Self magazine just made a something of itself.
Self magazine apologized Thursday for publishing a picture of Glam Runners founder Monika Allen running a marathon in a tutu in its “BS” section, calling the tutu “lame” and saying “now if you told us they made people run away from you faster, maybe we would believe it.”
Whoops. Monika Allen is in fact the opposite of lame. The New York Daily News notes, “the San Diego woman not only survived brain cancer, but managed to run the L.A. Marathon while going through chemotherapy.” Yup.
The photo’s subjects used the Glam Runner facebook page to speak out: “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.”
Now Self is falling all over itself to apologize.
Editor in chief Lucy Danziger wrote, “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.”
This can happen. This does happen. Bad captions can be the end of you.
It is always when you are not thinking about the fact that there is a person on the other end that you get the most vigorous reminder that there is.
Maybe this would not have happened before the Internet. Certainly it would have happened more slowly. Now there are so few faces without stories. Want to know more about the smiling woman on the Obamacare Web site? Here’s her story. Want to follow your favorite porn star on Twitter? You can. Those smiling strangers running in tutus are people with their own social networks and Facebook friends and lives, and they are capable of making a stir.
One of the first things I did as a blogger was to say that a venerated elderly poet looked like a yeti. It was for a caption contest. I noted in a sort of flippant in-passing way that the aged poet resembled a yeti before inviting readers to leave captions, and then it turned out that he was a cancer survivor, on top of being one of the more accomplished poets alive, and in the fallout I felt, overall, like something your cat had just upchucked on the rug.
I am not saying this to defend “Self” — it had enough time between getting the photo and going to print to notice the fact that Allen’s running partner had a “DIE TUMOR DIE” bib on, surely? — only to point out that this does happen, and while that does not make it any less tacky and awful, it is not always pure malice. It is possible that it is what Self said it was — “inadvertent insensitivity.” The instant a person becomes something to caption, something to talk about instead of someone to talk to, you lose a dimension or two. That’s the magazine way. This isn’t a person. This is a Toned, Trim Posterior For Spring. This isn’t a person. This is a Casual, Wind-swept Updo. This isn’t a human with a story. This is a tutu. The thing on the page is the only thing. This is an illustration of Bad Style, not a person wearing something. You say things about Fashion Trainwrecks you would never say about actual trainwrecks unless you were sure they had no feelings that could be hurt.
Well, this time it was definitely a person. And it echoed all through the Internet. In fact, it looks like the dis on tutus backfired — just turn to Facebook to see all the people donning one, in solidarity. It turns out that learning the story behind the picture was a much better promotional tool than the picture in Self could have been. The only lame thing on the page was the caption.