Cosmopolitan is often under scrutiny, accused by many as being a somewhat dubious source of “tips” on how to improve one’s sex life, beauty regimen and fitness routine. Many women believe that Cosmo offers little in the way of substantive or useful advice, and seems to perpetually encourage its readers to change or “improve” their current self in some way. However, though I will concede that some of these accusations are warranted, I will also say that the publication is usually striving to be a solid representation of modern female empowerment.
Emphasis on the word “Usually.”
This week, Cosmo raised eyebrows everywhere when they published the story of a cancer survivor and packaged the entire article as … a weight-loss story?
Cosmo editor Elizabeth Narins reported on 31-year-old Simone Harbinson, from Melbourne, Australia, who has experienced a traumatic array of life-threatening medical setbacks:
In August 2014, Simone was diagnosed with a severe kidney infection and taken into surgery to flush out the area. Doctors noticed plaque buildup on her appendix, removed the organ to eliminate any problems,” “further testing on the organ revealed that she’d tested positive for malignant carcinoid tumor of the appendix — a rare form of cancer that had spread before her appendix had been removed.
Harbinson went into the hospital for surgery, which involved removing part of her colon. Though the surgery initially went off without a hitch, things quickly went awry. “Two days later, fluid had begun to leak from her bowel and Simone was rushed back into surgery,” Cosmo reports. “Although pain medication clouded Simone’s memory of the days that followed, she underwent a second surgery. When she woke up in the ICU, she had a large incision down the center of her stomach.”
After that, Harbinger experienced a seemingly never-ending parade of health scares. “Simone contracted an infection that required her to be quarantined, a partial lung collapse left her wearing an oxygen mask, internal leakage led doctors to insert a temporary drainage pocket into her back, and a blood clot complicated her intravenous catheter.”
The story itself is both a frightening and inspiring one. However, Cosmopolitan chose to focus on the fact that Harbinger managed to lose an exorbitant amount of weight during her recovery, despite the fact that she wasn’t working out:
Since modifying her diet early last summer, Simone has lost 44 pounds without a single session at the gym. (Because she’s still recovering from surgery, she isn’t physically able to work out the way she used to before her cancer diagnosis.)
When Cosmopolitan initially tweeted out the story, the headline read “How This Woman Lost 44 Pounds Without *ANY* Exercise.”
Um. Yeah. People with life-threatening forms of cancer tend to lose a bit of weight, Cosmo.
Not surprisingly, many Twitter users were enraged by the article’s packaging — even after Cosmopolitan deleted the original tweet and altered the headline.
For the record, Harbinger is not perturbed by the Cosmo take on her story, and posted proudly about the article on her Instagram account.
While it’s important to remember that multiple people probably had a say in the article’s ill-advised original headline, that fact makes the gaffe all the more baffling.
So: if you’re going to shill out weight-loss advice, Cosmo, perhaps keep life-threatening illnesses out of it in the future?