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Mean girl epidemic: SELF mag mocks cancer survivor’s tutu

The story of Monika Allen went viral this week after she appeared on NBC 7 to discuss SELF magazine making fun of her girly running gear. The publication’s callous comments beg the following question: Aren’t women supposed to have each other’s backs?

Glam Runner founder Monika Allen and friend

Photo credit: Glam Runner via Facebook

When San Diego runner Monika Allen received an email from SELF magazine asking if they could use an image of her and a friend wearing tutus while running the LA marathon, she couldn’t help but feel a little excited at the prospect of being featured in a top women’s publication.

Her excitement soon turned to disappointment, however, when SELF‘s April issue hit stands and Allen’s photo appeared in a column called “The BS Meter.” The caption accompanying the photo read: “A racing tutu epidemic has struck NYC’s Central Park, and it’s all because people think these froufrou skirts make you run faster. Now, if you told us they made people run away from you faster, maybe we would believe it.”

Understandably, Allen was “stunned and offended,” as she told NBC 7 — particularly since that “froufrou skirt” gave her some much-needed motivation.

Allen, you see, is a cancer survivor. “The reason we were wearing those outfits is because this was my first marathon running with brain cancer,” she explained to the news outlet.

The SELF-maligned tutu Allen wore during the LA Marathon was one she made herself — the entrepreneur’s company, Glam Runners, crafts these fun frillies, sells them to runners and then donates the money to the San Diego-based charity, Girls on the Run, an organization that helps young girls gain self-esteem through exercise and confidence-building programs.

Clearly, Allen’s company is doing what SELF should have been doing: building up other women as opposed to tearing them down. But, sadly, comments like the ones made by SELF are all too common these days.

No, there is no “tutu epidemic.” What we are in the midst of, as women, is a “mean girl epidemic.”

In February, Sarah Jessica Parker lamented to Harper’s BAZAAR about the unfortunate truth that women today are “pretty unfriendly to one another.”

Earlier this week, comedian Kathy Griffin took to Twitter to call Demi Lovato the “biggest celebrity douche” she’s ever met. While Lovato responded with (but soon deleted) a playful post of her sticking out her tongue, her legions of loyal fans upped the mean girl ante by flooding Griffin’s Twitter handle with death threats like, “KATHY please, slit your f***ing throat.” Lovato, who is openly anti-bullying, quickly responded by asking her fans to “chill with sending hate towards other people.”

SELF magazine makes fun of cancer survivor's tutu

Photo credit: Glam Runner via Facebook

On Tuesday, Joan Rivers — who has made a career out of being mean — slammed Lena Dunham’s weight on The Howard Stern Show. “That’s wrong. You’re sending a message out to people saying it’s OK, stay fat, get diabetes, lose your fingers,” Rivers remarked about the Girls star.

Are celebrities like Griffin and Rivers influencing the way women (mis)treat each other? Do the often-volatile relationships of women on reality TV glamorize the mean girl culture?

In full disclosure, I’m sure I’ve been guilty in the past of making catty remarks about female celebrities. As an entertainment writer, sometimes the line between funny and insensitive seems to blur. However, I have to laud SheKnows, who last year implemented a site-wide policy urging its writers and editors to approach features with a positive voice — to, as Glam Runner does, bolster women’s confidence and encourage sisterhood.

After all, when did we stop being on each other’s team? When did it become cool to hurt someone for the sake of a byline?

For their part, SELF has issued apologies to their readers and directly to Allen. The damage has been done, though. The magazine’s social media pages are being inundated with disappointed readers and runners alike.

But, setting the kind of example we should all strive for, Glam Runner issued the following anti-mean girl statement on their Facebook page earlier this afternoon: “Thank you everyone for the overwhelming support! While we were hurt by SELF Magazine’s use of our photo in their magazine, instead of bashing them for their mistake, we’d like to embody the Girls on the Run San Diego spirit and show our solidarity with our positive response. Do something awesome and dedicate it to Glam Runner — post an encouraging quote on Facebook, go for a run in your neighborhood, shout encouragement to runners on the street, or wear a tutu in your next race. Help us share why #tutusrock!”

Allen’s awesome attitude goes to show that there is a silver lining to her situation: Women everywhere are taking a minute to lift up another woman. And perhaps this situation will further inspire women to consider each other more and disrespect each other less. As the old saying (sort of) goes: Don’t judge a gal until you’ve walked a mile in her tutu.

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