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14-year-old inspires mag's airbrushing ban

  • Seventeen Magazine releases new 'Body Peace Treaty'
  • A petition started by a teenage reader inspired the move
14-year-old inspires mag's airbrushing ban

The battle of the airbrush is nothing new. This 2009 Life & Style boasted un-retouched pics of a body-confident Kim Kardashian.

Seventeen Magazine is making its message clear: We celebrate girls, "just the way they are." The popular magazine is releasing a "Body Peace Treaty," a pledge to its readers to minimize the use of digital retouching in its photos, and champion a diverse range of sizes and appearances. 

For many readers, the publication's "treaty" is more than a message, it's a victory. Julie Bluhm, a 14-year-old activist involved with the SPARK Movement, has been petitioning for months for Seventeen to address concerns about digital retouching. Over the last two months, girls have lent their support by the thousands -- as of now, more than 84,000 signatures have been added to Julia's petition. Seventeen Editor-in-chief Ann Shoket met with Julia and her mother in April, and in May, the two hand-delivered the petition to the Seventeen headquarters. 

"Seventeen listened!" Julia said, after hearing the news of the treaty. "They're saying they won't use Photoshop to digitally alter their models! This is a huge victory, and I'm so unbelievably happy."

Read more: To airbrush or not? Should beauty magazines go bare? 

In the August edition of the magazine, the Body Peace Treaty appears as part of the monthly letter from Shoket. "Recently I've heard from some girls who were concerned that we've strayed from our promise to show real girls as they really are," the letter reads. "Like all magazines, we retouch images ... but we never alter the way the girls on our pages really are." Shoket continues on the subject of transparency, and encourages readers to investigate behind-the-scenes footage and pictures from photo shoots on the magazine's Tumblr. 

The treaty itself includes positive-message mainstays like "We vow to help make your life amazing," "We vow to always feature real girls and models who are healthy," and the assertion that the mag's retouching procedures "never have, never will" alter body or face shapes. There is also a side-by-side comparison of a digitally altered photograph and the original, with only a few hairs, folds and background details tweaked. 

According to Shoket, the entire Seventeen staff signed the treaty, so in effect, Bluhm has a few dozen more signatures to add to her list. But the fight is just beginning for Bluhm and her friends -- she may have Seventeen on her side, but some of her fellow activists are already targeting another big glossy. 

"Another petition is being started by SPARK activists Emma and Carina, targeting Teen Vogue and I will sign it," says Bluhm. "If we can be heard by one magazine, we can do it with another. We are sparking a change!"

What do you think of the "Body Peace Treaty" move? Would you sign Bluhm's petition? In the larger view, how can we help teens contend with the images broadcast to them through magazines and advertisements? 

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