advice in future. It’s heartening to see that their readership is willing to call them out on it, and it’s also heartening to see that they listened. It’s progress, at least.