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Tween Titans Tween Titans

A Real Girl, 14, Takes a Stand Against the Flawless Faces in Magazines

Posted by on May. 3, 2012 at 9:28 PM
  • 9 Replies

A Real Girl, 14, Takes a Stand Against the Flawless Faces in Magazines

In Julia Bluhm’s ballet class, girls arrived and often declared that they were having a fat day. Or that their skin was pimply or blemished. Or that they looked disgusting. When she hears complaints in her middle school, where she is in the eighth grade, Julia said, she has one answer: “Are you crazy?”

Julia Bluhm, an eighth grader from Maine, reasoned that many girls had bad body images because of the perfect faces in fashion magazines. She met with an editor from Seventeen to press her case Thursday.

Then, she said, she came up with another answer, thumbing through one of her favorite magazines, Seventeen.

“I look at the pictures and they just don’t look like girls I see walking down the street and stuff,” said Julia, who turned 14 last month.

A blogger for the last year with Spark, a project that fights the sexualization of girls, Julia had given the subject some thought, and talked it over with the other bloggers. Then she started an online petition drive through change.orgasking Seventeen to “commit to printing one unaltered — real — photo spread per month.”

“We brought Seventeen magazine to lunch and showed it to a bunch of kids to see if they agreed with the petition,” she said. “A lot of them signed it.”

Boys too?

“Actually some boys signed it, too,” she said. “I think a lot of them just signed it because they thought it was cool that I was getting so many people to sign.”

No kidding. As of Thursday evening, the petition had been signed by 46,000 people. Julia and her mother, Mary Beiter, came to New York this week from their home in Waterville, Me., for a demonstration organized byChange.org and Spark outside the offices of Seventeen in Midtown. There, Julia and five other girls posed for a mock photo shoot, with no retouching. A crew from ABC’s “Nightline” followed her for the day. And the editor in chief of Seventeen, Ann Shoket, invited Julia and her mother to visit the office.

The people at Seventeen were, it should be said, feeling slightly aggrieved that they had been singled out for picture-doctoring practices that are common in virtually all glossy fashion magazines, and, for that matter, on the Facebook accounts of millions of people who retouch photographs before posting them. At some magazines, the practices are far more extreme than at Seventeen, which, Ms. Shoket says, does not alter the body shapes of the girls in its pages, contrary to a charge in the petition.

An article in the May issue includes pictures of girls with melanoma scars; a regular feature, “Body Peace,” has a picture of a girl who has drawn a peace symbol on a body part that she had been troubled by.

“I think we do a phenomenal job of celebrating the authenticity of real girls, of celebrating them for all of their real authentic beauty, of skin tones, of ethnicity, of body shape and size,” Ms. Shoket said. “These are young girls. They look great.”

On Thursday, as Julia and her mom headed toward the airport, she said she appreciated that the magazine was doing things to include girls with many body types. She also gave an unvarnished description of what she sees in its pages.

“I look at the girls, and a lot of them, like, they don’t have freckles, or moles, anywhere on their bodies,” she said. “You can’t, like, see the pores in their face, they’re perfectly smooth. Their skin is shiny. They don’t have any tan lines or cuts and bruises or anything like that.”

These ordinary features of human flesh, she said, can be disguised with makeup and lights. “At the same time, they can’t cover up everything,” Julia said. That leaves only digital retouching.

Back to Ms. Shoket: So, does the magazine airbrush pictures of the girls in its pages?

“I don’t want to get into the specifics of what we do and don’t do,” Ms. Shoket said.

Julia said the unreal pictures of girls were trouble for boys, as well. “It shows them unrealistic images of girls,” she said. “Also, a lot of the boys in Seventeen magazine have, like, 12-packs, and that’s definitely not very realistic either.”

Both sides said they had agreed to keep in touch, but no promises were made about publishing an unretouched photo spread. “I gave her my e-mail,” Julia said.

Ms. Shoket, reeling from a barrage of unpleasant publicity that she felt did not reflect the reality of her magazine, said she admired Julia. “What power she has to have an idea and to make her mark on the world,” she said.

As Julia returned home to the eighth grade, she said that people from home had kept in touch.

“Facebook and the school are flipping out,” she said.


by on May. 3, 2012 at 9:28 PM
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Replies (1-9):
Barabell
by on May. 3, 2012 at 9:29 PM

Do you worry about the airbrush images that our tweens see in the media?

steelcrazy
by Silver Member on May. 3, 2012 at 9:43 PM

I do my absolute best to let my boys know that real women don't look that way.  They see me quite often when I don't have on make up or am not dressed yet, and they see the difference in my appearance when I am ready to go out.  I try to explain to them that real beauty is inside of a person, not on the outside.

JanuaryBaby06
by on May. 3, 2012 at 9:43 PM

nice. i hope they do something like that.

kmrtigger
by on May. 3, 2012 at 10:56 PM


Quoting steelcrazy:

I do my absolute best to let my boys know that real women don't look that way.  They see me quite often when I don't have on make up or am not dressed yet, and they see the difference in my appearance when I am ready to go out.  I try to explain to them that real beauty is inside of a person, not on the outside.

Took my thoughts and words right outta my mouth. I am the same way with my boys. They also know that you have to work hard to stay in that great of shape too. I have let them watch a few utube videos of a model before and after makeup. And of a photo for a magazine before and after being airbrushed.

Barabell
by on May. 4, 2012 at 10:19 AM


Quoting JanuaryBaby06:

nice. i hope they do something like that.

I really was impressed by this article. It is refreshing--isn't it?--to see a 14 year old make the news for speaking up?

Barabell
by on May. 4, 2012 at 10:20 AM


Quoting steelcrazy:

I do my absolute best to let my boys know that real women don't look that way.  They see me quite often when I don't have on make up or am not dressed yet, and they see the difference in my appearance when I am ready to go out.  I try to explain to them that real beauty is inside of a person, not on the outside.

I've had those same talks with my son too. He has repeated it back to me recently, and so I'm hoping that's a good sign.

Barabell
by on May. 4, 2012 at 10:20 AM


Quoting kmrtigger:


Quoting steelcrazy:

I do my absolute best to let my boys know that real women don't look that way.  They see me quite often when I don't have on make up or am not dressed yet, and they see the difference in my appearance when I am ready to go out.  I try to explain to them that real beauty is inside of a person, not on the outside.

Took my thoughts and words right outta my mouth. I am the same way with my boys. They also know that you have to work hard to stay in that great of shape too. I have let them watch a few utube videos of a model before and after makeup. And of a photo for a magazine before and after being airbrushed.

I haven't done that with my son. I think that is something I will do very soon. Thanks, K!

GirlWithANikon
by on May. 4, 2012 at 10:29 AM

While its courageous of her to take a stand I just don't get what every one's hype is about the skinny photoshopped beauties in media. I never  got it as a teen or child either.

People don't hate their bodies because of the media, they hate their bodies because they were either never taught or just never learned to love them self and be happy its not worse. That is clearly not the medias job and I think since we already all know its all photoshopped, yes even pre/teens know this and did when I was in school and am now 25, we should just ignore it. It really isn't worth anything and we have a lot of wars in this world like hunger, sexual assault, ect that need to be won more than a fake face in a news story.

M4LG5
by Valeri on May. 4, 2012 at 12:20 PM


Quoting GirlWithANikon:

While its courageous of her to take a stand I just don't get what every one's hype is about the skinny photoshopped beauties in media. I never  got it as a teen or child either.

People don't hate their bodies because of the media, they hate their bodies because they were either never taught or just never learned to love them self and be happy its not worse. That is clearly not the medias job and I think since we already all know its all photoshopped, yes even pre/teens know this and did when I was in school and am now 25, we should just ignore it. It really isn't worth anything and we have a lot of wars in this world like hunger, sexual assault, ect that need to be won more than a fake face in a news story.

I, as a mom, can talk to my girls until I'm blue in the face but there is an influence that these magazines have to define "beauty".  When it's there in front of you over and over and over again....it can be a major influence on how they define "beauty" within themselves.

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