How a 14-year-old girl stood up to the fashion establishment – and won

Seventeen magazine knew what it was up against and called for a truce, or in this case something the magazine’s editor calls the “Body Peace Treaty” — a pledge to never digitally alter girls’ faces or bodies and to use diverse models of different body types, skin tones and hair textures, among other promises. The pledge was not only the right thing to do, it was the smart move from a public relations standpoint.

The magazine had found itself the target of a petition on Change.org to “Give Girls Images of Real Girls!” Julie Bluhm, a 14-year-old from Waterville, Maine, started the petition a few months ago, asking Seventeen “to commit to printing one unaltered — real — photo spread per month. I want to see regular girls that look like me in a magazine that’s supposed to be for me.”

The petition struck a chord, not only with other girls, but with mothers and fathers, as well. As of this writing, more than 86,000 people have signed the petition. One mother who commented on the petition wrote:

I grew up reading “Seventeen,” and I spent a large part of my adolescence agonizing over the fact that I did not look like the models in magazines. Now, I am raising a daughter, who is the most perfect and awesome human being that I have ever seen. I want her to know that she is beautiful just as she is, because she is smart and funny and clever and talented, and that she does not need trickery or computer magic or expensive cosmetics – smoke and mirrors – to be “beautiful.” Our daughters are already perfectly lovely, just as they are.

Earlier this month, Ann Shoket, the editor of the magazine, announced her peace offering. The media loves happy endings, almost as much as it loves sad ones. Throw in a teen activist who stood up to the fashion establishment and you’ve got a victory that makes Julie the online organizing star of the moment. The magazine’s decision to give in to a pretty modest request and go above and beyond more than makes up for any negative attention received in the months prior. Bottom line: Seventeen’s brand comes out even stronger among its target audience of teen and pre-teen girls.

Seventeen listened! They’re saying they won’t use photoshop to digitally alter their models! This is a huge victory, and I’m so unbelievably happy,” Julie said on the Change.org petition page.

It’s also another feather in the cap of Change.org, which in the last year has seen high-profile petitions prompt Bank of America to back off a $5 debit card fee and grabbed headlines when the parents of Trayvon Martin started a petition asking for criminal charges to be brought against the man who shot and killed their son. That petition has more than 2.2 million signatures.

Of course, Julie’s success probably wouldn’t have happened without the backing of the advocacy group SPARK, which fights the sexualization of girls. Now SPARK and its teen activists are taking aim at Teen Vogue for the same reasons they went after Seventeen.

From initial reports, it sounds like Teen Vogue is taking a hard-line stand against SPARK’s demands.

Jezebel reports that the two teens leading the petition drive got an icy reception when they met with the Teen Vogue editors:

Emma says that the meeting was basically the editors telling the teenagers “we hadn’t done our homework, and that Teen Vogue is a great magazine, being unfairly accused.”

(It should be noted that when Julie Bluhm met with editors at Seventeen, there were cupcakes and a tour of the office. But Teen Vogue‘s published by a company often called Condé Nasty.)

The petition to Teen Vogue has 33,761 signatures. Would it really hurt Teen Vogue to head this petition off at the pass by taking a similar pledge as Seventeen?

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