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Teen's Petition Leads to 'Seventeen' Body Image Pledge

14-year-old asked mag to show more 'real girls'

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Two months ago, 14-year-old Julia Bluhm of Waterville, ME decided that she was tired of listening to her ballet classmates complain about their bodies, which weren’t always as rail-thin or clear-skinned as those of the retouched models in their favorite magazines. So Bluhm, a member of SPARK (an organization that aims to end the sexualization of girls in media), started a petition on Change.org to ask Seventeen magazine to print one unaltered photo spread a month. And after collecting nearly 85,000 signatures, staging a demonstration outside of Seventeen’s New York offices, launching a Twitter campaign, and meeting with editor in chief Ann Shoket, the teen magazine finally listened.

In the August issue of Seventeen, Shoket wrote an editor’s letter addressing the concerns of Bluhm and her supporters. “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…Like all magazines, we retouch images—removing wrinkles in fabric, stray hair, a few zits, random bra straps—but we never alter the way the girls on our pages really look,” wrote Shoket. “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 as an extension of its ongoing Body Peace Project, Seventeen is launching the Body Peace Treaty, which includes pledges to “never change girls’ body or face shapes…always feature real girls and models who are healthy,” and “be totally up-front about what goes into our photo shoots.”

Now that they’ve gotten through to Seventeen, members of the SPARK team are petitioning Teen Vogue to make the same commitment to represent real girls. “Seventeen was supposed to be a jumping-off point to reach all print media, so we’re continuing on with that goal,” Emma Stydahar, 17, who helped to launch the Teen Vogue campaign, told Adweek recently. “Once people are looking at themselves not in comparison to these unrealistic standards of beauty, that’s when they start realizing that what they’re seeing in the mirror is beautiful without retouching, whether it be with makeup or Photoshop.”