July 5, 2012 at 6:41 PM ET
By Jada Wong, Styleite
Back in April, middle school student Julia Bluhm started petitioning Seventeen to print one unaltered photo spread in each of its issues. Nearly three months and over 84,000 signatures later, the magazine has responded positively to the Maine teen and other girls around the world.
Bluhm, 14, started her petition on Change.org, explaining how she constantly hears friends negatively discuss their bodies during ballet classes. The teenager was tired of magazines digitally altering models to be “impossibly thin with perfect skin”, and ultimately decided that she would take a stand. She launched the online petition, and in May held a protest in front of Seventeen's headquarters in New York. The press and the public voiced their support, but it took the mag a few months to publicly respond.
It turns out that, according to Seventeen's editor-in-chief Anne Shoket, the magazine has never been guilty of the extreme airbrushing that takes place in some other fashion magazines and advertising spreads.
Nevertheless, in Seventeen's August issue, Shoket will reveal an eight-point Body Peace Treaty in her editor’s letter which pledges to address some of the girls' concerns. In it, Shoket writes:
“Recently I’ve heard from some girls who were concerned that we’d strayed from our promise to show real girls as they really are. A lot of the comments were about Photoshopping or digitally enhancing photos. Readers wondered if we had gone too far. Like all magazines, we retouch images — removing wrinkles in fabric, stray hairs, a few zits, random bra straps — but we never alter the way the girls on our pages really look. It’s crucial that we represent girls of all shapes, sizes, and skin tones for their real beauty. Our Body Peace Project is one of the cornerstones of our mission: We want every girl to stop obsessing about what her body looks like and start appreciating it for what it can do! While we work hard behind the scenes to make sure we’re being authentic, your notes made me realize that it was time for us to be more public about our commitment.”
The magazine vows to continue to “Never change a girl’s body or face shapes (Never have, never will),” “always feature real girls and models who are healthy,” and “be totally up-front” by posting pics from their photo shoots on their Tumblr. Bluhm posted a message on Change.org when she heard the good news, and said that this success will lead the way for a similar protest against Teen Vogue:
“Seventeen listened! They’re saying they won’t use photoshop to digitally alter their models! This is a huge victory, and I’m so unbelievably happy. Another petition is being started by SPARK activists Emma and Carina, targeting Teen Vogue and I will sign it. If we can be heard by one magazine, we can do it with another. We are sparking a change!”
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