Teen Vogue readers Emma Stydahar and Carina Cruz recently launched a campaign on Change.org to petition the magazine to use “real girls” in their images. Their petition, titled “Teen Vogue: Give Us Images of Real Girls!”, already has over 34,200 supporters.
Girls fight magazines over toxic beauty
Stydahar and Cruz, friends from New York, are campaigning against what they see as distorted beauty images that tell girls “you are not skinny enough, pretty enough or perfect enough.” They accuse Teen Vogue of using software like Photoshop to enhance photos in order to create unrealistically flawless girls.
The Teen Vogue campaign follows in the footsteps of a similar one involving Seventeen magazine. In April, 14-year-old Julia Bluhm used Change.org to petition Seventeen about its retouched photo shoots. After 84,000 supporters signed, she traveled from her home in Waterford, Maine to Manhattan to meet with editor-in-chief Ann Shoket. Bluhm hand delivered the petition with the request that Seventeen use at least one natural photo shoot in each issue. The meeting resulted in a “Body Peace Treaty” and a masterful PR move on the part of the magazine.
In its August issue currently on sale, Seventeen boldly announced a pledge to never retouch photos in order to alter a girl’s body or face shape. The magazine already had that policy in place, but now it could leverage public approval.
Teen Vogue fights back
Bluhm and her supporters were ecstatic over their success. The seeming victory inspired Stydahar and Cruz to take on Teen Vogue in their own Change.org campaign, quickly gaining signatures. They also arranged a visit with the magazine’s editors but were in for a surprise.
Whereas Seventeen had been gracious even after a mock fashion show the girls had staged near its headquarters, Teen Vogue was frosty. Two editors met with Stydahar and Cruz and chided them for launching their campaign before contacting the magazine. They spread out a stack of past issues with sticky notes marking photos that supposedly belied the girls’ claims. The photos, however, reportedly featured girls who were all ultra-thin black models. This was hardly a realistic portrayal of their readership or of teens anywhere.
The encounter started an Internet firestorm with supporters denouncing Teen Vogue for its treatment of Stydahar and Cruz. The magazine fired back with its own assertion that the magazine makes a continuous and concious effort in promoting a body image that is positive amongst the readers. The magazine goes on to say it features healthy models on its pages and that it shoots dozens of nonmodels as well as readers every year and dosn’t alter those photos at all.
Fake beauty takes a beating
If this is true, then perhaps even reader models are being hand picked for their skin color and size-2 appeal. Many experts agree that unrealistic magazine images are toxic to a teen’s self-image. Psychologists specializing in eating disorders have long pointed to media influence as a direct contributor to the development of the disorders among children and teens. For example, many girls and boys report beginning to starve themselves as young as seven in order to look like the ideal teen.
The Teen Vogue campaign is part of a backlash among women readers against the supermodel ideal. Both Vogue and Glamour have publicly promised to feature more realistic women and to refrain from digitally altering body size. Apparently, more people are waking up to the realization that reality is beautiful, after all.
Rebecca is a health and beauty blogger, writing on acne products that work and organic beauty products.