At first, this story sounds so unlikely, you have to wonder whether it’s true: a 14 year-old girl instigates a petition drive to get Seventeen Magazine to stop "photoshopping" its teen models, garners 84,000 signatures, and the magazine agrees to change its policy. It even institutes a “Body Peace Treaty.”
That sounds like a pipe dream. The magazine’s editors promise the magazine won’t “change girls’ body or face shapes” and will feature “real girls and models who are healthy.” Further, readers will get behind-the-scenes glimpses—how shoots and edits of photo spreads occur.
The young woman who dreamt up the campaign? Julia Bluhm, who lives in Waterville, Maine. The petition launched in April; this is how she spent her eighth grade spring.
In a Boston Globe article about the SPARK campaign she helped to spearhead, Bluhm explained why she objected to the images in magazines like Seventeen.
SPARK CampaignSPARK stands for Sexualization Protest: Action, Resistance, Knowledge. The organization, launched in response to a report by a task force on the sexualization of girls by the American Psychological Association that cited the need for “more age-appropriate multimedia education and more public awareness of the sexualization issue in general,” SPARK has seven adult advisers and a team of 17 girls and young women across the United States. The group works in coalition with others focused on similar issues. Twenty more young women are about to join the team.
This story hands you talking points for conversations with your daughters and sons—preteen or teen, and even younger—about how unrealistic and unreal so much of what they see in the media is. American teenagers consume about 11 hours of media daily, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation 2010 study. Studies show that nearly a third of teen girls are anorexic. So, these are critical conversations. The reason I bring sons into the mix: just because they may not buy or browse Seventeen Magazine, they are still consumers of unrealistic images of girls and women. If their expectation is that “hot” equals Photoshopped version of female body, they, too, buy the notion that looking a certain—false—way is ideal.
How You Can Help Your TeenYou can also make sure your young daughters and sons interact with young women—college-age babysitters, coaches— who are more focused on what they dothan on how they appear. Fathers and mothers should introduce their teens to accomplished women in all professions. Clearly, parents have their work cut out for them, despite one magazine’s promise to aim toward more realism.
How do you combat the sexualized messages your teens receive and the unrealistic images they see? Let us know at Teen Life.