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New Year, Same White Feminism: Why Glamour’s “Women” Edition Falls Short

Glamour has been getting a lot of credit for its February 2017 issue. Some of the praise is well-deserved: the issue is produced entirely by women during a time when men still dominate news media, even when it’s catered to women. But the magazine’s cover story featuring Lena Dunham is a tired tribute to white liberal feminism, something that should have been left behind in 2016. 

Glamour’s editor Cindi Leive promises that the February edition marks the beginning of a new era for the magazine. Going forward, Glamour will increase their representation of women in creative-contributor roles. This is an important step for the magazine; last year only 37 percent of their photographers and 32 percent of their hairstylists were women. However, what Leive fails to understand is that hiring more women as creative directors, photographers, and stylists doesn’t mean much when the cover story features a terrible crew of white feminists.

We’ve all talked at length about why Girls is problematic and how Lena Dunham gets feminism wrong. Dunham is the poster child for white privilege and white feminism: She recently said she wishes she’d had an abortion so that her story could help reduce stigma around the issue. Meanwhile, poor women of color are risking their lives to get the procedure. Dunham enthusiastically campaigned for Hillary Clinton this election season, lauding the presidential hopeful for her commitment to “ending racism” and her legacy of “flying to countries where women are routinely denied basic freedoms . . . and putting their leaders on blast.” Painting Clinton as an advocate for racial justice and a champion of global human rights is incredibly ahistorical and shortsighted. Furthermore, her comments about Odell Beckham Jr. and Michael B. Jordan last year revealed how she has thrown “black male bodies under the bus to forge her sexual identity as a plus-size white woman.” That’s not body positivity; it’s white supremacy. Making Dunham and her Girls gang the centerpiece of an issue meant to “cheer women on” is just another example of white liberals missing the point.

I’ve gotten used to not seeing women who look like me represented on magazine covers and television shows. Girls’ lack of diversity doesn’t surprise me. Even still, though I’ve become accustomed to seeing white, privileged women on every screen and magazine, Glamour’s February issue bothered me. Maybe it’s because I’m preparing myself for Trump’s amerikka and hoping that feminists will wake up and realize that celebrating white women who have caused immense harm—be it Dunham or Hillary Clinton—is a failed strategy. We cannot afford to keep centering white liberal feminism in 2017. The stakes are just too high.

Durham, NC

Barbara is a PhD student in Religious Studies at The University of North Carolina and the co-founder of The Not So Ivory Tower, a blog by and for women of color in academia. She writes about immigration, transnational social movements, and Latinx feminisms. You can peep her work on The Huffington Post, Latina, Vivala, Latino Rebels, and xoJane.

Barbara is a PhD student at UNC. She writes about immigration, transnational social movements, and Latinx feminisms.

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