Is this the best way to fight stigma?

by Cody Dolan on November 2, 2010 · 5 comments

in stigma

November 2010 issue

This is the cover of the current issue of Psychology Today. This magazine is sold in grocery stores and drug stores and on newsstands across the country, and therefore represents the mental health field to an untold number of casual readers. And its editors chose to put a woman in a bikini and boxing gloves on its cover. Wait. That’s wrong. They chose to put boobs and a flat stomach on the cover.

I almost feel like I could just end this blog entry there and be done with it, but that would go against everything I as a writer stand for.

A picture is worth a thousand words

I just don’t get this at all. I mean, I get the appeal of an attractive woman in a bikini, but I don’t get what it has to do with psychology. Ostensibly this has something to do with beauty, but even so, this cover is a reach. Think of what you find beautiful in a potential mate. Did you automatically picture their partially clad torso? I’m going to guess that you didn’t, and that gives us some idea to the many directions this image could’ve gone.

The composition of the picture is a bit strange and disconcerting as well. Why can’t we see the model’s eyes? I have the sneaking suspicion that an early draft of this cover was just the model from the shoulders down. Then some editor realized just how crass that would be and said,

“Maybe we should show at least part of her face. That’ll satisfy those that say we’re objectifying women here, right?”

That doesn’t make it better, Fake Editor I Just Now Made Up.

And what’s with the arrow pointing at the model’s belly button? Yes, Cover Artist, I can see that this woman rarely eats and does a lot of sit ups. I don’t see what an arrow pointing to her belly and to an outrageously dumb question is going to do to enhance my cover-viewing experience. “Can you be too good-looking?” Please. Ben Stiller answered that question nine years ago when he played Derek Zoolander.

The boxing gloves have me terribly vexed. I get that they’re supposed to tie into the phrase “The Battle over Beauty,” but battles are fought with armies. Boxing gloves are used in fights. You might roll your eyes at my pickiness, but this misuse of language is yet another indicator of just how dumb this cover is.

The company you keep

Grocery store newsstand

It’s totally fair of you to think I may be making too much of this. But let me leave you with one last image. I took this photo of my local grocery store’s newsstand. I did not put these magazines together, nor did I in any way fabricate this shot. This is where regular folks think the current issue of Psychology Today should be placed.

Whoever makes this decision thought a magazine that “covers all aspects of human behavior and mental health, from the workings of the mind to the bonds between people and the larger cultural forces that drive our most intimate decisions” should rest next to Maxim, a rag so insipid and puerile that its intended audience abandoned it years ago. The shelf beneath holds Us Weekly, a celebrity gossip rag featuring what I guess is the heart-wrenching tale of some aspect of Taylor Swift’s probably middle class upbringing. But it comes with posters!

Between Swift and Avril Lavigne, Psychology Today has surrounded itself with vapid pop stars. Based on that cover alone, I think that’s exactly where it deserves to be.

Be Sociable, Share!