I learned about 14-year-old Julia Bluhm at Create With Joy’s Inspire Me Monday. Julia prepared a petition through Change.org: “Seventeen Magazine: Give Girls Images Of Real Girls!” The petition requested that Seventeen magazine print one unaltered photo spread per month.
The petition had over 84,000 signatures, and convinced Seventeen Magazine to “not alter the body size or face shape of the girls and models in the magazine and to feature a diverse range of beauty in its pages.” Here’s a New York Times article telling more about the changes being made by Seventeen Magazine: “Seventeen Magazine Vows to Show Girls ‘as They Really Are.'”
Now there’s a new petition through Change.org asking Teen Vogue to “follow Seventeen’s example and pledge not to alter any model’s body or face and to celebrate beauty in all its forms.” I signed the petition. I hope you do, too!
The Importance of Helping Girls with Their Body Images
Here are some frightening facts about body image from Do Something: “11 Facts about Body Image.”
As a competitive figure skater for fourteen years, my daughter, Christina, experienced first-hand the body image ideals propagated for figure skaters. As a pairs skater, my son, Will, also saw what the pairs girls and other figure skaters went through. My whole family was shocked and saddened to see how many young girls had distorted body images and how many developed eating disorders as a result. We were lucky that Christina had a healthy enough self-image that she didn’t develop an eating disorder.
From the time Christina was little, we tried to encourage the attitude that our daughter was beautiful for who she was as a person. We were thankful that most of Christina’s coaches through the years were careful not to encourage eating disorders. But that isn’t the case with all coaches, and it’s probably inevitable for girls to be exposed to some negative attitudes about body image in activities like dance, figure skating, modeling, and acting.
Even Christina had a skating judge (at the World competitive level) tell her to do something about her vitiligo (areas of her skin without pigment). If you’re familiar with vitiligo, you know it’s difficult or impossible to change. Fortunately, Christina has an amazingly positive attitude about her vitiligo (as does her husband).
At her blogs Christina Chitwood Performance and Fit Body Full Life (which Christina co-authors with her husband), she uses her training and experiences to help others live healthy lives and have healthy attitudes toward performance and life in general. For females who are drawn to performance, it takes a very careful balance if they want to do what they love and stay healthy at the same time.
Girls want to be accepted, appreciated, and liked. And when they don’t fit the criteria, some girls try to “fix” themselves. This can lead to eating disorders, dieting, depression, and low self esteem.
I’m in a ballet class with a bunch of high-school girls. On a daily basis I hear comments like: “It’s a fat day,” and “I ate well today, but I still feel fat.” Ballet dancers do get a lot of flack about their bodies, but it’s not just ballet dancers who feel the pressure to be “pretty”. It’s everyone. To girls today, the word “pretty” means skinny and blemish-free. Why is that, when so few girls actually fit into such a narrow category? It’s because the media tells us that “pretty” girls are impossibly thin with perfect skin.
Here’s what lots of girls don’t know. Those “pretty women” that we see in magazines are fake. They’re often photoshopped, air-brushed, edited to look thinner, and to appear like they have perfect skin. A girl you see in a magazine probably looks a lot different in real life.
Use Photoshop with Care
Photoshop can be wonderful for removing unnecessary distractions from photos. Seventeen Magazine still plans to use it for “messy details” like flyaway hairs and wrinkled clothes. But beyond that, Photoshop can become very dangerous.
To see just how unreal the images of models in magazines are, check out this 2006 Canada commercial for Dove:
Here’s a parody of Photoshop that’s gone viral on YouTube this year. The video says a lot. “Fotoshop by Adobé”:
If you’d like to know more about the Fotoshop video, here’s an interview with the filmmaker: “Meet the Mind Behind the Going-Viral ‘Fotoshop’ Video” by Annie Tomlin at Bella Sugar.
True Beauty Lies Beneath the Surface
What I hope we can all encourage in young women (and people of all ages):
“Beauty is a Light in the Heart” Word Art Freebie (without watermark)
“Beauty is the Illumination of Your Soul” Word-Art Freebie (without watermark)
Let’s work together to help our daughters – and the daughters of the world – have healthy body images!