Some 13,000 people want Anna Wintour to apologize—and it has nothing to do with her summer selections.
Days after the July issue of Vogue hit the stands, the magazine’s profile of model/actress/Instagram-senstation Cara Delevingne has sparked a full-on backlash.
Rob Haskell’s profile on Delevingne only devotes a couple of small paragraphs to her sexual orientation and her current relationship with singer Annie Clark (better known as St. Vincent).
But the treatment of Delevingne’s bisexuality is both confusing and condescending.
“Her parents seem to think girls are just a phase for Cara, and they may be correct,” Haskell writes without ever actually directly quoting Delevingne’s parents or her on the topic.
Haskell proceeds to quote Delevingne’s reference to her tumultuous relationships with women: “Women are what completely inspire me, and they have also been my downfall. I have only been hurt by women, my mother first of all.”
Then, he adds his own commentary:
“When I suggest to Cara that to trust a man, she might have to revise an old and stubborn idea of hers—that women are perennially troubled and therefore only women will accept her—her smile says she concedes the point.”
It’s unclear from the text why he confidently reads Delevingne’s smile as a sign of concession.
What is clear are the reasons why some readers are pretty peeved by Haskell’s, and ergo Vogue’s, treatment of Delevingne’s sexuality.
Vogue did not respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment by the time of publication.
“People are quick to assume queer women’s identities are a ‘phase’ and to refuse to recognize the important relationships in their lives—an attitude which can cause depression, result in families rejecting their daughters (or forcing them into abusive conversion ‘therapy’), and even put young women at risk of suicide,” writes Julie Rodriguez, the woman who started the online petition in response to the piece at Care2.
Rodriguez’s plea to get Vogue to “issue an apology to the LGBT community for publishing this insensitive and offensive interview” has struck a chord.
It’s more than 13,000 strong. Care2 did not respond to The Daily Beast’s efforts to get in touch with Rodriguez.
The infamously icy Wintour is unlikely to publicly cave and apologize, especially when Haskell’s profile is, admittedly, far from a blatant tirade against the LGBT community.
In the context of the long and shameful history of LGBT media abuse and mistreatment, Haskell’s handful of sentences are hardly the most vitriolic or denigrating.
But describing a person’s homosexuality as a “phase” is one of the most familiar and dismissive things many LGBTs hear when coming out or talking about their sexuality, from loved ones whose support they have sought.
Weeks after its Condé Nast stablemate, Vanity Fair, had the trailblazing Caitlyn Jenner on its cover, its treatment of Delevingne makes Vogue look totally out of touch.
At best, the publication seems like an un-listening, unaware parent shrugging off their teen child’s coming out as a fad.
At worst, Vogue appears homophobic, treating Delevingne’s sexual relationship with women as a temporary, flighty fancy of her youth (read: immaturity) and distrust of men.
Delevingne is open with Haskell about her feelings.
“I think that being in love with my girlfriend is a big part of why I’m feeling so happy with who I am these days,” she says. “And for those words to come out of my mouth is actually a miracle.”
Delevingne, says Haskell, “felt confused by her sexuality as a child, and the possibility of being gay frightened her.”
“It took me a long time to accept the idea, until I first fell in love with a girl at 20 and recognized that I had to accept it,” she says, adding she only has erotic dreams about men.
If she ever does find a guy to fall in love with, Delevingne says, “I’d want to marry him and have his children. And that scares me to death because I think I’m a whole bunch of crazy, and I always worry that a guy will walk away once he really, truly knows me.”
Delevingne may have spoken about relationships with men and women, but how did Haskell extrapolate from those accounts that it was her lesbian, rather than straight, sexuality that would be the “phase” she was going through?
Or, indeed, that she viewed any aspect of her sexuality as a phase?
The “it’s only a phase” presumption in the Vogue article speaks to a very real problem for LGBTs. No matter the huge legal and social advances of recent years, many still have their sexual orientations treated as “just a phase,” a temporary aberration before they finally “settle down” into heterosexuality.
I know anecdotally from friends that it is both frustrating and hurtful to be told their sexual orientation, their choice in who they love is, simply a “phase.”
By 2015, it should be well established that sexuality is complex and fluid, and it should be equally well established that coming to terms with our sexuality can be complex and difficult—as Delevingne says it was for her in the profile.
But it is cavalier and insensitive to blithely frame Delevingne’s bisexuality as a fleeting fad. Vogue should know better, not that one should bank on the publication issuing an apology.
After all, Wintour still hasn’t apologized for the Kimye cover.