Cosmopolitan.com published an interview with Brooke Sever, the editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan Middle East, an edition of the women's magazine published in Dubai, being read mostly by women in that city as well as in Lebanon.
The interview goes really well, until it doesn't.
Between the interesting anecdotes about what it's like to run a women's magazine in the Middle East (the magazine cannot publish the word "sex"; "splurge purchases" are aimed at those who don't really care about cost-of-living numbers in Dubai, etc), Sever caused a stir by saying that men's rights are just as important to her and her readers as women's rights, and that Dubai is a "pretty good place for a woman to live."
After being asked if she considered Cosmopolitan Middle East a feminist publication, Sever said:
Look, I personally am more of a humanist. I'm all about equality. And I think that, I like to put that in the magazine. I'm not saying that feminism shouldn't exist. I think men's rights are just as important as women's rights. I think there's a long way to go in this part of the world in terms of equality, but in Dubai where we are every day and where many of our readers are, it's a pretty good place for a woman to live.
This is a few paragraphs after Sever runs through the litany of things her photo team has to change so as to not offend the sensibilities of the local readership.
We have to do quite a bit of retouching to flatten boobs, lift up skirts so that midriff is reduced, bring down kind of high-cut underwear so, you know, underbum doesn't show. We get pretty pervy with some of the pictures that we run because we have to look really, really closely to make sure that there is nothing too offensive.
Sever continues saying that she literally runs the risk of being sentenced to jail in Dubai every time they publish an issue:
If someone feels that they've been offended by something in the magazine, they just need to prove in court that they felt offended, and that could actually result in a jail time for me. It's literally the person who puts the magazine out, rather than a fine being slapped on the publisher or something like that.
The United Arab Emirates, where Cosmopolitan Middle East is published, is far from a model of gender equality. As Business Insider puts it, "the UAE is a country where husbands are permitted to beat their wives. There is no legal recourse for marital rape, and the UAE has imprisoned victims who report rape to authorities — including Western tourists." Sever, who is engaged, also tells the magazine that she is "not even legally allowed to live with my fiancé."
Sever's job sounds like it is extremely frustrating, and publishing is a tough industry to survive in, so it's hard to fault her for trying to make it work despite the local restrictions. But yikes.
You can read the full interview with Sever over on Cosmopolitan's American website.
[H/T Alexandra Svokos]
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