Last month, when I’d heard about fourteen year old Julia Bluhm circulating a petition to get Seventeen Magazine to publish at least one unaltered spread per issue, I was ecstatic. I love seeing the public – especially a young person – trying to make a positive difference and challenge our sick society. I would have signed that petition 100 more times if I could! The petition gained excellent support – Julia had over 25,000 signatures when she met with Seventeen editor Ann Shoket on May 2nd. Julia went to deliver the petition in person, to find that Seventeen has no present plans to take her suggestion. Was one unedited spread too much to ask? A spokesperson for Seventeen magazine emailed Jezebel contributor Jenna Sauers the following statement:
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. 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.
However, they didn’t mention anything about Photoshop or future in-house standards for the use thereof! Although Julia’s petition did not get accepted, she stated that she was nonetheless happy to have had the opportunity to meet with Shoket. “The fact that Seventeen‘s editor-in-chief met with me in person proves that the voices of teen girls everywhere are getting through. 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 30,000 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.” Agreed – it’s extremely encouraging that Seventeen takes its young readers’ suggestions into account. Hopefully, if Seventeen is sincere about allowing Julia to work with them on this issue, there will be an improvement in the images that the magazine publishes – even if it’s not a completely unaltered spread. Things like Photoshop warnings/labels, articles about healthy self-esteem and confidence in individuality, and interviewing positive role models for girls are other ways the magazine could send more positive messages. The attention that Julia’s petition generated has certainly been felt online: traffic spikes made the Web site of SPARK, the feminist organization Bluhm is involved in, inaccessible for most of yesterday afternoon, and Bluhm’s petition has now been signed by over 45,000 people and is still growing. Add your signature!