Originally posted to thelanguageeffect.org
Note: A few days ago I wrote into Cosmo. The intent was not to receive a response any more thorough than the expected generic, “We promise we read this, though we can’t respond to every email in our inbox.” (I did in fact receive that response. It was nice.) The intent was to reach someone at Cosmo who might, *as their future self*, be pulled back to the moment they read the letter and *as their future self* choose a title for an article or a “Tweet We Love” that has just a tad more integrity. And, incase the email fails in every which way of those intentions…maybe it will do some service here.
I have the guts to write this largely due to the turn your magazine seems to have taken in the last few years. As referenced on page 22 of your July 2014 issue you have transformed into an increasingly empowering magazine, courageously publishing real stories for strong, creative, beautiful young women. It’s awesome. I feel like you encourage us (I’m a young woman) to speak up and to lead progress for women, so that is what I am doing.
On this same page (22) your first “Tweets We Love” claims, ”It seems like Cosmo has been stalking me. Every article is directly related to my life this exact moment. #Creepy”
Stalking is creepy. For many of the women (and men) who go through it (your readers) hearing language like this used so nonchalantly minimizes the trauma they have and may continue to experience. Stalking is bad enough in itself but it is also often tied to a larger cycle of abuse that can lead to violent or sexual abuse, manipulation, control, etc. Of course, it is often unintentional, but when we use language like “Facebook stalk” or “Cosmo is stalking me” we normalize and become desensitized to stalking – a traumatic, creepy thing that no person should believe is meant to be their or anyone’s norm.
Similarly, I wish the subtitle of “The Story I’m Ready To Tell,” (p. 121), would have read “she survived a strict, violent upbringing and rape by a close friend,” vs “sexual assault by a close friend.” I would not make this point if McCord had not been quoted in the article defining her experience as rape, because I do believe every survivor should label their experience as they wish and that survivors can change how they choose to label their experience as they move throughout their healing process.
Considering McCord labeled hers as rape, it is disappointing the article was not titled accordingly. To not do so, in a way, makes talking about rape taboo and continues to keep the unfortunately common nature of rape under wraps. It was a missed opportunity to shine a spotlight on rape because instead, it was illuminated as sexual assault. Of course, I applaud this story immensely and am so proud you all chose to publish it. I also by no means wish to diminish forms of sexual violence and trauma aside from rape as they are equally important to discuss. I just hope that as we begin to discuss these topics more openly, we can correctly label and emphasize them so readers can realize – even upon first glance at an article – how common rape is and how much we need to continue work to end it.
The words we use and how we use them have so much power to shape our perceptions and I hope, as editors, journalists and publishers you would agree. Recently, Always ran their “Like A Girl” campaign speaking about the power of language. Verizon ran a similar campaign discussing the need to inspire young girls minds by emphasizing their many strengths not only calling them beautiful. Our society has latched onto the idea that “that’s so gay” incorrectly assimilates “gayness” to being wrong. When we become more sensitive to the kind of language we use on micro every day level it does create progress on a macro cultural scale.
Thank you for your time. Thank you for all you are doing for women.