Written by Anthony Moujaes
No touch-ups. No alterations. No Photoshopping. Julia Bluhm, a 14 year-old UCC member from Waterville, Maine, wants women's magazines to publish photos of females as they are.
One of those magazines was willing to listen.
A member of First Congregational UCC, Bluhm recently met with Seventeen editor Ann Shoket and toured the offices in New York after her online petition went viral this spring.
"We talked about how important it was to show women as human beings," Bluhm said.
In the August issue of the magazine, Shoket writes that the publication will feature one unaltered photo per issue, and the staff signed a "Body Peace Treaty" in which promised never to alter girls' face shapes and body types. In an effort to increase transparency in the image editing process, Seventeen said it will share the original and altered photos on its Tumblr blog.
That's a pretty impressive victory for a young lady who started her image campaign at church. Blum first presented the issue at First Congregational UCC during a Children's Sunday service, where youths deliver messages to their church family. Bluhm used that forum to speak about her petition idea. "She’s very articulate and very bright," the Rev. David Anderman said of the 14 year-old.
Bluhm's online petition at change.org, which started April 19, now has more than 85,000 signatures. In an early July update after Seventeen promised to publish one unaltered photo, Bluhm wrote: "This is a huge victory, and I'm so unbelievably happy. Another petition was started by SPARK activists Emma and Carina, targeting Teen Vogue and I will sign it. If we can be heard by one magazine, we can do it with another."
A ballet dancer, Bluhm knows about the stigmas on female body types, and magazine outlets that alter the images to make models look flawless aren’t helping the issue.
"There’s a standard where you’re supposed to be pretty thin," Bluhm said. "Models are tall and thin, and it’s a disappointing standard. But (society) is starting to become more modern and accepting of different body types."
Bluhm volunteered to write the petition after she attended a SPARK Movement summit with about 20 fellow bloggers to discuss media issues. On its website, SPARK describes itself as “a girl-fueled activist movement to demand an end to the sexualization of women and girls in media.” And for as much hype as the story generated, it got results because it was a topic that mattered to a wide audience.
"I think there are people out there who agreed with me," Bluhm said. "This affects everyone in some kind of way, and some people can relate to it."
"I didn't realize (the impact) until it already sank in," she said. "It’s funny when I see myself on TV."
Bluhm also likes public speaking and recently talked to a group of 90 girls about why Photoshopping is bad in society.
So what’s next for Bluhm? "I'll keep blogging about things in media that need changed," she said. "There are mixed messages that can be confusing … On one page there's an article about how to love your body, and the next page has a diet plan."
Read Bluhm's blog at SPARK Summit.