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Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Teen Girls Choose Reality Over Photoshop, Normalcy Over Skinny, Skinny

Julia Bluhm and friends protesting Photoshopped images used by Seventeen Magazine
 The gap is widening between women who are obsessed with appearing like the latest stick insect models/celebrities and those who, realizing this is a psychological illness, are pushing back against the ethic of uber skinny and anorexic is beautiful. Teens, electing to go with the normal look are fighting back against magazine artistic directors and editors and winning because it's all about market share and the magazine industry, feeling its losses doesn't want to lose any more.

First, 14-year-old Julia Bluhm petitioned Seventeen Magazine, the nationally distributed young woman's magazine, to publish one un-retouched photo in each issue to show how photoshop creates the fake image of perfection. The response to Bluhm's petition was overwhelming. Over 84,000 signed her petition, many signifying their disgust with the faux beauty standards young women are held to and can never attain.

Seventeen, fearful of losing readership, came out with a pronouncement in its August issue. The Editor-in-Chief vowed that the magazine will not Photoshop their teen models' faces, shapes and body sizes. Furthermore, they assured that they will diversify to normalcy with different body shapes, races and hair textures. Hell, this I have to see. Seventeen has been amongst the worst of its breed. At thirteen, I recall feeling dismayed perusing the glossy pages styling the sleek, sassy and "all that" young women. I stopped buying the magazine because as an overweight chub, I knew it was hopeless; I would never, ever look like those fabulous "creatures" responsible for countless wet dreams. Of course, in those days there was no photoshop, but there were starvation diets, air brushing, heavy makeup, clothing effects and lighting techniques to make one appear thinner.

Julia Bluhm
Julia's petition on Change.org is to be viewed as a win for the "little people," and a loss for the fashion industry and its lackeys in waiting, the print/advertising/old media companies who do NOT COMPREHEND THERE IS A CHANGING PARADIGM. You see, the whole world is watching, but it's just not TV they're watching. IT'S THE INTERNET, driven by mobile devices. Online Change.org, the petition site has brought more than a few companies to its knees. Witness Beef Products, Inc., and the petition that went viral "prohibit pink slime in the schools." It's about being connected and sharing through Twitter, Facebook and a hundred other sites like Reddit, Tumblr, Pinterest, etc. About the only ones who will be watching TV in the future will be shut ins or those who are incapable of getting up off their couches because of extreme obesity. This is an interactive world. People want to be engaged and involved. TV/cable doesn't provide enough stimulation, interest or satisfaction, unless you are comatose.

So the petitions are coming fast and furious and the next one has been engendered by Carina Cruz and Emma Stydahar. They are petitioning Teen Vogue, the young girl's fashion giant to do a reveal. Whattttt? They intend to influence the fashion industry and advertising industry to create a new ethic: reality. That means "chunkier" teens, ethnic teens without photoshopped noses, waists, limbs or complexions. Will pimples be seen? Ah ha! Probably not, but realistic beauty photographed without digital enhancements would be a step in the right direction. So "beauty scouts" will have to scour the countryside for the normal teen who is naturally gorgeous. Perhaps, duh, the other teen girls' magazines will then be forced to follow these two biggest magazine publishers in the country or suffer boycotts, perhaps, if these young girls joined by their peers remain firm in their intentions that real beauty be revealed.

Of course, there is an irony in all this. Beauty standards are by definition opaque and subjective. Three hundred years ago, Peter Paul Rubens painted nude chubbettes that would be characterized as obese today. Were their round faces and double chins beautiful? That class of folks believed them to be so because uber thin meant starvation and poverty. Poverty brought malnutrition and malnutrition death. Poverty was ugly, hence skinny was UGLY. My have things changed! Now, anorexics near death are beautiful. It is a ridiculous ethic that causes soul torment for the normal weight teen girl who knows something is wrong but the illusion masks what it is.
Peter Paul Rubens, The Three Graces, 1635, The Prado.  Today these women are obese. Then, they were perfect.
 Carina and Emma have broken through the cloud confusion with their petition when they state, "These photoshopped images are extremely dangerous to girls like us because they keep telling us: you are not skinny enough, pretty enough or perfect enough. Well, neither are the girls in the pictures! As teen girls, we know first hand how hurtful the photoshopped pictures in these magazines can be for our body image and self-esteem."  They reach the heart of the matter; the illusion is toxic, perhaps most importantly because IT IS an illusion that the industry refuses to own up to. Well now, Seventeen has. My fear is that such "clever" folk in the fashion industry will tweak the good will of these girls and come up with an even more egregious way to thinnize their models...

I signed the petition. It's a matter of pride with me; I'm writing a book which will touch upon such issues because I have wrestled with faux reed thin images in media my entire life. I crowed when Liz Taylor became fat in her 40s and 50s. I leaped for joy when other celebrities went "natural" and "let it all hang out," not going the slash and burn way of all celebrity flesh. I applauded when Diane Keaten, et. al were subtle about their pulls and cuts. My heart broke for Cher, immobile and "statuesque." There is something obscene about the fillers after a while that make one's face look bizarro: Joan Rivers, Sally Jessy Rafael, Cher (google them before and after; you'll see what I mean).  They're worse than photoshopped images. Oh, God. I do hope that editors are not going to be paying for plastic surgery for their models. They're too young for that, aren't they?

Peter Paul Rubens, Venus at the Mirror, 1615, The Goddess of Beauty and Love, today is a fatty. Then 99% of the men thought her ravishing. Today, not a Young Turks idea of a trophy wife.
As we age, all of us fall apart; gravity aging impacts every aspect of our lives and health. It's anathema and to my mind, if teens are taking a stand, then so should the boomer generation with its penchant to "defy aging" with botox, restaylene, rejuven, radiesse contorted cheeks/lips/foreheads, desperate lap bands, exercise obsessions and the frantic search for youth elixirs. There is no such American ethic as growing old gracefully. Old is skeletal horror and death, yet it is the inevitable reality which none of us escape and even the young may be struck down to the skeleton if fate has her way. Yet the media and medical industrial complex indulge our fears and fantasies with easy remedies, panaceas and surgeries to delude us to keep our wallets open and eyes shunted away from the impossible final result of life in a grave ending.

For one day, just one, we should have an appearance blackout, a moment of silence to reach our inner being and trounce appearance, the dividing line of bigotry between life and death. We need to be brought into psychic or spiritual unity to realize this overriding sick cultural ethos. If there is one thing that traditional media, TV, film, magazines, the fashion industry and its hand maidens including the medical industrial complex have done in their profit motive wickedness, on a basic level, they have divided us, woman against woman, teen against teen, man against woman (in addition to divisions of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc.). They've done it by disseminating cultural misinformation and ethnic bigotry and racism and agism and sizism. And don't say that these "isms" have stopped; they haven't. Political correctness is but a surface pandering blind while in secret groups, such discrimination is even worse and the residual effects are experienced daily. The media power structure is still white and fascist and sadly mostly overweight males who fantasize and want the undemanding Barbie type woman doll, an engineered image reinforcer for all time.

The beauty images these young women are calling down exemplify the end result of this power structure as clearly outlined in The Beauty Myth. It will take constant battering down of this structure, again and again. The older generation may be too brainwashed, too far gone to help. Elites make too much money by lifting up these unattainable images heavenward away from those whom they perceive to be the stupid, envious masses that they intend to enthrall and prey upon with their products that promise happiness, youth, beauty at the expense of the human soul. Only the young can beat these powers down and wipe them out as the paradigm shifts and the divide widens. I, for one, hope I live to see the day when their power is finally shuttered and we lift up the importance of spirit and soul over the material flesh.

These young teens have taken an important first step toward that eventual end. Why not help them drive the spear deeper within the heart of a magazine and its attendant empires.

If you wish to sign the petition, you can find it here.