Editor's note: We don't usually post letters to the editor on our website earlier than our print edition. But we're going to start doing so, when a letter seems especially timely or topical. Like this one. TS
To the Editor:
I cannot find the words for the way today's Backdrop magazine made me feel. I fluctuated between vexation and exasperation with it, rage "” abhorrence, even "” toward the "genius" behind the issue, and an exhaustive sort of sadness that determined, regretfully, that the world, is, in fact, going to hell.
Ignorance is mildly less offensive when it's accidental, but knowing that Backdrop hails from Athens, Ohio (where it is almost impossible to not recognize and question the social implications of one's actions), knowing that its editor and chief was in my woman and gender studies class last quarter (where media constructions of beauty and femininity were consistently exposed and challenged) and knowing that more than 25 percent of the magazine's readers have diagnosed/diagnosable eating disorders, I almost cried. My body shook, at least.
A month ago, Backdrop sent out a Facebook event that read: "Backdrop magazine is holding an audition for male and female students to appear in a four-page photo spread showcasing swimwear for our Spring issue. If interested, select attending, and we'll keep you updated with more information, including location of the audition and what to bring with you" (emphasis mine).
Interestingly enough, today's issue of Backdrop didn't have a single man pictured. It also didn't really look like its intentions were to showcase the "spring wear." Did Backdrop actually represent the Ohio University student body when it "showcased""¦ "the students ... making this season one to anticipate?"
Not a single woman with an "average" body type? Not a single person of color? One brunette, stuck in the corner? It was reminiscent of the beauty ideal propagated by Nazi Germany.
Even the most shallow of fashion magazines try to at least feign a bit of diversity. Backdrop, however, was shameless. It displayed golden girls on a golden beach with a golden retriever; no one took up much space.
I'm in no way spiteful toward the women featured in the magazine themselves; they're real women. I am, however, more than spiteful toward Backdrop magazine for showing only women, and only women fitting a certain sort of mold (which happens to be abnormally thin, white and blonde).
I know for a fact that a diverse group of beautiful bodies auditioned to be in this issue, and feel that the editors of Backdrop magazine have done the Ohio University community a grave disservice by neglecting them. In fact, they've done a disservice to all women and all men. Eating disorders are epidemic on this campus!
Thanks, Backdrop, for making the four in five women my age who hate their bodies hate them even more, and thanks also for making all the jaded, quasi-apocalyptic-feeling social activists on campus feel worse about the state of things, too. Thank God for the Athens Shuffle, right? Gotta love substance and innovation.