Cosmopolitan magazine is under fire for their less-than-fair use of black and white models in a January beauty trends article. Rosalynn Warren of BuzzFeed was brave enough to say what everyone is thinking: Cosmo‘s choice in fashion images borders on racist.
So what exactly went down in this beauty trends article? The original piece titled “21 Beauty Trends That Need to Die in 2015,” written by Carly Cardellino, breaks down hot and played-out trends with quite blatant segregation. The “R.I.P.” trends can be seen in the left column compared to the fresh, sleek and desirable “Hello, Gorgeous!” trends in the right column.
Cosmo is being criticized for the fact that all 21 of the “gorgeous” trends depicted white women, with the exception of Nicole Richie, who happens to be biracial. In comparison, the undesirable trends were made up of nearly 20 percent women of color.
did anyone not realize how consistent this layout was? Did anyone at @Cosmopolitan realize the blatant contrast between black and white?
— missy foreman-greenwald (@femmeminem) April 2, 2015
The issue isn’t just the fact that more black women made up the “R.I.P.” trend column compared to the white women who were “doing it right.” The glaring problem is that every time an image of a black woman was used, it was automatically inserted in the “fail” category. There wasn’t a single black woman “doing it right.”
To be fair, the odds are huge that this Cosmo writer and assigned editors did not have an intentionally racist motive in publishing the piece. Because of the preference toward white women that already exists in fashion, the deck was stacked. This is just one more good reason to openly discuss fashion and beauty industry bias — after all, we can’t change what we don’t acknowledge.
After much hubbub and reader boycott threats on Twitter, Cosmo issued a note from the editor as a tweet, saying, “Some images have been taken out of context, and we apologize for any offense.”
— Cosmopolitan (@Cosmopolitan) April 2, 2015
So, Cosmo admitted they messed up. While it’s easy to get angry and jump on the boycott bandwagon with the rest of the Twittersphere, there’s also the opportunity to have a “high road” moment. We can take a beat and learn from the error of Cosmo‘s ways.
BuzzFeed readers urged customers to vote with their purses, which simply means — don’t support advertisers in the fashion and beauty industry who don’t prioritize diversity. And though “boycott” sounds like a negative word, believe it or not, this message can actually be positive.
Calling Cosmo out publicly was all about accountability. Large publications and major fashion labels should consider diversity a top concern and, as such, should screen each and every message they send out to their followers — whether it be for diversity related to race, body image or gender.
Cosmo dropped the ball, but this is actually a good thing. The point is that the public is listening, and we care about what we’re seeing. We aren’t being hateful because we demand racial diversity from a major magazine. We just want equality to be the norm.