I might have completely missed the article in the April issue of Vogue about a mom who put her daughter on a diet. But a friend of mine texted me about what’s being called the “worst Vogue article ever” after it had traveled throughout every media channel, asking me how Momfilter was handling the article. I read it over the weekend, talked it over at length with a friend. I figured, if we are in fact “filtering”, we should at least give some opinion here.
Unfortunately you can’t read the article online, so you have to pick it up on the newsstand, or infer its content by reading the numerous articles about the article online.
The only point I would like to make that hasn’t already been discussed ad nauseum, is that we consider that the writer was very likely blindsided. It’s entirely possible that she wrote a piece that was twice, three times, or five times as long as the one that was published. Being an editor, I can tell you first-hand that our job is to make a piece as interesting, and perhaps, in this case, as newsworthy, as possible. I’d guess there were things that were cut that would have made her a little more sympathetic. Maybe not. She wasn’t an established writer before this story came out, so she probably would not have been privy to rounds of edits and the final text before it went to press. I have to imagine she entered into the piece with blind trust that the magazine professionals would tell her story in a positive light. The photograph of mother and daughter looking very glamorous, which provided endless fodder for commentary, is, in the best case scenario, yet another rookie move on the part of the mother. Having been a photo editor at a number of magazines, and having read plenty of fairy tales, believe me, it is a very exciting thing to have a Vogue editor set up a photo shoot, get Cinderella hair, makeup, and fashion treatment. It’s easy to Monday-morning quarterback and say that she should never have “exploited” her daughter’s weight-loss or allowed herself and her daughter to have been pictured at all, let alone in designer clothing. But maybe she would say that she was really proud of her daughter and wanted to mark this occasion. (Okay, the being photographed with her is a hard pill for me to swallow.)
Perhaps I am extra sympathetic because of a personal experience my family went through with an article that was in the NY Times. Pilar had a dear friend, Katherine, who was writing a story about the dynamic of couples in the kitchen. Since my husband is fondly (most of the time) referred to as the “kitchen bully”, he was a natural fit for the article. I can’t tell you how much “sympathy” the article got me, and how many readers felt sorry for me, wishing for me to escape the awful relationship that it appeared I was in. But for the whole story, which I am only telling you because I can, is that Matt was being interviewed by Katherine, a friend, when we were at a restaurant. He had had a few glasses of wine and wanted to be as funny and entertaining as possible. He wasn’t worried about how his words were going to look in print, how he was going to be seen as an asshole by people all across the country. It didn’t bother me–well, as long as I didn’t read all the comments.
The point is, anytime you are interviewed, chances are good that writers and editors will likely massage an interview to support thesis. However benign or insidious, a distortion of even minor magnitude can be incredibly hurtful. My husband and I work in the media, and even we felt a little blindsided after reading the comments: The story made it look like I was a victim and he was a jerk. I have to think naivete on the part of this mother before an intimidating Vogue staff had to play a huge role in how badly she came off in the story.
I actually know the writer of the Vogue story. Not well, but our daughters were in a 4s class together, and we went to a birthday party for her daughter once. I certainly didn’t think of her as a socialite–she seemed like a thoughtful, caring mom, who wasn’t fancy or concerned with climbing a social ladder. Of course, this is completely my impression, but I think that first impressions do count for something.
I’m sorry that she and her daughter have had such a rough year. And I hope that all of this dies down fast. I don’t know what good the article ultimately does for anyone, because it doesn’t actually teach me anything about how to deal with weight issues and kids, or adults. It definitely shows how careful we all need to be when it comes to thinking the media is going to protect you just because you’re giving them a good story.