Girl power, meet your new heroine.
A young teen from Maine, ticked off by flagrant Photoshopping in magazines, has spun her criticism into a crusade. As a result, she's led an influential, industry-altering crusade.
Fourteen year-old Julia Bluhm started a petition on Change.org against altered photos in Seventeen magazine. Within days, her petition had more than 84,000 supporters. Within a month, Julia and her mom were invited to New York to meet with Seventeen's editor in chief. Within reason, a commitment to change is now in place.
Seventeen calls the truce a "Body Peace Treaty." Starting with its August issue, the magazine promises not to doctor girls' body shapes or face shapes. It also vows to share raw images from photo shoots on the magazine's Tumbler blog so readers can follow how photos are retouched during the editing process.
I believe it's important to note that Seventeen is not promising to cut it out. It's promising to cut back on retouching. Top editor Ann Shoket writes that the magazine will merely clean up "a few messy details" such as altered backgrounds, errant bra straps, and untucked blouses.
The magazine noticeably dodges whether it will continue to doctor other imperfections. Will it amp up dreamy complexions, intense eye colors and abundant hair that doesn't exist in the natural form? Body and face shapes are easy for any magazine to control: simply hire the shapes that you want. The question is, are other Photoshop fabrications still fair game?
Young girls have long been influenced by images in magazine. The magazine industry has long been split on the subject of aggressive retouching. What's at stake are truth, transparency and the delicate self-image of developing teens.
This issue may affect a young woman in your life. I know it hit me as a teen. Growing up in rural Indiana, a Seventeen magazine from the local grocery story was a real treat. I bought into the silly notion that the models on the pages were perfect and that my own image in the mirror did not measure up. As a small town girl with no business acumen, I was too naïve to realize that the images were manipulated by big city publishers to sell dreams.
There are two key influencers at play here:
1) Julia Bluhm, and
Julia's role is obvious. Her crusade led to a magazine's commitment to change. Your role may not seem so clear. You have an equal opportunity through websites such as Change.org to join others who are now trying to influence additional magazines to follow suit.
Or perhaps you could take the advertisers to task. The vast majority of models in magazines appear in ads selling makeup, clothing, perfume, hair products and diet aids. These advertisers often use aggressive, even egregious digital alterations to push their products. Have you noticed that some celebrities are almost unrecognizable in advertisements due to heavy-handed Photoshopping?
Are you ready to lead a crusade to influence these practices? Girl power could use an honest boost.
Follow Connie Dieken on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ConnieDieken