The past couple of weeks, teen magazines Seventeen and Teen Vogue have been in the news as readers demand to see more real images of real women. Lots of grownups have weighed in on the issue, but what do teenage girls actually think? We asked FemThread’s teen writer Ella Webb to share her opinion.
After teenager Julia Bluhm recognized that her peers criticize their own appearances on a daily basis, she created an online petition requesting that Seventeen publish one unaltered photo per month. Bluhm is a member of SPARK movement, which battles to end the media’s sexualization and stereotyping of girls. Her petition garnered huge support (around 86,000 have signed) and Seventeen responded. The August issue’s Body Peace Treaty, signed by the entire magazine staff, promises to “never change girls’ body or face shapes,” celebrate all types of beauty, reveal all of what goes on behind the scenes in a new blog, and will include one unaltered photo spread per month. The magazine says they haven’t edited models’ faces or bodies in the past (“Never have, never will,” according to editor-in-chief Ann Shoket) and the treaty seems to serve mainly as a reinforcement and clarification of their dedication to promoting self-confidence in young women.
The magazine states in the actual Body Peace Treaty that they have “never [changed] girls’ body or face shapes.” Though the wording may seem suspicious (it leaves loopholes for skin and clothing photo edits), I have seen Seventeen feature healthy and even plus-size models. Though the pages may feature pieces on weight loss and toning up your rear end, Seventeen does focus strongly on promoting health and confidence. The Body Peace Treaty is not a new concept for Seventeen. The original Body Peace Treaty appears on the magazine’s website and includes points such as “I vow to . . . know that I’m already beautiful just the way I am” and “accept the changes that my body is going through. I will celebrate my new shape and curves. I will rock what I’ve got!”
Seventeen is one of the most widely circulated body-positive magazines currently in publication. Their pledge to end Photoshopping of girls’ faces and body shapes reflects a dedication they have established informally, but making it official is certainly a good publicity move, even if it doesn’t immediately inspire other magazines to do the same. (Teen Vogue’s response to a similar petition was, according to the girl who created the petition, “rude.”)
The images presented in fashion magazines are designed to be aesthetically pleasing and beautiful by definition. Photoshopped or not, models and celebrities are still going to look gorgeous and readers will always be inclined to compare themselves. The combination of styling, lighting and makeup used in photo shoots will always make the subject appear more perfect than otherwise attainable. But by constantly promoting a healthy lifestyle for its readers and by attempting to help teens make peace with their appearances, Seventeen has done one of the best jobs I have seen to make its readers feel beautiful and confident.
–By Ella Webb