An entire issue dedicated to providing visibility for the LGBTQI+ community
Valentine's Day has a well-deserved reputation for being one of the more problematic rituals on the international calendar. Causing fights between couples is the least of its problems: more pertinently, it reinforces all of the problematic ideas about love that tend to get in the way of real connection. Think materialism, then think patriarchal ideals about what a relationship should look like: mainly, a predictable, conflict-free coupling of two people of different genders.
Happily, progressive representation has done a lot to challenge that in recent years. Cue last year's Make Love Valentine’s Day video, and an issue we love from Cosmpolitan with their landmark feature of transgender activist and actress Laverne Cox, the brand’s first transgender cover girl worldwide. Also in the #SayYesToLove issue are Niquita Bento’s portraits of Sydney Storm Davy, Angel-Ho, K-Dollahz, FAKA and more. TWoU spoke to Editor-in-Chief Holly Meadows about disrupting heteronormative ideas around Valentine’s Day and love in 2018.
What is the idea behind #SayYesToLove?
We wanted to dismantle heteronormative ideas around February and Valentine’s Day and look at love in 2018 – including acceptance of self, others and non-binary relationships. Our goal was to play a small part in providing visibility for the LGBTQIA+ community, of which Laverne has become a revolutionary icon. Cox is a vocal activist for the intersection of race, class and gender identities, challenging toxic masculinity, white supremacy and the misrepresentation of trans people. For us at Cosmo, love – at least for this issue – is celebrating Laverne as the fun, fearless female she is.
Cosmopolitan has of course been lauded for decades for its role in making women's rights a talking point, and putting women first. What are the first steps in ensuring that this extends to other marginalised groups, too?
Women’s rights are intersectional and vary vastly across divisions such as class and race. We try our best to acknowledge this in the issues we tackle and to support marginalised groups of women. In the US for example Cosmopolitan petitioned to end tampon tax and in Russia in the early nineties Cosmopolitan was credited as being instrumental in a 50% drop in domestic abortion rates after it launched with a mission to educate women about their bodies. We have an exciting partnership coming up for our March issue around International Women’s Day where we’re leveraging our cover to create awareness for a local foundation that empowers women to achieve economic independence by providing clothing and tools to help them prepare for job interviews and the first few weeks of work. It’s our goal with each and every issue to land messages around how we can mobilise and rally behind women’s rights.
What's something that each of us can do every day to begin to unlearn the prejudices we don't even know that we have?
I think communication is key – talk, read and mix in spaces that challenge your social and culturally constructed bubble – try to understand and appreciate life from other perspectives, always.
How do you find a balance between commercialising marginalised identities (i.e. queerness, gender non-conforming people) and being an ally to those identities?
Collaboration and genuine story telling that is transparent and authentic is what we care about. Cosmopolitan is a media brand with multiple print and digital channels – our mission is to tell stories that empower her to live her best life – that means giving a voice to all women, regardless of your assigned sex at birth.
As an industry, the media is getting better at representation (with, of course, some notable exceptions). How do we ensure that this extends to real inclusivity?
At Cosmopolitan we work collaboratively, there are certain stories the team can’t tell and so we partner with creatives, voices and influencers in order to make sure we are genuinely inclusive, representative and authentic in our story telling. For our February issue we dedicated our entire issue to a cause – our main beauty editorial was shot with transgender model Elle Rose van der Burg and our main fashion editorial featured twelve LGBT+ allies and activists including queer performance artists, FAKA.
#SayYesToLove has emerged at a time when a number of other hashtags have risen to prominence, most notably #MenAreTrash, among others. How do campaigns such as #SayYesToLove aim to help dismantle the systems of patriarchy and queerphobia, for which popular discourses exist concurrently?
We are in a time where women are using hashtag activism such as #MeToo and #TimesUp as a vehicle to come forward in solidarity and support and share their experiences of every day sexual assualt and abuse suffered at the hands of of a prevailing patriarchial society. #SayYesToLove shares a common motive in the sense that we’re taking a stand against queerphobia. In our interview with Laverne Cox we shed light on the years of horrific homophobic bullying she endured and in turn the horrendous hate crimes against transgender women, endured across the world. With #SayYesToLove we are supporting a movement where love transcends simple binaries and social constructs.