I have a really strange and somewhat questionable habit of reading Mommyish, a mommy blog which is a sister site to a few of my other favorite blogs (Blisstree, The Gloss, The Grindstone.) Questionable and strange only because I’m freakin’ 21 and obviously have no reason to give a shit what a mommy blog has to say. I just find it really interesting because they cover matters that are important to young girls. As a former young girl, I wish I had read it growing up. THIS IS NOT TO SAY that my mom failed me in any way — but I was a raging brat and chose to never listen to her. She was and is awesome, but try telling that to a rebellious 16 year old.
So now I’m going to get into body issues in teen magazines. Mommyish has been covering a story about this incredibly smart young girl named Julia Bluhm. Julia took on the media powerhouse that is Seventeen magazine by starting a petition on Change.org asking them to feature one un-retouched spread a month, with girls of all shapes, sizes, and colors. That really doesn’t seem like it’s asking a lot, does it? Well, Seventeen finally got back to her 2 weeks and 50,000 signatures later with a completely patronizing, utterly disgusting statement (after bringing her to their office to discuss with the editor-in-chief.)
“We’re proud of Julia for being so passionate about an issue — it’s exactly the kind of attitude we encourage in our readers — so we invited her to our office to meet with editor-in-chief Ann Shoket this morning. They had a great discussion, and we believe that Julia left understanding that Seventeen celebrates girls for being their authentic selves, and that’s how we present them.” (via Mommyish)
Basically, they meant,”we told the little shit to shut up, and we’re bigger so we win. The end.”
I’ve got to say this makes me really mad. In this article, Mommyish writer Koa Beck whips out some really charming pictures from the current issue of Seventeen. Their only images of bigger girls are covered with sweet little blurbs about how to lose weight and look thinner. Is this for real? How can Seventeen be so hypocritical. Do they think the entire world is stupid? Koa then shows a picture of an ad in Seventeen featuring a skinny, pretty blonde girl. I have no problem with skinny, pretty blonde girls. I’m actually friends with quite a few of them. I take issue with the fact that Seventeen won’t even admit to airbrushing, claims to feature diversity, proceeds to stomp all over said diversity with ways to appear slimmer, and dismisses an extremely intelligent 14 year old who is sick of it all.
Here’s why this pisses me off. I grew up reading Seventeen, and really feel that it helped me develop what was a pretty effed up eating disorder. It sucked to flip through the magazine and see nothing but smooth-skinned teeny tiny girls. I had huge boobs, acne, and extra fat. So after years of longing to look like the girls in the pages, I up and stopped eating and got super thin. Unhealthily so. That’s all I’m going to say about that, but let’s just say this strikes a major chord. Like I said in my long-winded comment on the blog, it doesn’t matter as much when this sort of thing goes down in actual fashion magazines intended for adults (Vogue, Elle, etc.) Seventeen is a publication targeting young, extremely impressionable, and often self-conscious developing girls. How can the editor-in-chief (who was once a young girl herself) brush off the fact that over 52,000 people have signed a petition to stop this, all brought on by a girl in their target demographic who sees the sort of destruction fake images cause in her day-to-day life.
Having been a teenager very recently, I remember when Seventeen started to add “real girls.” They claimed to be changing their ways, but they clearly haven’t. In Koa Beck’s article, she pictures a young, blonde model who looks EXACTLY like a model I used to see in Pac Sun ads in Seventeen 8 years ago. The magazine hasn’t changed at all. It’s not the same girl, but they’re exactly the same.
Seventeen’s refusal to admit that they do photoshop photos is doing a huge, huge disservice to all of the young girls reading the magazine. I, for one, didn’t realize just how much can be edited at that age. I have a feeling the vast majority of girls now don’t know either. The editor-in-chief had a real chance to do something good: acknowledge what Julia is saying, and fix it. Instead, she made it worse. By denying any of this goes on, she’s telling girls that it IS okay to strive towards one ideal of beauty. She’s also teaching young girls that beauty is all that matters. Rather than saying “love your body,” she’s promoting, “love your body, but be sure to use that thick waist belt to cover it, fatass.” It’s flat out irresponsible.
I have such a love/hate relationship with the media and beauty industries. Ugh.
To sign miss Julia’s petition go here: Seventeen Magazine: Give Girls Images of Real Girls!
As an afterthought, I’d like to point out that I’m not for Seventeen promoting unhealthy weights. They definitely shouldn’t encourage girls to be overweight, since it’s not healthy. The girl in the “Flatten your tummy!” image isn’t overweight, though. She’s not super skinny, but the fact that her chin is easily discernable and her arms and stomach aren’t enormous tells me that she has a pretty average body…probably much like the majority of girls reading the magazine. The end!