Sunday, May 6, 2012

Have You Heard of Julia Bluhm?

I'm a little late, but I would be remiss if I didn't give a huge shout out to an 8th grade girl making a big difference, Julia Bluhm. Julia started a petition at asking Seventeen Magazine to "give girls images of real girls." As her petition reads,
I’m in a ballet class with a bunch of high-school girls. On a daily basis I hear comments like: “It’s a fat day,” and “I ate well today, but I still feel fat.” Ballet dancers do get a lot of flack about their bodies, but it’s not just ballet dancers who feel the pressure to be “pretty”. It’s everyone. To girls today, the word “pretty” means skinny and blemish-free. Why is that, when so few girls actually fit into such a narrow category? It’s because the media tells us that “pretty” girls are impossibly thin with perfect skin. 
Here’s what lots of girls don’t know. Those “pretty women” that we see in magazines are fake. They’re often photoshopped, air-brushed, edited to look thinner, and to appear like they have perfect skin. A girl you see in a magazine probably looks a lot different in real life.

YES. This cause could not be closer to my heart. In my time in youth development, I have created several curriculum designed at teaching girls this very fact. There's no way around it, comparing yourself to images in the media becomes an exercise in self-loathing very quickly. Especially for young girls who don't yet have the media analysis skills to synthesize what they're seeing. Most images are so manipulated they become totally fake--no one is actually perfect, but magazines like Seventeen continue to promote the myth that some girls are.

But Julia has done something more than just get out a good message about the media. She's also affirmed another lesson that I strive to teach girls in my work: If you don't like the messages the media is sending, you have the power to do something about it. I talk with girls about how they can let their money do the talking (and not purchase magazines with heavy photo retouching or not support products that use unrealistic images in their advertising.) I tell them that they can write an email or letter to these magazines stating their dissatisfaction with what they see.

And now that we have Julia, I can show them in a very tangible way that what teen girls think and feel IS important and it CAN make a difference. Beyond making a difference by sending this message to the magazine industry, Julia is also setting an amazing example for other girls.

Feministing covered Seventeen's recent meeting with Bluhm, after which she said,
“The fact that Seventeen‘s editor-in-chief met with me in person proves that the voices of teen girls everywhere are getting through … While I would still change some of the ways Seventeen portrays girls, I’m encouraged that they’re willing to listen to me and the 30,000 people who’ve signed my petition. Seventeen‘s invited me to work with them on this issue, which means we girls — Seventeen’s readers — are finally being heard loud and clear. It’s really exciting.”
What an utterly amazing young woman! Thank you, Julia Bluhm!

Please sign her petition, and help her reach her goal.

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