“Dear Pols…” A reply from Now magazine

Image

Lots of you read the letter I wrote to Now Magazine this week about their recent cover. In fact, more of you read it than I could ever have imagined… so far it’s had 35,127 views! You lot really are incredible, and I’ve been astounded by the response I’ve had. Thank you all. This is quite clearly an issue that many of you feel strongly about, and rightly so. In an unexpected turn of events, Sally Eyden (Editor of Now Magazine) replied. Below is a copy of that reply, followed by my own comments (because you didn’t REALLY think I’d have nothing else to say, did you…?)

“Dear Pols,

Thank you so much for getting in touch. I have read your blog and was moved to email you. I have also written a response to Kate Taylor, who wrote an incredibly frank and emotional open letter to me.

I am so sorry our cover offended and upset you. It absolutely wasn’t our intention. When we put together our 24 December Shocking Bodies cover it was actually with our readers’ feelings in mind. We wanted to say: ‘It’s normal to have lumps and bumps and wobbly bits’. Because, let’s face it, we all have.

At this time of year it’s usually customary for magazines to feature models with unattainable bodies on the cover telling you how you can look just like them. The fact of the matter is it’s impossible; as we all know, only a small percentage of the world’s population is blessed with a perfect body, and I certainly don’t want to make my readers feel bad about the fact they haven’t got one!

I, along with my heads of departments (women of all sizes), thought long and hard about using the word ‘normal’ on the cover but, after a LOT of debate (and believe me – there was a LOT), we felt our readers, many of whom look up to celebrities, would rather see pictures of stars looking less than perfect, therefore reassuring them about their own perfectly ‘normal’ bodies.

I don’t know about you, but after spending the Christmas holiday on the sofa eating roast potatoes and chocolate, the last thing I want to see in a magazine is pictures of perfectly toned women in bikinis making me feel bad about my cellulite and stretchmarks – of which I have myriad by the way!

The Now team comes in all shapes and sizes, from size 8 to size 18. We are normal women, with the same insecurities as everyone else. We are mothers, daughters, sisters, friends. We battle with our self-confidence and feel a trickle of dread each time we have to break out the bikini – and we know we shouldn’t eat the office biscuits, but do anyway! I completely understand your concerns as a mother. Which is why at Now we are proud of the fact we don’t airbrush our cover stars to make them look thinner and are one of the very few magazines to use plus-size models in our fashion shoots.

The same week we sent our Shocking Bodies issue to press, we also signed off the magazine that’s on the shelves right now, featuring reality stars Gemma Collins (a size 20) and Chanelle Hayes (a size 14), with the headline “Screw the diet”.

Their interviews are empowering, uplifting and send a strong message to our readers that sexy absolutely does NOT equal skinny. I know many people on Twitter have perceived this as a backtrack for the previous cover, but I can promise you they actually went to press at the same time because of our Christmas holiday deadlines.

As a magazine editor I am acutely aware of the responsibility I have when it comes to the messages we send our readers – and promoting a positive and realistic body image is something I believe in very strongly.

Your blog is passionate, well-written and oozes the sort of empowering attitude we always aspire to have in Now; I would love to invite you to our office to meet the team and share your thoughts. As mentioned, I have also invited Kate Taylor too.

If we’re getting it wrong or not representing our readers, I want to know. While I understand this cover has upset you, I hope that something positive can come out of the important conversation your blog has started this week.

Yours sincerely,

Sally”

So, the explanation from Now magazine is that they were keen to reassure their readers about their own perfectly ‘normal’ bodies. Surely that’s to be applauded? Maybe, but not if other women are shamed in the process. And shamed they were.

As Sally says in her letter, the latest Now cover proclaims  “Screw the diet!” and features celebrities of various sizes posing cheerfully for the camera, having apparently spent a fair whack of their visit to Now in hair and make up. In stark contrast, the photos featured on the cover in question mainly features seemingly oblivious women were snapped as they did their own thing on the beach. If they’re anything like me, their biggest concerns were how to unwedge their bikini bottoms from their bum or dust the sand from their cleavage without drawing the attention of everyone on the beach. These pictures weren’t of women who’d rocked up at the Now studios to feature in a piece about how comfortable they are with their size. There was no trip to hair and make up for these ladies, just a paparazzi-type shot of them relaxing by the sea oblivious to the judgement about to be unleashed upon them.

Then there was the language. If anyone said to me “Yikes! You’ve PILED on 8 stone. Look at your shocking body” then I wouldn’t be thanking them for their support and solidarity. I’d be pretty flipping gutted, if I’m honest. None of that language screams “Sisterly solidarity” to me, it screams “Ha! Look at the state of you, fatso!” Nor does it support Sally’s message that we’re all fine as we are, post-Christmas bodies and all. As a result, the “This will make you feel normal” comment reads as a snide and sarcastic dig.

If this really was an attempt to reassure women about their bodies, then it fell as flat as one of my sponge cakes. If it wasn’t, then I hope Sally and her team have taken on board what you’ve all told them about the effect of this kind of message on women and girls.

The prospect of a visit to the Now offices gives me some idea how Daniel felt when he was heading for the lions’ den. If I’m honest, having my bikini plucked with tweezers in the middle of Sainsbury’s seems a more appealing option, but visit them I will. I’m going to take my shocking body down there and tell them what you’ve all told me. I bloody hope they have cake…

14 thoughts on ““Dear Pols…” A reply from Now magazine

  1. Interesting response from Now, it smacks of the “I’m sorry you were offended” type of apology. I think the part that really irritated me was “…only a small percentage of the world’s population is blessed with a perfect body”. There is no such thing as a perfect body, that’s the whole sodding point!

    But anyway, nice work Pols. :-)

  2. Good for you! Please go down there and report back! That was a grovelling apology, but didn’t entirely ring true. But fair play to them for getting back to you and offering you the chance to visit. So pleased your initial post had so many views. It was truly awesome and really needed saying.

  3. I’m very glad you’re going to visit, you will have done some of the groundwork already by writing this blog. I understand your cynicism at their response too. However, they didn’t need to respond nor invite you to their offices. And ultimately (and unfortunately) sensationalism journalism like this sells. Don’t blame the player, blame the game.

    By doing this though, you are addressing the rules of this shitty game and I think you are incredible for doing it. Xx

  4. It’s good they made the effort to get back and respond to you with some kind of apology/explanation but I do agree that what they have said here and the actual cover in question dont really match up in attitude – well maybe they can learn from this, hopefully!!

  5. With you all the way here Pols, your comments about the celebs being snapped on the beach etc is hardly on a par with the invited-to-the-offices celebs. It’s like someone taking a snap of me on the morning school run and plastering it over the paper as opposed to my favourite slightly glammed up shot in the family Christmas letter. Most of us like to look our best and when we’re “letting it all hang out” we don’t want others criticising us for not meeting some unreal unbelievable standard. Celeb or not, we all have feelings.

    Be brave at the Now offices! (and eat the cake)

  6. I agree that snapping anyone on their hols – unaware, exposed – is pretty low. But to then splash it on their front page with THAT headline, and argue that they’re promoting “normal” bodies (despite calling them “shocking”) is pretty flimsy. If their office is so full of everyday women, then they’ve massively misjudged public opinion.

  7. Baffled that none of the ‘normal’ women in their office appear to have any qualms about publishing these candid snaps. Wonder how they’d feel if the tables were turned……

  8. I think the key issue at the centre of all of this, including Now’s reply, is that the media, and so society, more or less only define women on the basis of their appearance. It doesn’t matter what kind of photos are on the front of a magazine, until the headline reads “how to get my top IQ” or “most inspirational women of the year” little will change. We can take small steps by telling the new generation that they are clever before saying pretty and that they can choose a lego set over a doll.

  9. That response sounds kindly and apologetic at first glance, but it honestly reads like ‘Well, we’re sorry YOU took it the wrong way and we have no intention of changing how we shame women’ just much more prettied up than usual.

  10. “We battle with our self-confidence and feel a trickle of dread each time we have to break out the bikini – and we know we shouldn’t eat the office biscuits, but do anyway!”
    The fact that the editor of one of Britain’s best-selling women’s magazines considers this the normal and default setting for women says it all. No-one should ‘dread’ having to wear a swimming costume. No-one should feel guilty about eating biscuits. This is almost what I hate most of all – the way these magazines set themselves up as being the voice of people ‘just like us’, while encouraging rather than challenging our insecurities. It is bad enough that people feel like this. It is worse still that our insecurities are constantly reflected back at us in the media so that we slowly stop asking whether it is really right that we should feel like this. I don’t want to read a magazine written by women who feel bad about eating biscuits, for women who feel bad about eating biscuits. I want to read a magazine by women who love biscuits, their own bodies, themselves and life so that I feel encouraged to do the same.

  11. I agree with Claire’s comment – the biggest problem isn’t whether or not the reference to “normal” on the cover is snide or not (we all know it’s snide – this type of magazine lives and dies by negative commentary on women’s bodies); the biggest problem is the fact that they ran with a bikini-fest cover in the first place.

    While we continue to be inundated with magazines that use female size and shape as a mainstay article topic, women are being encouraged to be insecure about their bodies and view their physical appearance as the primary measure of their self-worth. If the Now headlines were about non-physical accomplishments I might take Sally’s protests seriously, but as it stands I think the lady doth protest too much…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s