Last week, after receiving a petition signed by over 84,000 people, Ann Shoket, the top editor of Seventeen magazine, made several promises through a "body peace treaty." According to the treaty, Shoket and Seventeen magazine will reserve Photoshop for stray hairs, clothing wrinkles and blemishes. Image-altering software will not be used to change the shapes of bodies or faces. Shoket said that when staff members do manipulate images, they will post before and after photos on Seventeen's Tumblr page. Through the "body peace treaty" Shoket has committed Seventeen to always feature healthy girls and models regardless of clothing size. She says that the magazine has never changed the shapes of bodies or faces in the past and does not intend to do so in the future.
It's exciting to learn that current and future Seventeen readers will not be negatively impacted by digitally altered images of impossibly thin young women. Congratulations to Seventeen on their renewed commitment to health, and congratulations to 14-year-old Julia Bluhm, who presented Shoket with thousands of signatures from people who support a commitment to healthy images. "Girls want to be accepted, appreciated and liked," Bluhm said in an editorial posted on change.org where the petition signatures were collected. "And when they don't fit the criteria, some girls try to 'fix' themselves. This can lead to eating disorders, dieting, depression and low self-esteem. Seventeen listened. We are sparking a change."
I have never been skinny, slender or thin. Like all teenagers, I struggled with self-esteem when I was younger. I read Seventeen and other similar magazines. I remember wishing I could be thin and blemish free like the girls on the pages of the magazines. I idolized the beautiful young women in their stylish outfits who seemed to be having fun no matter where they were. One day, my daughter will also want to read similar magazines. Seventeen's promise to publish photos of healthy girls is more important than the magazine's commitment to use image-manipulating software selectively. Some models featured in magazines are severely underweight without digital enhancements. I don't want my daughter to idolize young women who are so thin that they are unhealthy. I want her to know that healthy is not only beautiful, but beneficial.
I hope my daughter never feels like she needs to "fix" herself. I would also like to set a good example for her so that in addition to aspiring to be like the young women on the pages of the magazine, she will see me as a role model. For that reason, I recently made a new commitment to become healthier in my own life. It is my hope that other magazines will follow Seventeen's lead regarding showcasing health instead of unattainable ideals of beauty. It is also my hope that parents across the United States will make a new commitment to show their children what true beauty comes through healthy eating, active lifestyles and quality time together.