Teenagers Start Body-Image Campaign to Teach Girls Self-Love

Through a Twitter campaign and their own body-positive ads, these students are encouraging tweens and teens to accept themselves just as they are.
(Photo: Real Women, Real Pride/Twitter)
Apr 11, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Samantha Cowan is an associate editor for culture.

Sick and tired of mass marketing that promotes unhealthy ideas about what it means to be beautiful, a group of Iowa high school students is taking matters into their own hands.

After learning about body image as a part of their English class curriculum, both male and female students at Charles City High School in Charles City, a town on the northern Iowa border, decided to take action. Earlier this month, the teens launched a Twitter campaign designed to help young girls feel good about themselves.

The students initially became interested in how ads impact women and girls after watching Jean Kilbourne’s fourth video installment of Killing Us Softly, a documentary about how women are portrayed in advertising. The students were shocked to see the multitude of subtle and overt ways women’s bodies are attacked every day through print and digital media.

The students split off into different groups to attack this problem from multiple angles, including a Twitter page called Real Women, Real Pride. Their social media account posts images of girls flexing their muscles, reading books, and learning to code. Their preference for strength and smarts over looks has even earned them a celebrity retweet from Amy Poehler.

They’re hoping to get young girls on the path to loving themselves early by heading to local middle schools to spread their message of body acceptance. They plan to talk to the preteen girls about “how beauty comes in more than one size,” student Ashley Bray told GlobeGazette.

But even if these young girls are told they don’t have to fit Hollywood’s standards of beauty, they will still see images that ask them to do just that every single day.

That’s why Charles City student Nathaniel Reams has spearheaded a request to local lawmakers, asking them to ban the use of Photoshop in ads geared toward a young demographic.

“It’s not fair that [Photoshop] can make them look skinnier than how they are,” Reams told local news media outlet KIMT. “It makes children think that they have to be like that.”

While they’re waiting to hear back from their local representatives, the students are also making their own ads, inspired by student Stephanie Lawrence’s own experience.

“I felt like everyone around me was just so beautiful, and I felt like I was never anything and I didn’t matter,” Lawrence told KIMT. She created a video diary of her struggle with body image, culminating in a phrase the students now use in their own ads: “You don’t have to be skinny to be beautiful.”