Real Photos for Real Girls in Seventeen Magazine

Few young women have good body image. The trouble starts early, thanks to Photoshopped pics in magazines like Seventeen — or even grown-up fare like Cosmo, or your typical billboard — all creating impossible standards that even models cannot achieve.

This is especially a problem for young women who are just beginning to develop a sense of themselves, and whose self-esteem is too often based on their looks.

Even Penelope Cruz knows the agony, having felt insecure as a young woman. Angry now, she says:

I would close down all those teenage magazines that encourage young girls to diet. Who says that to be pretty you have to be thin? Some people look better thin and some don’t. There is almost a standard being created where only thin is acceptable. The influence of those magazines on girls as young as 13 is horrific.

Consequently, too many young women starve or go under the knife in anxious attempts to feel good about themselves. But you can’t compete with Photoshop.

Fourteen-year-old Julie Bluhm knows this. She knows that girls her age are not all slim with glowing skin and shiny hair. And she tired of her friends’ endless rants about their “imperfections.”

And so she began an online petition on Change.org asking Seventeen to use at least one unretouched spread in each issue.

In her “David meets Goliath” moment Julie won – at least a few points. After collecting more than 84,000 signatures, Seventeen published an eight-point “Body Peace Treaty” promising to “celebrate every kind of beauty,” and pledging not to retouch girls’ bodies or faces, instead showing “real girls as they really are.”

Julie won a battle, but necessarily the war. As Ms. points out:

The letter overtly confirms that Seventeen will continue to retouch photos. And (the editor) still claims that Seventeen “never has never will” alter its models’ bodies–a statement that contradicts the very accusation Bluhm (and her 85,000 supporters) made with her petition.

At the least, Julie has gotten a conversation going that has clued many young women into knowing that things are not always what they seem, and learning that they need not strive to meet the nutty body ideals sent down by the gods of media — and the money to be made by offering helpful “fixes” after making women feel bad about themselves.

Goal one has been achieved: be empowered, don’t just take it.

Now we must work on goal two: critiquing looks as the major source of self-esteem.

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on July 11, 2012, in body image, feminism, gender, psychology, sexism, women and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Wonderful, Georgia–I am sharing on FB.

  2. One of my favorite poems is Lucille Clifton’s “Homage to my Hips.” It is simple but powerful, singing praise to the beauty of a woman’s curves rather than an unrealistic stick thin child-body on an adult:

    http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/179615

  3. Growing up I noticed at a young age that girls are very sensitive about their body. Even now, most of my friends are insecure about their bodies, but perhaps even now that we are older. We seem to like to compare each other to what we see on magazines or models. But we should recognize that most of the things that we see on ads have been altered. It makes it seem like no one is actually “beautiful” enough. It seems that the “beauty” we are aiming for is not even touchable because something can always be changed to make things look better. Instead of chasing something that is unattainable we should just appreciate our flaws.

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