Last week, I reported on Brooke Birmingham, a blogger whose bikini photos were rejected by Shape Magazine due, she speculated, to the way her body looked after she lost 172 pounds. Many of you jumped in and shared your thoughts, participating in what has proven to be an incredibly empowering and productive conversation on the way the media shapes ideals of how women "should" look. Yesterday, Birmingham took to The Today Show together with Shape editor-at-large Bahar Takhtehchian to discuss the unfortunate chain of events.
Takhtehchian, for her part, stuck with the magazine's official story, claiming the incident was simply the result of a "miscommunication with a freelancer who is not employed by Shape. Unfortunately," she added, "[the writer] said that there was an editorial policy that simply doesn't exist. So, that's where things went awry a little bit."
If the public face of a large magazine throwing a freelance writer under the bus on national TV makes you feel a little icky, the comments on last week's story would indicate that you're not alone. But, Takhtehchian went on to say that the magazine is turning over a new leaf, "celebrating people like Brooke" by "featuring five other real women inside the pages of Shape magazine. Truly, there is a journey after the weight loss journey, and that's what we want to talk to Brooke and the other ladies about." And, yes, they will be publishing that bikini photo.
In a subsequent post on her website, Brooke writes, "I’m excited to now be working with Shape to feature women who have gone through an extreme weight loss and showing their readers what can happen not only physically, but also mentally, when doing just that. This is a good thing."
Unequivocally, yes, this is a good thing. Acknowledging the inherent strength and beauty in those who have transformed their health through fitness is a great thing. It's laudable that Shape is making an effort to represent all women, even "real women." However, I'd argue that "real" is a loaded term these days; it suggests that there's something fundamentally different about "people like Brooke," something that makes Shape featuring them not just its regularly scheduled programming, but some kind of generosity.
What do you think? Did Shape do the right thing? Or, is this "new leaf" the act of a besmirched magazine attempting to make good for its own sake? Sound off in the comments below.