Back in April, fourteen-year old SPARK blogger Julia Bluhm launched a change.org petition asking Seventeen magazine “to commit to printing one unaltered — real — photo spread per month.” Less than three months later, they did.
The petition, “Seventeen Magazine: Give Us Real Images of Real Girls!” expressed Bluhm’s concern about the publication using altered pictures of girls portrayed as “real.” It reads, “I want to see regular girls that look like me in a magazine that’s supposed to be for me.” Thousands of people echoed Bluhm’s sentiment – just a few days after the petition’s initial launch, it had 25,000 signatures. This week there are 85,000.
In May, Bluhm and other representatives of SPARK protested in front of the Seventeen offices in New York City and hand-delivered the petition to the magazine’s editor-in-chief, Ann Shoket. And the wheels kept turning.
On June 27, SPARK and three other organizations, Miss Representation, Love Social, I Am That Girl, and Endangered Bodies initiated the #KeepItReal campaign. The three-day campaign organized thousands of web users on Twitter, blogs, Facebook, Instagram and Youtube under the hash tag #KeepItReal. Campaigners voiced their concern about how altered images affect their self-esteem and continued signing the petition.
Success! On July 3, Seventeen editor Ann Shoket released a letter supporting the petitioners’ request. Included was a photo of the magazine’s new “Body Peace Treaty,” an agreement signed by the entire staff recognizing the importance of representing real images of real girls. Along with agreeing to be completely upfront about their photo shoots, the Treaty promises that the magazine staff will listen more carefully to its readers. Seventeen‘s website also now features a pact that readers can sign, with promises such as “Notice all the amazing things my body is doing for me every moment I walk, talk, think, breathe…” and “Remind myself that what you see isn’t always what you get on TV and in ads — it takes a lot of airbrushing, dieting, money, and work to look like that.”
On to Teen Vogue! In light of Bluhm’s success, two more SPARK activists, Carina Cruz and Emma Stydahar, have created a similar change.org petition. This time Teen Vogue’s editor is the target. In the petition description, Cruz and Studahar say, “This is huge; the beginning of a revolution in the way girls see themselves across the girls’ magazine industry.” Their petition, asking that Teen Vogue not alter any face or body of their models, already has 19,000 signatures. As Melissa Harris-Perry said on MSNBC this weekend, “Memo to these mags: these girls are watching. Better check yourself before you wreck yourself!”