For those who might not have a lot of female friends on Facebook offended by the latest slight against women, here it is: SELF magazine, a fitness publication that also focuses on women’s fashion and sex, recently published a photo of two women running in a New York City marathon as part of a section called the BS Meter, which reportedly informs readers about what is hip and what is lame each month. The writer of the section made fun of the tutus the women were wearing, unaware that the tutus were, in fact, sold by one of the women’s company and that much of the money raised by purchases of such tutus has been donated to Girls on the Run, a program for girls. One would think that SELF, a self-proclaimed digest for women, would be celebrating women, not disparaging them.
There are a couple of problems with what happened here. The first is that the magazine had to specifically request permission to print the photo, but failed to inform the runners in the photo, specifically Monika Allen, whose company created the tutus, that it would be used for their BS Meter section and that they would be made fun of in the article. Allen said that she felt misled by the photo request, and had she known what it would be used for, she would never have given permission for the photo to be used.
The second faux pas, and the reason that everyone is in an uproar about the magazine’s actions, is that Allen has brain cancer and was running her first marathon since her diagnosis. In the photos, if one looks closely, one can see that her bib reads “Die tumor die.”
Lucy Danziger, the editor in chief of SELF magazine, formally and publicly apologized on Twitter for the magazine’s disparaging comments, saying that Allen is the type of woman they celebrate in SELF. Danziger has personally donated to Allen’s charity and that she hopes SELF will be able to cover Allen’s work in an upcoming issue.
While that is definitely the type of groveling that needs to be done to remedy this situation, none of it addresses the real issue, which is the belittling remarks about the women’s tutus. It is almost guaranteed that if Allen did not have a brain tumor and that the tutus were not in support of her Glam Runners charity, nothing would have come of Allen being misled as to the reason for using her photo. There would be no publicity, no public outcry on Twitter or Facebook. But there really should be.
It has been said time and time again, but it remains unfailingly true: the worst enemy of women invariably ends up being other women. Whether it be in magazines, deciding which celebrity wore it best or whose gown was simply horrific at the Oscars, or in public, where strangers tear down one another for wearing that top with those pants, the smear campaign against those who are labeled as unfashionable is disheartening. Especially when a concept such as fashion is almost completely arbitrary and changes daily.
For those who are unsubscribing to SELF in protest, or promising never to buy it at the grocery story again, that is certainly an individual’s decision to make. But SELF is hardly the only publication that disparages some women while celebrating others, and everyone needs to take a hard look at their reading material and decide for themselves if they want to be supporting publications that make women feel bad about themselves, even if it is just an unfashionable minority.
Opinion by Marisa Corley