Newsweek's anorexic cover girl

Is she too glam a poster girl for a dangerous teenage plague?


Rebecca Traister
December 3, 2005 12:00AM (UTC)

Mediabistro's Fishbowl NY blogger Rachel Sklar today raises a compelling question about the cover subject of Newsweek's feature about teenage anorexia, covered here yesterday.

Sklar describes her surprise at seeing the Newsweek cover, "a picture of a pretty, fresh-faced girl (albeit somewhat sombre looking) with gleaming hair and smooth skin. And my God, was that mascara? What was going on here? This didn't look to me like the face of anorexia, it looked like the kind of kid who goes to school with Alexis Bledel on 'Gilmore Girls.'"

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Noting that the cover is an example of what you can miss when reading print pieces online, Sklar explains that when she received her issue in the mail, she was able to look at all the photos and understand that the cover photo of 14-year-old Amy Nelson had been taken several months after she began to come out of the worst phases of anorexia, and that it was Newsweek's choice to focus on a young woman who was in the process of recovery rather than in the throes of the disease.

Sklar comments, "I can't say I disagree with the decision ... I just do wonder about what kind of reaction a perfection-obsessed girl has looking at her counterpart on the cover of a magazine, pretty and, well, perfect ... One hopes the response would be to aspire toward that level of health; one worries that the response would be to aspire toward a sad and dangerous level of 'perfection.'"

Sklar asks her readers what they think of this, and I'd like to ask Broadsheet readers the same. What should the media's role be when telling the very important story of how young women are starving themselves at younger ages? Does scaring them with images of emaciation help any more or less than showing them looking too thin but beautiful?

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Rebecca Traister

Rebecca Traister writes for Salon. She is the author of "Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election that Changed Everything for American Women" (Free Press). Follow @rtraister on Twitter.

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