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