Wrinklexia? :: An Open Letter to Glamour Magazine
Dear Glamour Editors,
I am writing to bring to your attention an issue in which you are certainly not alone. In your July issue, you included a short piece titled, “Stop the Wrinklexia!,” yielding to a disturbing trend of “exia”-ing issues with which individuals struggle.
In this particular piece, you were highlighting the recent uptick in anti-aging injections, which you suggested indicated a unhealthy focus on the status of our skin. You defined “wrinklexia” as “obsessing over the the fine lines of aging before you’re actually aging.”
As a body image advocate and a woman, I truly appreciate the inclusion of articles like this one in your magazine. As I have mentioned several times on my blog, I believe that magazines such as yours have incredible, and often untapped, power to foster positive change in the way that individuals perceive their beauty and sense of themselves. Bringing to light issues of the unnecessary increase in cosmetic procedures is one such way of doing this, and for that I applaud you.
As an eating disorder specialist, however, I am disappointed to see your magazine sharing in the disheartening trend of labeling obsessions and dangerous practices with the suffix “exia.” Your article comes on the heels of the recently dubbed “drunkorexia,” which reportedly refers to the trend of self-imposed starvation combined with alcohol abuse. “Pregorexia” is another distressing example, and refers to to preoccupation with controlling one’s weight while pregnant.
These terms obviously garner their meaning from their parent word, anorexia, which refers to the psychiatric and medical disorder, anorexia nervosa. (Though commonly misused, “orexia” derives from a Greek word which means “appetite.”) While using this clever wordplay might draw the attention of readers and even speak to the level of distress caused by these practices, what is also does is diminish the significance of this very real psychiatric diagnosis.
Eating disorders, including anorexia, affect over eleven million individuals in the United States alone, and can be absolutely devastating to individuals and their loved ones. In fact, eating disorders kills more individuals each year than all other mental illnesses. These brain-based diseases can wreck havoc on the minds and bodies of those suffering with them, and yet unfortunately they continue be regarded with less seriousness than other illnesses, as shown by the lack of equal treatment and insurance coverage.
When popular media trivializes eating disorders by labeling recent trends with the same terminology, individuals with eating disorders suffer. We have a large body of evidence suggesting that words are powerful in shaping beliefs and values, and so is the media. Terms such as “manorexia” or “wrinklexia” serve to desensitize us to the seriousness of the very real illnesses from which these labels derive. Simply stated, eating disorders deserve to be regarded with the utmost gravity.
Thus, while I commend your attention to issues of body image and unhealthy practices, I encourage you to reconsider the language in which you frame these issues. By doing so, you will be speaking out for the unnamed and countless number of women who read your magazine and suffer from anorexia.
With kind regards,
Ashley Solomon, Psy.D