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Thursday, May 27,2010

A statement form Backdrop's editor

Editor's note: After we posted a letter to the editor from Leslie Albanese of Athens last Friday on our website, the letter generated dozens of comments from readers. Albanese had criticized the OU student-run magazine Backdrop for a photo shoot in its just-released spring edition that featured young women in swimsuits posing at Strouds Run State Park. Albanese, whose letter also appeared in our print edition on Monday, questioned why nearly all the models were of the same body type (slender), race (white) and hair color (blonde). Backdrop's editor-in-chief, Annie Beacham, posted a responsive statement Monday on the magazine's Facebook page. Beacham granted us position to print the statement on our website and in the paper today. Her statement follows:

Dear Backdrop readers:

The "Suited for Spring" photo spread in the latest issue of Backdrop magazine has spurred quite a bit of controversy. The reaction to our five-page swimsuit essay has been critical, and I would like to respond to the university community by providing a transparent explanation.

The selection of models of a very similar appearance was not intentional, nor were the women typecast to fit a predetermined look. We selected the models after hosting an open audition that encouraged both men and women to take part. The open audition had a low turnout, though about half of the participants were male. After the audition, we decided to use only females for the photo shoot, selecting the women we felt were the most comfortable in front of the camera. As several members of the staff and I are varsity athletes, we did invite our teammates to audition, and five of the eight women in the photo shoot are current Ohio University athletes, contributing to the homogeneity of their body types. We did not name the models as a small act of respect to their privacy.

In the three issues of Backdrop from this school year, we have attempted something new and dedicated several pages of the magazine to a photo story. This has been in an effort to focus solely on the visual aspect of the magazine, rather than editorial. In the last two issues, the photo story has also been the cover story.

The photo story in this issue was intended to be tasteful and natural with a vintage theme. The cover model is not wearing any makeup, her hair has not been styled, and her body has not been modified through Photoshop to match the beauty ideal that so many professional magazines intentionally perpetuate. These are small details that do not make up for the greater oversight of not including a variance in body types and race. In our first attempt at a pseudo-fashion photo spread, we have learned an invaluable lesson.

The timing of the release of our latest issue came the same day that we co-sponsored the first annual MAY DAY event alongside BSCPB, UPC, ImPRessions, SAC and Vision Ohio. The collaboration of these student organizations was an integration of our campus community and promoted diversity through a free concert. Through events like MAY DAY and others, Backdrop has made an effort to reach and promote many audiences. Unfortunately, the photo spread did not match the same ideals.

We have strayed from our mission by not reflecting the greater Ohio University community, though as a student publication, we have found that experiences such as this one have taught us the most. In the future, Backdrop will certainly attempt to reflect the diversity of a college campus within the pages of the magazine.

Annie Beecham
Editor-in-chief of Backdrop


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Well put.

I do hope, however, that this is a legitimate acknowledgement of a lesson learned rather than a PR move. Apologies for being a skeptic, but it's the nature of (mostly) all things media.

Please permit a digression related to some of my previous comments that appeared after Ms. Albanese's letter (since, presumably, this will be a forum to reach Ms. Beecham):

The misinformation regarding Souvlaki's owners - while considered inconsequential by others - is not something that should go unaddressed.

Two days after the current issue "dropped," I found myself having a conversation with someone about Souvlaki's via a topic unrelated to Backdrop. This person interjected that s/he knew it was owned by a Lebanese family. When I asked this person how s/he knew this information, s/he responded that s/he had read it in Backdrop.

Now, one could argue (and has) that this isn't a big deal, that it was simply one minor mistake. While this is true to a certain extent, it underscores the necessity of responsible journalism. If there's this kind of laziness and reliance on hearsay for a topic so small, what is to be expected for something of more import? My concern may seem trivial or overblown, but it is generally accepted that attention to detail with "the small things" is quite relevant to forecasting the treatment of larger matters (especially with an outlet designed to reach the masses). Attaining the correct information for this piece would not have been a complex task; a simple "Where are you and your wife from?" would have sufficed.

In short, an apology should be made to the owners. While they are some of the nicest people one will meet in Athens, I doubt they appreciate being misrepresented.


So, Athens has a fashion magazine?




Way to cave in to the campus fascists. You should have told these hypersensitive bullies to pound sand.


You guys need to have a "fat brown ladies with small but saggy boobs and possibly mustaches" fashion show. I can hardly wait for that issue! I'll get my barf bag out.


Dear Bethany:

I read about your protest with great interest. I am 53 years old. I remember the single-digit dress sized, blonde cover girl - swimsuit model of my youth. She has been around a long, long, long time. She was the bane of my existence, too when I was your age. Believe me, if Godwin's Law ad Hitlerum Infinitum had existed back then, I would have used it to ban her from the covers of magazines as well, if I thought I could get away with it. I commend you on for trying. I think it will backfire on you in a terrible way, making you look foolish and bitter. But if even if this ploy of yours succeeds, it's not going to change some unpleasant facts of life:

1) Most Men are never going to stop finding her appealing.

2) Replacing her on the cover with her polar opposite is not going to make the replacement more appealing to most men. It just means most men won't bother to pick up the magazine.

3) You are never going to be in her league with most men, no matter what you do.

4) Whether she is on the cover or not, some men are going to walk right by her to make a beeline toward someone who looks a lot like you.

5) That is never going to happen as long as you waste years of your youth in bitterness over her instead of being the best you can be.

I was a Junoesque brunette with thick wavy hair with impossible to tan pale skin. This was back when much more slender versions of the model that so upset you were in vogue. All were lean, tanned and had straight blonde hair. One summer I used a spray on lightener and a self-tanner that made me look like a human carrot - all orange. I could not enjoy my food, because I was perpetually on a diet. I was a fashion disaster, because I dressed in colors and styles and wore makeup that did not flatter me. The whole time I felt bitter and dissatisfied.

Recently I stumbled across a picture of myself during that time and was struck by how pretty I actually was back then, even in those colors and makeup that washed me out and styles that made me look matronly and dowdy. Even with that awkwardly ironed hair that was lumpy on top and straight where I could get it. I was saddened, trying to imagine what I would have looked like in a hairstyle that flattered my face and worked with its texture and wearing clothes that were styled to me and colors and makeup that were flattering to me.

Later, I realized just how ubiquitous and interchangeable the blonde cover-girl swimsuit model is. When Christie Brinkley replaced Cheryl Tiegs, I had to do a double-take thinking Cheryl had changed her hairstyle and put on a little weight over the years. Then Christie was replaced by yet another blonde who resembled her and so on and so forth, just like they were commodities that a blonde fantasy factory was churning out. They don't lead air-brushed lives; in fact, these fantasy girls are more likely to be cheated on and dumped when disillusioned men find out that reality bites. The average woman has a better than even chance of finding a man who loves her, warts and all. The same is not true for them.

I once worked with a woman with mousy brown hair, protruding eyes, beak nose and thin lips. She was surrounded by men who were obviously attracted to her and women who liked her. In five seconds, I was one of her fans. She was convinced she was beautiful and worthwhile, and she managed to convince everyone else. I also knew a very homely, bitter young woman. Years later, I saw her at a restaurant, dressed to the nines, made up, smiling and was struck by how pretty she was with the right attitude. Alas, it wasn't her; it was a woman who was a lot smarter radiating beauty and charisma, because she was staring into the eyes of a man who loved her as she was.

So, instead of going on an all-out jihad to ban these cover-girls, you would make more productive use of your time and have a much more fulfilling life, if you shift the focus off THEM and on YOU. Pay attention to your nutrition. Find a good stylist. Make friends with a stylish woman who loves to shop and have her help you pick out the most flattering clothes you can find. Get thee to a makeup counter and get expert help in applying the best war paint you can find. Then develop a sense of humor and a zest for life. You'll be amazed at how happy you can be. Don't prove the old adage that "youth is wasted on the young."

Been there, done that.


A Former Fellow Traveler