It’s been a little over two months since awesome SPARK blogger Julia Bluhm and I walked into our cafeteria during lunchtime with my laptop, the April issue of Seventeen Magazine, and a few questions. We interviewed 15 seventh and eighth graders at our school, as well as our guidance counselor about the messages Seventeen sends to kids for our video.
Everyone had something to say about it. One of the girls, Courtney, who has been described by thegloss.com as “the awesome girl in plaid” took one look at the issue and frowned, saying “Well this is all just a bunch of butts!”
Fourteen-year-old Erica notes, “This makes me feel really bad about myself,” and 13-year-old Lauren, (who The Gloss described as “one astute girl”) noted how ironic Seventeen really is, “This magazine has some good self-confidence stuff… [but] it also contradicts itself [with] very, very sexist advertisements.”
Julia and I weren’t totally shocked by the awesome responses we were getting from our classmates, although most of whom we’d never talked to about this issue before. Then, I got the idea to interview some boys and we really started getting some amazing responses.
I first handed the magazine to Alan, who flipped through pointing out girls who looked obviously Photoshopped. “No girl is that symmetrical!” He told me. The other boys at his table agreed. Adam and Justin both stated, “Too much makeup!”.
The part that inspired the title of our video, “If You Don’t Like Something, Change It” was when we handed the magazine to Katie, a 14-year-old friend of ours. She flipped through the magazine and gave us some pretty shocking answers.
“How does this make you feel?” Julia asks.
“Fat.” Katie responds, almost immediately.
I flipped to a picture of Kate Moss, the one that the boys had said was obviously fake.
“Do you think this girl is real? Do you think she’s Photoshopped?” I asked.
“Well… do you think it’s okay to Photoshop things?” I asked her.
Katie paused. Then she answered.
“Yeah, I guess.”
“Why do you think it’s okay to Photoshop?”
“I don’t know… if you don’t like something, you can just change it.”
Julia and I were a little shocked with that response. We knew that this magazine affected girls that we knew, but to have such a close friend of ours tell us that Seventeen made her feel fat, and that it’s okay to digitally alter appearances to fit the media’s standard of beauty deeply upset me.
There were certainly moments of filming, and definitely Youtube responses, where I felt seriously upset. As a 13-year-old, I’m not used to getting serious, hurtful troll responses on-line. But there were also moments that made me feel like the hours of filming, editing, posting, blogging and talking about the video were totally worthwhile.
My favorite part of the whole video is the end, about 13 minutes into it, when I ask a group of seventh and eighth graders, “Do you think normal girls look like that?” “No!” They say in unison.
“Do you think they should?”
“Do you think that they’re Photoshopped?”
“What do you think about Photoshop, should it be allowed?”
These aren’t actors, people. These aren’t feminists, or activists. These are 12, 13, and 14 year-old kids who know the dangers of Photoshopping magazines and aren’t afraid to tell the world about it. What amazes me is that these kids aren’t national celebrities. Now that Julia has gained so much fame for her awsome Seventeen Magazine petition, people tend to forget the other people involved. It’s not just me, it’s not just the amazing SPARK team, it’s also the kids who took the time to be in our video, to go out on a limb and sacrifice part of their ridiculously short lunch block (seriously, it’s only 18 minutes) to talk about an issue most adults don’t feel comfortable confronting.
If that’s not awesome, I don’t know what is.
Two months later, the Seventeen petition has more than 82,000 signatures. I’ve watched our YouTube video broadcast on ABC Nightline and on websites like The Gloss and upworthy.com. Julia and I were interviewed about it on Maine Public Broadcasting Network Radio and National Public Radio, and will soon be a lead story in Teen Voices Magazine… and now it has over 12,000 views on Youtube.
Two months ago, we’d made a video. Now, we’ve made a difference.