Since I haven't read her biography, I don't know if Selfmagazine editor-in-chief Lucy Danziger is the most famously catty middle-school student in America, or a grown woman who still thinks like one.
I do know that if I had a daughter and wanted her to grow up kind, confident and with a healthy self-image, I'd buy her a Playboy subscription before letting her read any so-called “women's” magazines, and the recent debacle with Danziger and Self underscores why: the main theme of any such publication is “You there, Double-X-Chromosome Reader, just aren't good enough. Your body's the wrong shape, your face needs major cosmetic assistance, your wardrobe's hopelessly out of date, and now lemme offset my concern-trolling by mumbling some hypocritical half-assed platitude in favor of gender equality and women's empowerment. Girl power, yay!”
Danziger and Self are currently taking heat after they published a photo essay insulting women who failed to meet proper fashion standards while running in long-distance marathons, then backpedaled after learning one of those unfashionables was undergoing chemotherapy treatments for brain cancer at the time.
Here's what happened: San Diego residents Monika Allen and Taramae Baize are co-owners and founders of a company called Glam Runners, which makes just-for-fun tutus to wear over regular running outfits, with a portion of the proceeds donated to local girls' athletic charities.
Allen was diagnosed with a brain tumor last year, and still undergoing chemotherapy when she and Baize ran in the LA Marathon. Unsurprisingly, they also wore superhero-themed Glam Runners tutus over their jogging clothes – Baize dressed like Superman (Supergirl?), and Allen like Wonder Woman.
Classified as lame
Sometime after the marathon, Allen was understandably excited to get an email from Self, requesting permission to print a picture of her as Wonder Woman in an upcoming photo essay. But when the April issue of Self came out, either Allen or Baize posted this dismayed update on the Glam Runners Facebook page (ellipses lifted from the original):
“Excited to see our tutus in SELF Magazine ... but shocked to see that running tutus are classified as lame. Especially considering the fact that this picture is from last year's LA Marathon when Glam Runner founders Tara and Monika ran together as superheroes ... because Monika was recently diagnosed with brain cancer and was running a marathon in the middle of a year of chemo.”
Self published the photo of Baize and Allen as part of a feature called “The BS Meter,” dubbed the photo “lame” and gave it a caption reading: “A racing tutu epidemic has struck NYC's Central Park, and it's all because people think these froufrou skirts make you run faster. Now, if you told us they made people run from you faster, maybe we would believe it."
[Speaking of BS: the LA Marathon where Allen dressed as Wonder Woman is roughly 3,000 miles away from New York's Central Park. And nobody ever claimed tutus make you run faster.]
The Glam Runners Facebook post soon came to the attention of NBC's San Diego affiliate, which ran a story about Monika Allen's encounter with Self. Allen told NBC that “The reason we were wearing those outfits is because this was my first marathon running with brain cancer,” and that “I feel like we were misled in providing the picture. Had I known how the picture was going to be used, I wouldn't have wanted to send it.” She also said she'd emailed Self magazine on Tuesday, asking for an explanation, and had not heard any response as of Wednesday night.
But Self did send NBC a statement apologizing “for the association of her picture in any way other than to support her efforts to be healthy," and added, “Of course if tutus make you run with a smile on your face or with a sense of purpose or community, then they are indeed worth wearing, for any race.”
Of course. Even a middle school student behaving like a misogynist's parody of a shallow, catty, fashion-obsessed Mean Girl knows enough to backpedal when someone else points out “You do realize that the unfashionable kid you're bullying has brain cancer, right?”
Still, cynics detected a lack of sincerity in Self's newfound appreciation for tutu wearers. As one commenter noted on the Glam Runners Facebook page:
“What is point in even having a BS meter feature? Why do we feel that we have to shame others to get readership? I personally don't subscribe to SELF but have picked it up here and there. I had always thought the magazine was about wellness promotion, would have never thought it was another entity using negativity and mockery to add to our epidemic of low self esteem and body image disturbance.”
Another commenter said the same thing with fewer words:
“SELF, a magazine meant to motivate & inspire yet ok's the "BS METER"? Then insults numerous people that are just doing good. WOW. Epic fail SELF. Just epic.”
Self's editor-in-chief eventually posted the following apology on Self's Facebook page:
“On behalf of SELF, we sincerely apologize for our inadvertent insensitivity. I have personally reached out to Monika and her supporters online to apologize for the misstep and tell them we are trying to remedy the situation. At SELF we support women such as Monika; she is an inspiration and embodies the qualities we admire. We have donated to her charity and have offered to cover her good work in a future issue. We wish her all the best on her road to good health.
Minor semantic quibbles: one, there was nothing “inadvertent” about Self's insensitivity; when you publish a photo of a woman and deem her clothes something that “made people run from you faster,” you intend to be insulting. Even middle school kids know that much.
Two: you were not “insensitive”; you were insulting, belittling and outright rude.
Three: in light of points one and two, "sincere" probably isn't le mot juste to describe your apology.
Four: which specific “qualities” of Ms. Allen does Self “admire”? Danziger did not say, but it clearly isn't the quality of wearing cheerful, silly costumes while running marathons, because if Danziger and Self admired people who did such things, they wouldn't have looked at Allen's photo and thought “Hey, let's run this in our BS Meter section without so much as blurring out their faces or marathon-runner ID signs; we admire these lame tutu-wearing runners so much, we want everyone to know exactly who they are.”