Julia Bluhm, You Rock!

by May 22, 2012
filed under Activism, Life
Topics ,

Julia Bluhm, You Rock!

Picture a magazine cover with no Photoshop. Picture seeing photos of women who look just like you spread out on those glossy sheets. This is what Julia Bluhm pictured when she created a petition asking Seventeen Magazine to commit to just one unaltered photo a month. The fourteen-year-old activist from Maine is a member of SPARK, a non-profit organization that “demands an end to the sexualization of women and girls in the media.” Bad-ass.

Bluhm draws on her own personal experience, mentioning the body bashing that she hears from other girls in her ballet class. While many of us shrug off flippant comments such as “today’s a fat day” or “I need to work that ice cream off”, Bluhm critiques them, drawing a link between the constant barrage of Photoshopped images and girls’ shrinking self-esteem.

The two main arguments for not using Photoshop are:

  1. Photoshop contributes to unrealistic beauty ideals.
    See enough pictures of poreless models that have undergone the Photoshop diet and these images become normalized in our minds. For some women these photos become a standard to strive towards and a way of gauging one’s attractiveness. For men these touched up images create a dichotomy between an improbable beauty ideal and real-life women. Women are left scrambling for the impossible, men are left expecting it. Everyone loses.
  2. Homogenous beauty ideals are upheld.
    Doing a quick survey of magazine covers, I can find more similarities than differences. Glowing skin with nary a wrinkle or freckle to be found, blown out hair with not a touch of frizz, and skinny, svelte bodies— there’s also the problem of whitewashing. What these photos tell us is that in order to be represented in the media you must squeeze into this narrow category of beauty, because this category won’t stretch to accommodate you. There is no diversity. Any women of color, plus sized women, or others who don’t fit this homogenous beauty ideal are either not represented, or are added in as a token gesture without making any real attempt to change.

To combat this negativity, Bluhm went to New York to deliver her petition to the editors of Seventeen in person. In spite of the vocal support for Bluhm’s petition, editors took a pass on the whole sans airbrushing idea. A statement issued by Seventeen says, “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. 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. We feature real girls in our pages and there is no other magazine that highlights such a diversity of size, shape, skin tone and ethnicity.” In other words, thanks for your opinion, but Photoshop sells.

Bluhm remains undeterred, saying, “While I would still change some of the ways Seventeen portrays girls, I’m encouraged that they’re willing to listen to me and the people who’ve signed my petition. Seventeen‘s invited me to work with them on this issue, which means we girls — Seventeen‘s readers — are finally being heard loud and clear. It’s really exciting.”

Bluhm’s petition, as of May 21st, has over seventy-five thousand signatures— go here to add yours! Let’s see if we can make a change.

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