January 18, 2013

Yoga Journal & Singles’ Ads….Yes or No?

Or, “Attention Yoga Journal…. What Were You Thinking?”

Today I opened up my shiny new edition of Yoga Journal. On the cover is a healthy bodied gal, clad completely in white, holding her big toe with her hand high up in the air. A pose I can only dream of doing. And yes, I do dream of doing it someday.

I have no problem with the attractive yogis on the cover. As a business woman, I understand that images of pretty people and visually stunning yoga poses help to sell the magazine. So I try to remain neutral, not judge, and let myself be inspired.

But then in the back of the magazine, nestled among ads for yoga mats, clothing, and even, I kid you not, a yoga tub, I saw this:

Our Top Portland Bachelor is Seeking His Match
He is a very successful entrepreneur and environmental activist.  He is spiritual, handsome, creative, and passionate about philanthropy.  Are you intelligent, attractive, fit, with an enthusiastic spirit? (30-40s)  Do you deserve to be loved, cherished, and respected?”

The ad is large, full-color, and stands out as the only singles ad in the entire magazine. Oh, and there is a full color photo of an attractive blonde, who appears to be between the ages of 30 and 40, with her face all made up and lips pouted, in the center of the ad.

Sorry, but this just feels wrong.

I am not opposed to singles’ ads or online dating. I know more then a few who have met their soul mate this way including my 70-year-old Aunt Viney. But it feels creepy to see this ad in the back of our yoga community’s most popular magazine. It’s the wrong venue and, at the very least, the content and language should have been scrutinized by Yoga Journal staff.

This magazine is taken as the “word on yoga” by many new yogis and yoga teachers. When a person first gets bit by the yoga bug, he or she will usually run out and buy a copy of Yoga Journal. According to their website, they sell over 350,000 copies a month at newsstands alone and 72 percent of their readers are female.

So why does this ad bother me?

Maybe because it began with, “Attention Women.” Unusual words in the back of Yoga Journal. Hey that’s me. It reeled me in and took me by surprise.

Maybe because the ad emphasized that the guy who is seeking companionship is rich.

Or that he is looking for a woman who is fit, attractive, and between the ages of 30 and 40. ( I’ll bet my Lululemons this is the demographics of the typical Yoga Journal reader.) But what does this convey to the readers who fall outside these socially cherished qualities? That somehow they don’t fit the glass slipper and don’t deserve Prince Charming?

What ticked me off the most was the ad asked the viewer if she deserved to be loved, cherished, and respected. This felt like major “creepster” language reaching out like tentacles seeking vulnerable women with low self-esteem.  Don’t we all deserve to be loved, cherished, and respected?  That kinda goes without saying.

The ad asks women if they are fit, attractive, and with an enthusiastic spirit and places this question next to the one where it asks women whether they deserve to be loved, cherished, and respected—as if these two are inherently linked.

The message is that in order to be worthy of love, we must meet a specific beauty requirement with a smile upon our face.

This is damaged thinking and the type of societal values that we are turning away from when we practice yoga. Being valued for attractiveness sets up women for a host of issues including body image and eating disorders. We do not need to be viewed through the lens of how attractive we are to determine our worth. The things we deserve are not based on the size of our bodies, our fitness levels, or playing it nice. The desire for a woman to look and act a certain way because they have a yoga practice also highlights some pretty superficial stuff.  Never once does the ad mention the deeper qualities of yoga.

I am not a single lady.  So why do I care?  Because I am a woman and I do practice yoga and read Yoga Journal to enhance my understanding of the practice.  I look forward to seeing posture flows from yogis such as Ame Wren or reading interviews with yoga legends like Geeta Iyengar. Both were in this month’s Yoga Journal.

Placing singles ads in the back of Yoga Journal could be compared to putting singles ads up at the back of a yoga studio.  The answer to this is simple. No.

It feels like Yoga Journal’s predominantly female audience is being preyed upon. It sends out weird subliminal messages including sexual objectification.  And I don’t like the idea it conveys about single men either.  Men doing yoga in mostly female filled yoga classes already have to contend with some unfair speculation on their intentions.

And what about the yogis that are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender?  Where are the single ads for them? Does Yoga Journal really want to promote only heterosexual relationships?

And what if this ad is a scam or a gimmick like a few of my friends have suggested? Don’t bring that stuff into Yoga Journal. We don’t need it.

And why does the CEO of the dating company appear in the ad?  What is she doing there, and with a sultry look on her face? Maybe only sultry ladies should apply? I guess this CEO knows what she’s doing since her company’s tag-line is “Making love happen…since 1986.”

Okay, I have said my piece. Even though I am disappointed in the newest ad, I will continue to read their magazine. For now. But I will write for change. As Kaitlin Quistgaard, Yoga Journal editor, states in her opening letter of this month’s edition,

“This is how change happens…layer by layer.”

I am just one of millions of women today who practice yoga.

Our gender has some big issues to contend with including agism, looks-ism, sexual objectification, sexual discrimination and a higher percentage of female poverty. This is a time where female sexual slavery, rape, and  genocide are still acceptable in many countries. Thinking about these things means I should get in some more time with my yoga mat.

On my mat, I see and feel more clearly.  I understand my inherent dignity and value and connectivity to all. On my mat, I let go of the things that are harmful and don’t serve me. I hope that someday we will all be liberated from suffering.


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Ed: Kate Bartolotta

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