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.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Berti Alia March 20, 2011 at 12:20 pm

Sadly,sex is a powerful tool in marketing.I bought this edition (quite pricey for most Indonesians)because my thesis concerns with beauty. Although I need the main article, I despise the cover.This cover openly abjectified women body. Moreover, it gives the idea that beauty only concerns with body, not the whole person/individual.

James Patrick Johnson November 23, 2010 at 6:46 pm

I’m sorry….actually no, I’m not sorry. Just because you are jealous of this beautiful women and that fact that you cannot have a body as good as hers does not give you the right to hate on it. And by the way, it is crucial to eat sufficient protein and a sufficient amount of calories in a day to sustain one’s metabolism in order to be able to work out and successfully achieve a sexy body like the one on the cover. So, please stop talking like an idiot because you are flat wrong. One final note…..Psychology Today is a business and the goal of all businesses is to make a profit so if putting a sexy woman on the cover sells more magazines, more power to them; it sure got my attention.

john November 4, 2010 at 10:27 am

Magazines and other printed media in general is under tremendous financial pressure and lost readership due to free content available on the Internet. I think this is a desperate attempt to gain new readers so they can continue to operate. There are simply too many people that review this magazine prior to publication plus the cost to hire a model for this to be an accident. It is a shame they have to do this especially considering they are an authority in this space. This is risky for them because if this continues they will eventually lose their true customer base. I agree that it is a disservice to society to publish comments that are not true but so many magazines do it. You have to realize that magazines don’t always publish the truth, they publish what sells.

Tom Ellis November 3, 2010 at 12:22 pm

A sad commentary on our capitalistic society. It’s interesting — a number of years ago, the American Psychological Association purchased Psychology Today precisely because of how psychology was being (mis)portrayed. The idea was to present a more accurate, educational, less sensationalized depiction of the field. They lost their shirts! They simply couldn’t find a way to get people to buy the magazine without — well — sex. I’m sure there’s a lesson in there somewhere, although I’m not sure what it is.

SJ McKinley November 2, 2010 at 11:15 pm

I was equally upset by this cover, so much so I quickly grabbed it from our waiting. the article inside is more troubling, emphasizing all the advantages of being beautiful. I should restate–conventionaly beautiful. And yes, they say even if your mother told you it is what is inside that counts, she was wrong. If you are not beautiful, no one will bother with your inner beauty. Just what I need my depressed, anxious and bulemic clients to read. A further concern is that this message is really permeating all of our society. Young people say, why should I help with healthcare for elders when they made bad choices and are fat.This is very troublesome considering many who need to stay on psychotropic meds want to quit when they start to gain weight. There also would have been a time not that long agao that PT would realize a cover such as that would contribute to them not being seen as a genuine intellectual work. Well, Duh. Maybe now it does not matter. They published the research, so we may never see an ordinary person on the cover again!

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