‘Seventeen’ Magazine Promises Photos of ‘Real, Healthy Girls’

One girl’s online petition has managed to create ripples in the fashion magazine industry.

A petition to stop Seventeen magazine from using digitally altered photos of models received more than 84,000 signatures. Julia Bluhm, who started the petition, wanted to improve girls' self-esteem and body-image issues. (Photo: Kelvin Murray via Getty Images)

Jul 5, 2012
Kelly Zhou has written on a variety of topics for TakePart, predominantly politics, education, and wildlife.

No altered photos—that’s a tall order in the world of fashion magazines.

Yet Seventeen magazine has promised just that, publishing a pledge in its August issue to be more transparent about its photo shoots. The decision came after 84,000 individuals signed a petition protesting the publication’s overreliance on Photoshopped photos of women.

The petition, created by 14-year-old Julia Bluhm from Waterville, Maine, started in April. Bluhm, concerned about girls in her ballet class consistently making negative comments about their bodies, wanted to fight back against deceptive, airbrushed photos of women in magazines. 

“I’m asking Seventeen Magazine to commit to printing one unaltered—real—photo spread per month,” Bluhm says in the petition. “I want to see regular girls that look like me in a magazine that’s supposed to be for me.”

Within days, Bluhm already had 25,000 signatures, according to a New York Times article. (TakePart.com even promoted the petition, urging readers to take action.) Bluhm also traveled to New York in May to set up a protest at the offices of the Hearst Corporation, which publishes the magazine. Her efforts caught the attention of Ann Shoket, Seventeen’s editor-in-chief. 

In the editor’s letter for the August issue, Shoket explains that the magazine drafted a “Body Peace Treaty,” which was published in the same issue. In the treaty, Seventeen promises to “never change girls’ body or face shapes (never have, never will).”

Weight and appearance issues can heavily influence the behavior of teenage girls, and can often be used to bully others. Some girls, faced with such taunting, have even taken drastic measures of suicide, as seen in recent news articles. According to the National Council on Education, more than 30 percent of girls aged 12-18 reported being bullied during the 2009 school year, which includes bullying specifically regarding personal insults.

“Girls want to be accepted, appreciated, and liked. And when they don’t fit the criteria, some girls try to ‘fix’ themselves,” Bluhm writes in the petition. “This can lead to eating disorders, dieting, depression, and low self esteem.”

The overwhelming response to Bluhm’s petition, now at 84,626 signatures, has triggered an additional petition to get the same results in Teen Vogue, another popular fashion magazine for girls. Started by Bluhm’s fellow student activists, the petition also demands pictures of “real girls” and has already garnered the support of more than 11,000 individuals. Want to sign the petition? Click here.

Do you think Seventeen’s changes will help improve circumstances in the fashion-magazine industry, or does more drastic action need to be taken? Let us know in the comments below.

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