Seventeen vows to never change girls’ body or face shapes: legit or marketing?


There’s a lot of rejoicing over this story that Seventeen Magazine has responded to a plea by an eighth grade girl to stop Photoshopping the young women in their magazine. A girl named Julia Bluhm started a petition at Change.org asking Seventeen to commit to presenting just one photo spread a month without Photoshopping. Seventeen’s editor in chief responded by issuing a statement they would not change girls’ faces or bodies in the entire magazine, and that they never have. I’m not really buying that and think that it depends on your definition of “change,” but good for them for taking this seriously and making a commitment to boost positive images of girls. Seventeen’s editor also says that they’re committed to representing all types of “beauty” in the magazine, including “body types, skin tones, heights and hair textures.” Here’s more:

Seventeen magazine, which in recent months has been inundated by pleas from teenage girls to publish photographs of models that don’t look touched up, said on Tuesday that it would be more transparent about its photo shoots and promised to “celebrate every kind of beauty.”

Ann Shoket, the magazine’s editor in chief, wrote in the editor’s letter in the August issue that the magazine had drafted what it called a Body Peace Treaty, after she heard from girls “who were concerned that we’d strayed from our promise to show real girls as they really are.”

She said the entire staff signed the eight-point pact, in which the magazine promises that it will “never change girls’ body or face shapes” and will include only images of “real girls and models who are healthy.”

It also said it would provide more transparency about its photo shoots by posting images of the shoots on the magazine’s Tumblr blog so readers could see the progression of the pictures.

The retouching of photographs to improve a subject’s appearance has long been a source of debate and anguish in the magazine industry. Editors often speak of balancing the pressures of presenting authentic photographs while also showing subjects in a way that can attract and inspire readers.

The policy points outlined by Seventeen represent a victory for young women who have been encouraging the magazine to present more realistic images of women. Their views became widely known through an online petition started by Julia Bluhm, a 14-year-old from Waterville, Me., who blogged about her frustration with how many girls in her ballet class were complaining that they were fat.

“While we work hard behind the scenes to make sure we’re being authentic, your notes made me realize that it was time for us to be more public about our commitment,” Ms. Shoket wrote in her letter to readers.

She also included an example of “what really changes” in photo shoots by showing a photograph of a model before and after the image was altered. Seventeen’s photo editors removed some flyaway hairs, a bra strap, a fold that made the model’s blouse look untucked and an altered background. Ms. Shoket described them as “a few messy details — cleaned up.” She added “Her gorgeous smile — totally authentic!”

The campaign to bring about changes in Seventeen began on April 19, when Ms. Bluhm started the online petition using Change.org, asking Seventeen to print one unaltered photo in its magazine each month.

The results were striking. Within days, Ms. Bluhm had 25,000 signatures. Ms. Shoket invited Ms. Bluhm and her mother to visit Seventeen’s offices in late April for a talk.

Ms. Bluhm’s supporters were quick to share their stories of how altered photos made them feel. Annette Okonofua, a woman who signed the petition, wrote: “I know that most of these girls on magazine covers are photoshopped, airbrushed and edited but yet, when you’re looking at those photos physically, you can’t help but think, ‘Wow. I wish I looked like that.’ ”

By Tuesday morning, the petition had attracted 84,168 signatures. And Ms. Bluhm reacted enthusiastically to news of the magazine’s policy statement.

“Seventeen listened!” Ms. Bluhm wrote on her petition page, under the headline “How We Won.” “They’re saying they won’t use Photoshop to digitally alter their models! This is a huge victory, and I’m so unbelievably happy.”

“It’s even more than what we asked,” said Ms. Bluhm in her lunchtime break at ballet camp. “The important thing is they agreed to do what we asked them to do. However they want to say it in their magazine is O.K.,” she said.

It’s still unclear how these pledges will change Seventeen’s actual content. Ms. Shoket stressed in her letter that the magazine’s editors “never have, never will” change girls’ body or face shapes.

Shareeza Bhola, a spokeswoman for Change.org, she was pleased that Seventeen was giving readers “a new level of transparency on photo shoots that they’ve never had before and a companywide commitment to diverse representations of young women.” She added that Seventeen would be watched closely over the next six months to make sure it keeps its promises.

In outlining its initiative, the magazine said it had worked with groups like the National Eating Disorders Association.

[From Blogs.NYTimes.com]

That’s incredible, and it really shows Seventeen’s commitment to this cause. I’m impressed that they brought Bluhm and her mom to their office within just a few weeks after she started the petition. I spent a little time on their website, and they’ve had this “body peace” movement, which involves advice for girls on self esteem and body image, since 2007. They also have a “Body Peace Treaty” which is different from the excerpt above, in which they invite readers to sign a pledge with statements celebrating their current shape and place in life. An example: “Not let my size define me. It’s far better to focus on how awesome I look in my jeans than the number on the tag.” I actually felt better about myself after I read all that, really!

Inspired by the changes at Seventeen Magazine, two teenagers from New York have created a petition asking Teen Vogue to make the same commitment to presenting girls that are not Photoshopped. In May, Vogue proper banned models that are “under 16 or who appear to have an eating disorder.” Getting even the Teen version of Vogue to stop Photoshopping seems very unlikely, but at least people are trying.

This image is from Seventeen.Tumblr.com

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36 Responses to “Seventeen vows to never change girls’ body or face shapes: legit or marketing?”

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  1. Spiffy says:

    Hooray for smart, sassy fourteen year old girls! The world sure needs them!

  2. Marissa says:

    I admire that they took the time to actually look at the girl’s petittion, and promised to make changes. But I feel like they DO tweak some of these girls’ faces and bodies in the magazine. I’m not sure if they’ll stop doing some changes here and there, but I guess it’s okay if they make an effort.

  3. Jeane says:

    This is a nice gesture and all, but you know they will still feature commercial adds with models that are still heavily photoshopped. Which is what 50% of the content of these magazines exists of anyway.

    Great marketing strategy though, making it seem like you really care without actually having to make REAL radical changes that might be financially risky. Oh well.

    • corny says:

      definitely marketing especially if they still show those touched up cover girl ads

  4. Hautie says:

    The need to do touch up work, to print ads was never the problem. Stray hairs and such are expect to be cleaned up before printing. Evening out colors and such.

    It was the photo-shopping off 20 pounds that was the problem. Or completely distorting the body to something no human could be.

    Example: Those Ralph Lauren ads.

    http://www.backstage.com/bso/news-and-features-news/skinny-ralph-lauren-model-fired-for-her-1004022518.story

    Then after it came to light that Ralph Lauren had not only photo-shopped off 30 pounds of that girls body.

    They fired her for being FAT! Ugh. The girl was ONLY a 120 pounds at 5’10!

    So it is nice to see that a major publication (Seventeen) to step forward. And make a public commitment to stop photo-shopping these girls to 90 pounds.

    • Jeane says:

      Like I said above, this does not mean that they won’t feature heavily photoshopped Ralph Lauren adds. They only agreed to stop photoshopping Seventeen photoshoots, but the majority of photographic images of women and girls in magazines are from commercial advertisements.

  5. Lucy2 says:

    Good for the girl who started the petition, and good for the mag-hope they stick to it.

    But an even better message would be “focus on how awesome I AM, rather than how I look in my jeans”. Baby steps, I guess.

  6. Sillyone says:

    I wish they would rid photoshop completely and let the world see what women/girls look like. Women/girls have blemishes, flaws, scars, stretch marks, cellulite etc. etc. Anyone that doesn’t believe that needs to hit a beach in Miami. Hell I left there feeling pretty damn great about myself.

    The magazines photoshop these women/girls so much they look Jessica Rabbit cartoonish. Granted Jessica was a sexy bitch cartoon but that is just it she was a cartoon.

    • Micki says:

      That would be great but I’m pretty sure that the half of the readers are going to slam s.o. because of some natural flaw(take the nose of Lea Michele) and advise scalpel… or dissapear altogether (take Ivana Trump’s bikini photos)
      The other half may cheer up indeed.
      If we don’t buy what the magazines are selling these images wouldn’t be there I’m afraid.

    • Pinky says:

      if that happened, and let people believe that not being perfect is normal or even good, nobody would buy anti-acne creams, anti-cellulite lotions, anti-dark circles makeup, diet pills and other products that pay to be advertised in magazine, and they are the ones who make this magazine exists.

  7. Zorbitor says:

    but mama dont taaake
    my pho to shop away-ay-ay

  8. SmokeyBlues says:

    Well Seventeen managed to ruin my self image when I was very young, glad to see some effort being made. I thought I was SO FAT when I was about 15. The fact is I just shot up to my adult height at 14 (5’9″) and felt too big for a couple years, before I adjusted to being tall. And the girls in seventeen, whom I idolized, we’re teeny and skinny and petite. I feel sad for my teenage self that I went to a fabricated image for role models. Anyone else have a similar experience as a teen?

    • Shelly says:

      Yes, me. I got taller early, too, and always felt “huge” even though I was actually skinny. I remember mags like Seventeen and Young Miss pretty much only having 5’0″ tall 90 lb models and feeling like I was some freak for not having that body type. Around 14 I started not eating which turned into 10 years of disordered eating hell.

      • SmokeyBlues says:

        Shelly I feel touched to know that because I did the same thing. I started starving and then, ten years later, ended up heavy as I thought I was back then. I still work on food issues, although my body image is much improved it can still be a struggle. I feel like much of it stemmed from getting tall early. I wish I knew back then that Amazins are Glamazons, and tall b***hes are hot!

      • Amelia says:

        Wow, it’s scary how similar this all sounds. I shot up at 13 and got bullied mercilessly for it. Cue ED.
        It’s kind of weird but good to know that there are so many people with similar experiences. I’ve seen your usernames about, but never knew this. Call me crazy, but one of the things I love about life is that everyone has their own little story about where they’ve come from. Makes us different ^^
        Back on topic, it’s good to see Seventeen taking the initiative and doing something about photoshopping. Wintour? Take note.

    • GrandPoobah says:

      I did not have similar body issues, probably because my mother was very much involved in keeping tabs on what I was reading and making sure I knew that everything on television, in movies and in magazines was for entertainment and was not meant to be a realistic portrayal of life-as it is nor how it should be.

      I had D-cup breasts when I was 13. No one in Seventeen had breasts that looked any bigger than an A-all of the fashion suggestions were for cute little tops that my boobs would never fit in.

      I’m African American-when I was reading Seventeen there was maybe one black girl in the entire magazine every month. They had no suggestions for how I could wear my hair. The darkest skin color was apparently “olive”. The make-up suggestions ran from “fair” to “olive” with no suggestions for brown-skinned girls.

      I thank my mother for never allowing me to feel badly about not being represented in that magazine and for keeping my expectations about myself, and the entertainment industry (which I now work in) realistic.

  9. Hip-ster says:

    They use perfect looking girls so photoshop isnt needed anyways. That girl has nice hair, skin, teeth, body, etc.

    Either way the magazine will still be full of perfection, will a sprinkle of fat, cellulite, “real” girls.

  10. MizzVJJ says:

    But there’s no money to be made off of HAPPY, confident, secure women!

    • Zimmer says:

      Excellent point!

    • Minty says:

      Exactly.

      Advertisers sucker us into buying their (often useless) products by making us feel insecure. I bet they were rejoicing after Photoshop was invented.

    • Maguita says:

      Wish some magazines were not sold to young Ladies at all.

      The ones that celebrate how to give proper fellatio to your man. The ones who push you on the sexual path to hold on to your man. And the ones who tell you how important it is to keep your man happy.

      What about a woman’s happiness? Even GQ, a man’s magazine, concentrates on how to keep a man happy.

      Not many are empowering women in making themselves happy, or even, how to make your man make YOU happy.

      Ladies under 18 should not be reading about how and where best to get down on their knees, and make a man happy.

      • Minty says:

        Yes, I think these magazines are an ugly reflection of society, at least in the U.S. where I live.

        Society teaches boys to become “their own man”, be independent (and selfish), carve their own identity and career.

        Society teaches girls that their value is primarily in their looks, not achievement. Their looks are necessary to get a guy, because their identity is tied to the man in their life, to their husband. They are encouraged to be agreeable and obliging or they will be called a bitch. Also, if a woman chooses to be single and/or childless, it’s implied there is something wrong with her.

        Goddamn, the world is full of mindf*ckery.

  11. Happy21 says:

    Now if only adult magazines would follow this trend.

    Its the ads anyways. Unfortuantely, the ads feature models so photoshopped they don’t even look human.

    Off topic (Kinda) question?

    What is a good magazine to read that has fashion, fun, good articles, etc. if you are over 28? I’m 34 and have been buying Glamour but the last couple of issues have me feeling like I’m reading Cosmo. I want something with brains AND beauty?

    • Shaishai says:

      Oh gosh, Happy, if you find out, PLEASE let me know!
      There were a few in the late 90′s that I loved.1 was called Maribella and one was called Frank and they were written for intelligent women and they were fun; not obsessed with what to wear. I loved their book, film and art suggestions. Guess what happened? Both folded in under 2 years. Sigh. I stopped reading Cosmo when I was 18 because it was insulting to my intelligence and the rest weren’t much better. I stopped reading women’s magazines all together years ago. I actually prefer to read GQ; their in-depth articles are usually very well written. And the occasional Vanity Fair or New Yorker article if its online. Otherwise, I’m more entertained online. I tried the online version of Jane but it seemed more about staff navel-gazing than actual content. And Jezebel’s ok, but sometimes too removed from reality in their views. Sigh all over again. Imma go read some Jane Austen to soothe my nerves.

    • RN says:

      Other than Marie Claire, I stopped reading them. I had a subscription to Glamour for almost 25 years, which I let lapse. The quality has declined greatly over the years. I also stopped getting Allure and Vogue.

    • padme says:

      I like InStyle for the fashion. It has tons of ads but at least it doesn’t have those idiotic articles that Cosmo has. For a celebrity mag I like People. It’s actually reputable and it always has interesting stories about murder mysteries and such.

  12. Veruca says:

    Wow! I mean, really, wow! I did the eating disorder thing for a long time. (Not the best years, believe me.) These magazines had a LOT to do with that.

    This is amazingly good news for the younger generation. Hopefully (however unlikely), other media will soon follow suit.

  13. Lisa says:

    I spent my preteen and teen years reading every magazine I could get my hands on. When I developed an eating disorder later, not once did anything a magazine published cross my mind. None of it. In treatment, nobody ever said 17 made them feel badly. It was always their mother, best friend, or some event that set things in motion.

    I’m not denying the media’s role in eating disorders and lowering self esteem by raising expectations to impossibly high standards. I see people have commented already saying these mags made them feel like shit about themselves. They’re no help, but whenever I see people linking e.d’s to the media immediately, it’s hard to support. They do big scare campaigns that fizzle out almost immediately.

  14. stop the madness says:

    more companies should stop the photoshop. models are already pretty and they don’t need photoshop. this could be a step in the right direction.

  15. Kim says:

    Lets get real people! If the women in fashion magazines looked like the average women we wouldnt be looking at these magazines. They are a fantasy. Any parent who doesnt teach their child that these magazines represent a fantasy like Disney princesses, Barbie, etc. is to blame.

    NEVER in my life have I looked at a fashion magazine and felt inferior because I know its not reality. These women are paid to be beautiful & create a fantasy in our heads.

    Anyone how thinks they dont measure up because they dont look like the women in these magazines is naive & lacking self esteem. And yes I get that teenage girls are fragile BUT I was a teenager once and my mom taught me these fashions are a fantasy. Girls need to be taught self esteem comes from within and its fun to look at these magazines but they dont represent reality.

  16. Melissa says:

    I applaud them for doing this. I mean, how much should a 16-yr old possibly “need” to be photoshopped anyway? My face, skin, and body were incredible when I was 16! (too bad I didn’t realize it!)