7/12/12 | 302 views
A Child Shall Lead Them
We’ve got to hand it to Julia Bluhm.
The 14-year-old budding ballerina from Maine took it upon herself to lead a drive against retouched photos of young models in Seventeen magazine. After seeing how many girls in her ballet class were complaining that they were fat, she started an online petition asking Seventeen to print at least one unaltered photo in the magazine each month.
Now, she has a promise from editor-in-chief Ann Shoket—in the form of an eight-point Body Peace Treaty—that Seventeen will “celebrate every kind of beauty” and will “always feature real girls and models who are healthy.”
Ms. Shoket, who met with Julia and her mother in New York in late April, said the magazine never has and never will change girls’ body or face shapes in its pages, and that only minor things like removing flyaway hairs and wrinkles in clothing are retouched. Nevertheless, she said, Seventeen will be even more transparent about its policies, posting before and after pictures of anything that’s been retouched on its Tumblr page.
That’s quite a victory for Julia Bluhm, and for the more than 84,168 people who signed her petition after it was posted April 19. It’s a victory, too, for the many young women suffering from eating disorders and other body image fears. As one young petition-signer told The New York Times, she realizes that magazine images may be edited and manipulated but still can’t help but think, “Wow. I wish I looked like that.”
There’s no question that media depictions are hugely influential in shaping an idealized vision of what we “should” look like.
That’s a point that Catholic talk show host Teresa Tomeo makes in her recent book “Extreme Makeover: Women Transformed by Christ, Not Conformed to the Culture.” Whether it’s “body image, eating disorders and sexual objectification,” women are being hurt by the unhealthy messages they’re getting in the media and the culture, said Ms. Tomeo, whose syndicated show runs on Eternal World Television Network.
In her book, published by Ignatius Press, she details the eating disorder, marital problems and other personal crises she weathered, and said that she came to realize she’d been living distant from God and had accepted the current culture’s stereotypes wholesale.
The fact is, real life is enough of a challenge without the added pressure of a media- and culture-conjured standard of beauty.
And while we’re certainly not encouraging young people, or adults either, to abandon pride in their appearance and their physical health by overindulging in food and drink and adopting a sedentary lifestyle, we are encouraging an awareness that we are made in the image and likeness of God and our bodies are deserving of that respect.
Seventeen, which consulted with the National Eating Disorders Association and similar groups in putting together its Body Peace Treaty, took an important step in its vow to encourage girls’ confidence in themselves and to wave “bye-bye” to those nagging insecurities that they’re not good enough or not pretty enough—insecurities that are “holding you back from being awesome in the world.”
Author Tomeo, in an interview with Catholic News Service, encouraged girls to turn to the teachings of the Church. Using the words of St. Catherine of Siena, she said that by transforming themselves, women can change the culture: “When we are whom we are called to be, we will set the world ablaze.”
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