***UPDATE: Igniting the SPARK for Change
Ah, the sweet smell of success. Julia Bluhm’s tireless crusade against Photoshopped images in teen girl-targeting magazines has paid off. In May, Bluhm protested in front of Seventeen Magazine’s New York office demanding for change: at least one unaltered photo spread per month.
Not only did Seventeen Magazine comply, they further promised to “not to change the faces or body size of their models, to listen to readers’ feedback and to celebrate beauty in all of its diverse shapes, sizes and colors.” Seventeen Magazine’s top editor, Ann Shoket, has vowed henceforth to reserve Photoshop for its original intended purpose: to remove stray hairs, clothing wrinkles, and the like.
Also, if a photo is manipulated, before and after shots will be posted on the magazine’s Tumblr page for all to see.
With over 84,000 petition signatures, that’s an impressive accomplishment for the 14-year-old. Bluhm’s message to her supporters? "Seventeen listened! They're saying they won't use Photoshop to digitally alter their models! This is a huge victory, and I'm so unbelievably happy.”
Bluhm is part of a girl-fueled, national activist movement called the SPARK Movement, which has been working diligently to eradicate products, ads and altered photos that may break young women’s self-esteem. The next target? Teen Vogue. Magazines everywhere, take heed.
If you’d like to sign the petition and pledge to make real girls the new standard of beauty, visit the official website here.
Perfection. Typically defined as “being free or as free as possible from all flaws or defects.” The media has set the bar unrealistically high with their idea of perfection, which has negatively impacted modern woman’s self-image. Airbrushing is fervently used to manipulate photos and to create masterful artworks of fiction. No one looks like the perfectly airbrushed models that grace the pages of popular magazines, not even the models themselves. They appear fake . . . plastic, even.
What kind of message does this send to our youth?
Unrealistic standards are thrust upon impressionable teens, which lead them to question their own self-esteem. And overzealous airbrushing is partly to blame. The consequences of photo re-touching reach way beyond poor body image. According to The American Psychological Association, it can lead to negative health impacts such as higher rates of eating disorders and depression. Today’s generation is growing up in a constant state of comparison. Young women are pressured more than ever to “look” perfect; and at a much earlier age.
Inspiring change . . .
Copious amounts of adult women, lawmakers and celebrities have openly criticized the overuse of Photoshop or other image-altering methods. Now, teenage girls are speaking their mind. Earlier this month, 13-year-old Julia Bluhm created a petition for Seventeen Magazine on Change.org titled "Seventeen Magazine: Give Girls Images of Real Girls!" She spearheaded a protest along with other teens outside the magazine’s New York office.
Bluhm says, “Those ‘pretty women’ that we see in magazines are fake. They’re often photoshopped, air-brushed, edited to look thinner, and to appear like they have perfect skin. A girl you see in a magazine probably looks a lot different in real life. That’s why I’m asking Seventeen Magazine to commit to printing one unaltered -- real -- photo spread per month. I want to see regular girls that look like me in a magazine that’s supposed to be for me.”
Well said, Julia.
Speaking up . . .
Fifteen-year-old Simone Bordage, is also speaking up on behalf of young girls her age. She recently focused a school project on the cultural beauty ideals placed on women to be perfect. Bordage was inspired to base her project on this topic when the “prettiest girl in school” admitted she had spent forty-five minutes in front of the mirror picking out her flaws. “… That’s a really serious issue,” Bordage says. “I remember going to a museum and seeing art from Ancient Greece and Rome and the Renaissance and all the girls looked like normal girls. The art in those days didn't make anyone feel bad about themselves because it actually portrayed what real people looked like. When I think about all my friends who say they're fat or ugly and think about if we lived in the Renaissance, we would be incredibly sexy. We're incredibly sexy now, we just don't see it… Sexy has become so distorted.”
As an actress and singer, Bordage considers herself to be pretty confident compared to most 15-year-olds. She too, however, finds herself sometimes getting sucked into a negative mentality regarding her body. “By modern standards in magazines you need a curved-in stomach… when I wake up in the morning I see myself as beautiful; then I see the girls in magazines and I feel worthless and ugly.”
Hopefully, girls like Bordage and Blume, will continue to stand up and encourage magazines to portray “normal-looking” women. “I think it wouldn't stop girls (including myself) [from] comparing ourselves to the images in magazines, but the thing we strive to be would be attainable… I think it would give girls better goals to strive for, like being strong and healthy instead of stick-like and unhealthy,” says Bordage. “Less sizes 0’s and 2's and more 11's and 22's please... I would really like there to be no air-brushed photos in magazines. Those people in magazines aren't real. My friend modeled once and when we saw her picture no one recognized her. She looked nothing like herself.”
Disregard those “I hate my body” moments…
While we are keenly aware the photos in ads and magazines are re-touched, we still find ourselves influenced by their fantastical illusions of perfection. Sometimes that little voice creeps into our subconscious and tells us that we are simply not good enough. When you catch yourself being critical, counter it by saying something positive and concentrate on what you do have. Think about it . . . We would never let someone else say the nasty things we say to ourselves! Just remember, if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all… especially to yourself.
Try starting your day by repeating positive self-affirmations out loud. Set goals and aim for accomplishments rather than perfection. In the wise words of Simone Bordage, “Beauty is on the inside... Focus on your good points and strive to be healthy, not skinny. That's what I tell myself. I'm getting healthy, not skinny. Being smart and funny and kind all make you sexier.”
“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”
Since the media has masterfully constructed what we, as a society, should believe to be beautiful, our perceptions have been skewed. Let us remember, however, that we are all beautiful and perfect in our own way. In a sense, we are all perfectly flawed. Never should we strive to strip away the perfection of our perfect imperfections.
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"Self-image Article." E-mail interview. 19 May 2012.