Seventeen Finally Responds To Teen Protest, Swears Up And Down They ‘Celebrate Girls’

[UPDATE: Seventeen's editor-in-chief refuses to admit that the publication even uses airbrushing]

Considering that 14-year-old feminist Julia Bluhm started her protest against Seventeen magazine’s photoshopped images two weeks ago, the publication is responding pretty late. The teen’s request that Seventeen publish one un-photoshopped spread a month has quickly caught on with a new astounding 43,000 signatures, nearly doubling in a day. Granted, her protest didn’t really start to pick up in those thousands of signatures until earlier this week, but even from Tuesday to Thursday is the equivalent of six months in Internet time.

The Hearst publication doesn’t seem to have any big reveal to makeup for their silence though, instead swearing up and down that it “celebrates girls” and “a diversity of size” in their issues.  A spokesperson for Seventeen released the following statement to Nightline:

“We’re proud of Julia for being so passionate about an issue — it’s exactly the kind of attitude we encourage in our readers — so we invited her to our office to meet with editor-in-chief Ann Shoket this morning. They had a great discussion, and we believe that Julia left understanding that Seventeen celebrates girls for being their authentic selves, and that’s how we present them. We feature real girls in our pages and there is no other magazine that highlights such a diversity of size, shape, skin tone and ethnicity.”

“Real girls” and “diversity of size” isn’t quite what I remember from my own junior high flip sessions. But it’s been awhile since I perused those pages, so I picked up the latest May 2012 issue, the very issue that Julia upheld in her mock photoshoot, to see if times have changed. Turns out, Seventeen is right. The magazine does “highlight” fuller shapes — but only in the context of making them smaller. Although the newest issue does appear to have some girls of color, girls with fuller shapes are presented in contexts like these, in which young readers are told that they could “look a size smaller!”

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Another girl with a larger than size two frame is depicted below a “flatten your tummy!” exclamation, encouraging girls to invest in a wide ruched wasitband that “eliminates a muffin top and slims your lower belly!”

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The rest of the magazine predictably looks like this — white, skinny, and lots of blonde hair:

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If encouraging readers of un-model-esque proportions to “flatten,” “slim” and “look a size smaller” counts as celebratory, then Seventeen clearly doesn’t have any kind of a grasp on girls’ “authentic selves.” Keep counting those signatures, Seventeen.

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    • mm

      Wow, how patronizing is their response?

      “They had a great discussion, and we believe that Julia left understanding that Seventeen celebrates girls for being their authentic selves, and that’s how we present them.”

      Maybe it wouldn’t be if it weren’t so blatantly untrue with all of the images above. Luckily, I think this young girl is smart, so whatever pandering they did to get her to shut up probably won’t work. If it does, please keep talking about it! Seventeen totally helped me develop an eating disorder growing up. It really sucked to be a little chubby with acne while flipping through pages full of said skinny blondes above. So I got skinnier than them and got prescription acne meds which peeled my face off for weeks, and finally at 21 see how stupid it is to make yourself sick just to look like photoshopped images. I don’t really care about it in actual fashion magazines (Elle, Vogue, etc) but in a magazine targeting young, impressionable girls it’s disgusting. More disgusting is the fact that they’re not even addressing it, they’re brushing her off. That’s pretty low, Seventeen.

      That blonde girl looks EXACTLY like a blonde girl who graced many a Pac Sun ad in Seventeen when I was younger. They could be sisters the resemblance is so striking. Sadly, they probably aren’t and it just proves that the magazine isn’t changing anything at all. I just hope girls aren’t looking at her for hours wishing they looked like that like my friends and I did. UGH okay I’m done ranting now =)

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    • Alina

      Oh this is riduclous. First, the demand for “real girls” is condescending – the models pictured above look quite healthy and beautiful. The one in the navy bathing suit has a lovely curvy hourglass shape that most skinny girls would envy.

      As for the clothing tips – are you really pretending that most women don’t want to flatten their tummy? Should Seventeen Magazine pretend all girls are sticks with flat stomachs when in reality most of us aren’t and maybe want to hide our chubby tummies?

      I’m very short, but when I see a magazine giving clothing tips to “Elongate your figure!” and “Look leggy!” I don’t get outraged that they’re implying my short stocky bod type isn’t ideal.

      As for Julia and her supporters: The best way to stick it to Seventeen is to stop BUYING it. It is a business like any other and will respond seriously to decrease in profits, not some girl and her blog. Hit ‘em where it actually hurts.

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    • Helen

      Alina,

      First, the point this article writer is making is that the ‘real girls’ featured in the magazine are only in the context of weight loss articles – implicit in this is that this ‘real girl’ needs to shrink her waist, or look thinner.

      And most importantly, this kid’s aim isn’t to ‘stick’ it to them. She’s clearly (and impressively) aware of the power magazines holds over young womens’ self-perception. I’m not suggesting Seventeen is responsible for the rise in eating disorders, youth suicide or teen pregnancy, by ANY stretch of the imagination, but currently, they’re part of the status quo, when they have the incredible opportunity to be part of the solution.