No More Photoshopping! 14-Year-Old Delivers 25,000 Signatures to Seventeen
14-year-old Julia Bluhm just delivered 25,000 signatures to Seventeen magazines asking for one totally un-Photoshopped spread a month. We hope they listen.
It’s been well-documented that we here at BettyConfidential have some issues with Photoshop. Not as a tool—we use it too! How else would we be able to put together all the pretty product collages that frequently adorn our style and beauty features?—but as a prop that the advertising industry leans up against all too often, usually resulting in images of women that look like they’re made of plastic or in unnecessary breast reductions. And we know we’re not the only ones; plenty of others have spoken out against the rampant Photshopping we’re constantly bombarded with. But one such protester took it to the next level—and she’s only 14.
An 8th grader from Waterville, Maine, Julia Bluhm recently decided that she had had enough of all this crazy Photoshopping, especially in magazines geared towards teens. No stranger to activism—Julia is an outspoken member of SPARK, a girl-fueled movement demanding the end of sexualization of women and girls in media to promote healthy sexuality and self-esteem—she did the sensible thing and started an online petition. Hosted on Change.org, the petition speaks directly to teen mag giant Seventeen, requesting that the magazine start producing one entirely unedited, unaltered, and un-Photoshopped photo spread per month. Her petition letter reads:
I just signed the following petition addressed to: Seventeen.
Give Girls Images of Real Girls!
Girls want to be accepted, appreciated, and liked. And when they don’t fit the criteria, some girls try to “fix” themselves. This can lead to eating disorders, dieting, depression, and low self esteem.
I’m in a ballet class with a bunch of high-school girls. On a daily basis I hear comments like: “It’s a fat day,” and “I ate well today, but I still feel fat.” Ballet dancers do get a lot of flack about their bodies, but it’s not just ballet dancers who feel the pressure to be “pretty”. It’s everyone. To girls today, the word “pretty” means skinny and blemish-free. Why is that, when so few girls actually fit into such a narrow category? It’s because the media tells us that “pretty” girls are impossibly thin with perfect skin.
Here’s what lots of girls don’t know. Those “pretty women” that we see in magazines are fake. They’re often photoshopped, air-brushed, edited to look thinner, and to appear like they have perfect skin. A girl you see in a magazine probably looks a lot different in real life. As part of SPARK Movement, a girl-fueled, national activist movement, I’ve been fighting to stop magazines, toy companies, and other big businesses from creating products, photo spreads and ads that hurt girls’ and break our self-esteem. With SPARK, I’ve learned that we have the power to fight back.
That’s why I’m asking Seventeen Magazine to commit to printing one unaltered — real — photo spread per month. I want to see regular girls that look like me in a magazine that’s supposed to be for me.
For the sake of all the struggling girls all over America, who read Seventeen and think these fake images are what they should be, I’m stepping up. I know how hurtful these photoshopped images can be. I’m a teenage girl, and I don’t like what I see. None of us do. Will you join us by signing this petition and asking Seventeen to take a stand as well and commit to one unaltered photo spread a month?”
Julia’s original goal was 10,000 signatures. Yesterday during a protest in Manhattan outside of Seventeen’s headquarters, she hand-delivered 25,000 signatures to Seventeen Editor-in-Chief Ann Shoket. And the numbers are still climbing: As of this writing, the petition carries a whopping 41,2007 signatures.
Julia talking to reporters at yesterday’s protest.
We haven’t yet heard the outcome of the protest and the petition delivery—but we’re really hoping that Seventeen takes what Julia and these 41,2007 other girls and women are asking of them to heart. It’s an issue that concerns all of us, and as widespread influencers of thoughts and trends, all forms of the media—magazines, blogs, the works—have a responsibility towards women to promote realistic portrayals of them, not just airbrushed ones.
Note, too, that Julia was pretty shrewd in which magazine she decided to petition. She isn’t going on the attack; instead, she’s taking a significantly more positive approach befitting of her goals. According to Jezebel, Julia said, “I chose Seventeen to target because I know that Seventeen is already doing a lot to help girls feel better about their body image.” She cited as an example the magazine’s Pretty Amazing contest, which, instead of being based on looks or image, offers college scholarships to girls who make outstanding contributions to their communities through volunteer work.
We agree. Wouldn’t it be great to have more magazine spreads like, say, this completely un-airbrushed Cate Blanchett spread for Intelligent Life and fewer disasters like Demi Moore’s Helena Rubenstein ads? Real women for real readers: Now that’s a goal we can all get behind.
Lucia Peters is BettyConfidential’s associate editor.