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“The Latest Sexist Thing We’re Not Pleased About”

Ever since trailblazing Cosmpolitan editor Helen Gurley Brown's Sex and the Single Girl encouraged 1960s women to be financially independant and maintain uncommited but fulfilling and shame-free sexual relationships while being firmly commited to femininity and man-worship, the publication has had a complicated relationship to feminism

So it's not surprising to see a headline which reads, "The Latest Sexist Thing We're Not Pleased About," on the magazine's website home page, right beside a link for an article called "Sneaky Ways to Burn Calories," which urges women to shape up with squats while blow-drying their hair in the morning. "We live in a sexist culture, get mad about it!" / "Don't just stand there watching your hair dry, get your glutes in shape!" It's the perfect expression of a classic women's mag formula, which Cosmo itself helped perfect in the decades following the Women's Liberation Movement: make women feel bad about themselves under the guise of empowerment.

In this case, the dose of empowerment is set up as sheer entertainment. The headline trivializes itself and forestalls the possibility of the readers taking its contents seriously: "The Latest Sexist Thing We're Not Pleased About…" Things are terrible, LOL. The article details a new line of misogynist T-shirts that make light of violence against women. (Actually terrible. Depressingly not uncommon.) " Major fail," writes Cosmopolitan. LOL!

On the Internet, articles that get outraged about sexism or racism or whatever-ism attract readers. "The Latest Sexist Thing We're Not Pleased About…" is basically not even the title of one article, but a description of an entire section of the Internet. I'm picking on Cosmo, but this is an Internet-wide problem and one none of us are immune to: you clicked on this post; I wrote it. Outrage is a kind of web-based drug.

We should all care about how and why the game is rigged against certain people, but on the Internet, it all memefies into background noise. Internet feminism is a verbose, angry cat photo. Sexism, racism and other forms of structural oppression are real problems with deep consequences; they're not punchlines.


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