The Mirror Column One: The Photoshop Problem

It is common knowledge that the images in those glossy fashion magazines are retouched and edited without a second thought. If readers didn’t know how much Photoshopping went into the fashion spreads, it became pretty obvious once Vogue China cut off Doutzen Kroes’ leg and Vogue Russia cut off Natasha Poly’s arm earlier this summer in a Photoshop job gone wrong In the past, people have been content to let the magazines zap zits and crop away, but two teens are trying to change that.

Julia Bluhm teamed up with SPARK Movement—a girl-power group whose aim is stop the sexualization of women—and petitioned Seventeen magazine to feature unedited, real girls in their magazine. She wanted Seventeen to place 1 Photoshop-free fashion spread in the magazine, so that girls across America can feel better about their bodies.

Bluhm’s colleague Emma Stydahar, who spearheaded a similar petition to Teen Vogue, told the media that 75% of girls feel badly about themselves after just three minutes flipping through a magazine. Seventeen responded to Bluhm’s petition—which had around 85,000 signatures—by placing a “Body Peace Treaty” in the August 2012 issue. The “Body Peace Treaty” stated that the magazine would “Never change girls’ body or face shapes,” be “totally up-front about what goes into [their] photo shoots,” as well as “help [girls] make the best choices for [their] body” and “give girls the confidence to walk into any room and own it.” But, after the treaty, the magazine said that they felt they had already been upholding these standards. The magazine did not agree to feature unedited fashion spreads.

Teen Vogue’s response was less promising. According to the SPARK Movement website, the magazine met with the protestors for “less than five minutes” and ignored their request to talk about Photoshop. Teen Vogue claims that they are “Open to reader feedback and feature dozens of non-models and readers every year and do not retouch them…we will continue to show real girls on the pages of our magazine.”

As a subscriber to both Teen Vogue and Seventeen, I can sadly say that I understand where these girls are coming from. While the clothes are pretty and the models are gorgeous, after reading Teen Vogue, anyone who isn’t a six-foot-tall supermodel with an unlimited budget is going to feel bad. Seventeen is a much better read—it features real girls of all sizes modeling fashions that are affordable for everyone. The “Body Peace Treaty” is a step in the right direction. If Seventeen, which has a monthly circulation of 2,033,300, can make a fraction of its readers feel beautiful, it is doing something right. Teen Vogue’s response, on the other hand, disappoints me. This magazine reaches the household of over one million girls a month and the girls who see these magazines and want to look like the cover stars and models who grace their pages. Those fashionistas should be able to open the magazine and see girls just like them smiling up from the pages.