A Complete Whitewash - the women's magazine industry's diversity problem.

Updated: Feb 19, 2019

Intersectional feminism quote by Horrendously Feminist about diversity and whitewashing, if you don't fight for all women, you fight for no women

Next to my bed, I have a stack of various Cosmopolitan Magazines from the last three or so years and in the wake of the Tess Holliday controversies I decided to give them a browse. I was on the hunt for inspiration for a blog post about the lack of plus-size representation in the media. However, as I laid them across my bed I uncovered a far-more disturbing diversity issue. One of colour. Out of fourteen issues, only two of them featured female cover stars that weren’t white. It made me wonder, how on earth can a magazine that has spent the last week defending its right to use a diverse range of body types on the cover, be lacking so severely when it comes to racial diversity? Representations are incredibly important and the presence of a diverse array of images in the media is essential for a society that offers equal opportunities. Why has there been such outrage in the mainstream media over a plus-size model gracing the cover of Cosmo, but in contrast, a deafening silence over the absolute whitewash of women’s magazine covers? We should all be focusing more on who’s NOT appearing on these covers, why they’re not and in turn, what THAT promotes.

Cosmopolitan magazone lack of racial diversity on the cover taken by horrendously feminist blog, a complete whitewash

Sadly, more magazines than just Cosmo follow this pattern. So, I decided to look at the front covers of Glamour, British Vogue and Cosmopolitan from 2010-2017 to see whether they all share a similar racial bias and, to what extent. Over the seven-year time frame, out of eighty-four magazine covers each, Glamour featured nine cover stars that weren’t white (10.7%), Vogue featured just seven (8.3%) and Cosmopolitan featured fifteen (17.8%). What is even more shocking, is that during 2010, 2012 and 2014, all British Vogue cover stars were white. That’s three whole years where no African, Hispanic, Polynesian, Asian…W.O.C in general were represented. Also, for six years out of the seven which I researched, the seven covers of Glamour in that time which featured a non-white cover star, alternated between the same three women – Rihanna, Jennifer Lopez and Nicole Scherzinger.

All that this research shows is the blatant ignorance of talent, success and beauty by the women’s magazine industry. By failing to offer alternative female representations, these magazines are reinforcing a very narrow stereotype of success and beauty in women. They are openly emitting the message that thin, white, attractive women are worth more. When one type of woman is put on a pedestal so openly, yet so covertly, it tells all women that stray from that category that they are less than. That they are and always will be second best. This is not what feminism is about. This is not what women’s magazines should be teaching their young, impressionable audiences.

So many people still lack understanding concerning the significance of media representation but the damage that these messages do to young women and girls is undeniable. With such little racial diversity comes the disempowerment of millions of women in the UK. Women that think they are less able, less powerful and less worthy of success purely because of the colour of their skin. Black women exist. Asian women exist. Hispanic women exist. So why do they not exist on the front covers of our magazines? Why are they not being celebrated in the same way? And why are the mainstream media ignoring it? This country prides itself on diversity but if you look to the magazine stand, it’s a complete and utter whitewash.

Feminism is a movement that was built on intersectionality. And so, all women must come together to demand that the British media do better. The racial bias of women’s magazines must be called out. It is disgraceful that these companies are so oblivious to how they are marginalising their audiences. Cosmopolitan cannot continue to pride itself as the ‘No. 1 Women’s Glossy Magazine’, if they are only going to cater to white women. We are all as worthy as each other and all deserve equal representation.

The conversation about the diversification of representations must be streamlined and the playing field must be equaled. I see no problem whatsoever with the Tess Holliday Cosmo cover with regards to her weight - she is quite clearly slaying so hard that she can’t even hear Piers Morgan’s drivel. The image is clearly promoting body positivity and self-acceptance, not obesity. However it’s also promoting the racial ignorance of women's magazines. This is a far more distructive ideology. Why can’t mainstream journalists discuss this *real!!!* issue instead of body-shaming a young woman?

^^magazine cover archives: