Letter to the Times

On Saturday 28th January, the Times Style Magazine ran a front cover entitled ‘Dying to be Thin- My Life as a Size 0 Model’, alongside a glamorous picture of former model and recovering anorexic Victoire Dauxerre.

After briefly believing we had accidentally invented time travel and woken up in 1992, myself and my good friend Kelsey Osgood began exchanging messages about the contents, which were promoting Ms Dauxerre’s book. Below is the letter we sent to the Times, which was also signed by Dr Pooky Knightsmith and Dr Sharie Coombes, two days later.

We have not received an acknowledgment or a reply and so have chosen to share the contents of our letter publically, here. Do contact me on Twitter (@_NatashaDevon) if you have any thoughts:

We’re writing to express our dismay regarding the Times Magazine’s choice of cover story of January 28th, 2017, titled “Dying to Be Thin –– My Life as a Size Zero Model.”  The article itself––and, sadly to say, Victoire Dauxerre’s book––appear to contravene all eating disorder professional bodies’ guidelines for responsible reporting on the topic. 

More than twenty years have passed since the first wave of tell-all memoirs about anorexia and bulimia were published.  In the intervening time, we’ve learned a great deal about what is and isn’t helpful for those who suffer or are at risk of developing eating disorders, as well as those caring for them (those who don’t fall into any of these categories are unlikely to be interested in reading a book of this nature.) 

By gratuitously outlining exactly how much she weighed and ate at various stages of her illness, Ms. Dauxerre and her profiler, Louise France, have effectively provided concrete dieting ‘tips’ to many young, vulnerable people, rather than dissuaded them from engaging in masochistic behaviors akin to the ones the book’s author did.  Similarly, pictures like the ones Ms. Dauxerre consented to include of herself at her lowest weight will likely end up on “pro-ana” Internet forums––hubs for young people swapping tips on the best self-starvation practices––as pictorial “thin-spiration” for aspiring and actualized eating disorders sufferers. 

Furthermore, by glossing over the negative aspects of the illness, both physical and mental, and placing Ms Dauxerre on your front cover whilst making it clear in your article she still has a form of eating disorder, albeit whilst appearing to be a ‘healthy’ weight, the Times succeeded in glamorizing a dangerous condition.

Simply put, all material with this type of content, regardless of the writers’ intent, is, more often than not, appropriated to destructive ends by those either engaging in or encouraging anorexia.  The greatest care should be taken when including such details, with the ultimate goal being complete omission.  

It is, unfortunately, not uncommon for publications of a lower-brow nature to print gratuitous pieces in which the caloric intakes, lowest weights, and numbers of Instagram followers of various anorexics are touted under the guise of “raising awareness” or “eliminating stigma.”  Such spreads simply encourage trainwreck voyeurism, often of a viral and enabling nature, whilst masquerading (poorly) as altruistic in nature. However, we expected better of the Times. 

We’re sorry that Ms. Dauxerre had to suffer as she did, and we’re glad she has achieved a tentative physical health since her modeling days, but that doesn’t detract from the fact that she is culpable for creating and promoting a work which is potentially harmful to its target audience.  Yours faithfully

Kelsey Osgood, author of How to Disappear Completely: On Modern Anorexia

Natasha Devon, former Government Mental Health Champion

Dr Pooky Knightsmith, Vice Chair of the Children and Adolescent Mental Health Coalition

Dr Sharie Coombes, Child & Adolescent Psychotherapist

 

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