In the magazine publishing world, it’s been said “airbrushing images is an industry standard.” But it doesn’t have to be. Seventeen Magazine has agreed not to digitally alter images of young female models and celebs. And its all thanks to the #KeepItReal Challenge and one passionate teen activist.
SPARK Summit, LoveSocial, I Am That Girl, Endangered Bodies, and Miss Representation started the #KeepItReal Challenge, a “3-day challenge” utilizing tweeting magazine editors, blogging personal experiences, and posting photos via Instagram to spur magazines to publish “one unphotoshopped image of a model per issue,” challenging the ideal of “perfect” beauty.
#KeepItReal was inspired by 14-year-old Julia Bluhm, a SPARK activist tired of toxic body images. She petitioned Seventeen Magazine to print “one unaltered photo spread a month.” The overwhelming support of her petition led to a meeting between the magazine, Bluhm and Spark Summit.
Blum’s petition and the #KeepItReal Challenge received an overwhelming response. The Twitter hashtag “reached over 1.5 million people, including the desks of USWeekly, Glamour and Lucky Magazine – who all expressed interest in talking further about their use of photoshop. Additionally, Marie Claire‘s Editor-In-Chief Joanna Coles reached out personally to MissRepresentation.org to discuss the issue.”
In their latest issue, Editor-in-Chief Ann Shokets shared Seventeen Magazine’s public commitment to show how girls really look and the diversity of beauty:
“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 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. So we created a Body Peace Treaty for the magazine staff – a list of vows on how we run things here so we always make you feel amazing!”
About the victory, of which she played a crucial role in catalyzing change, Bluhm said on Change.org:
“Seventeen listened!…This is a huge victory, and I’m so unbelievably happy…If we can be heard by one magazine, we can do it with another. We are sparking a change!”
People think that they’re just one person. That they can’t make a difference. But they can and do. Change happens one person at a time.
For those who scoff at social media as activism, Bluhm’s petition and the #KeepItReal Challenge prove their efficacy in creating change. Bluhm motivated SPARK activists Carina Cruz and Emma Stydahar to petition Teen Vogue to follow Seventeen Magazine’s lead.
This is a tremendous achievement. But the battle has just begun.
Here are some of the horrifying statistics via the #KeepItReal Challenge on magazines’ impact on girls:
- 42% of 1st to 3rd-grade girls want to be thinner, while 81% of 10 year-olds are afraid of getting fat.
- The number of cosmetic surgical procedures performed in America increased by 457% from 1997 to 2007.
- 20 years ago, the average fashion model weighed 8% less than the average woman. Today that number is 23% less.
- 53% of 13 year-old girls are unhappy with their bodies. That number increases to 78% by age 17.
- 80% of 10 year-old American girls say they have been on a diet. The number one magic wish for young girls age 11-17 is to be thinner.
- 3 out of 4 teenage girls feel depressed, guilty and shameful after spending 3 minutes leafing through a fashion magazine.
Women and girls obsess over their bodies because of our toxic beauty culture. The media emphasizes women’s and girls’ looks – not our intellect or accomplishments – reducing us to our appearances. Society and the media polices women’s and girls’ bodies, telling us to not to be too fat or too skinny. We must wax, shave, pluck. Drink diet shakes. Sweat on elliptical machines. Smear on creams. Dye graying hair. Inject botox and fillers. We must do whatever it takes to control our bodies, asserting complete dominion over our appearances to abide by society’s standards of youth and thinness.
Photoshopped faces and bodies saturate the media, bombarding us with unattainable images of beauty. Magazines and ads eradicate wrinkles, cellulite and curves. With the wizarding of Photoshop, models and celebrities don’t even look as thin or young in reality as they do in the pages of a magazine. Magazines lighten women of color’s dark skin, perpetuating the racist standard that black women aren’t as beautiful as white women.
Skewing our notion of what women’s and girls’ bodies really look like, these sexist and racist images fuse with society’s warped beauty standards. Looking at magazines and advertisements notions of beauty, women must be paragons of perfection. And they overwhelmingly must be thin, young and white.
Beauty comes in all shapes and sizes. Yet women and girls live in a world where they are constantly made to feel bad about themselves. Girls grow up thinking they must change their bodies in order to achieve acceptance and happiness. But thanks to Bluhm and the #KeepItReal Challenge, that’s starting to change. Young female activists are fighting back against these toxic messages.
We’re teaching girls and women to forever wage war against their bodies. It’s time to call a cease fire. Thankfully that’s happening one amazing teen activist, one tweet, one petition at a time.