What Was Missing From Youth Group Body Image Pep Talks

Julia Bluhm, center, has raised a stink about doctored images. (photo: guardian.co.uk)

Julia Bluhm, a 14 year old from Maine created a petition asking Seventeen magazine to commit to running one unaltered–“real”–photo spread in each issue. She brought a copy of the magazine to school, where, at lunch, she showed it to people and asked them to sign if they agreed.

She has gathered over 45,000 signatures.

Julia told the New York Times:

“I look at the girls, and a lot of them, like, they don’t have freckles, or moles, anywhere on their bodies,” she said. “You can’t, like, see the pores in their face, they’re perfectly smooth. Their skin is shiny. They don’t have any tan lines or cuts and bruises or anything like that.”

These ordinary features of human flesh, she said, can be disguised with makeup and lights. “At the same time, they can’t cover up everything,” Julia said. That leaves only digital retouching.

Editor-in-chief at Seventeen, Ann Shoket, admires Julia even as she’s understandably annoyed to have her magazine singled out among all the glossies that celebrate unreality.

There have been no promises about publishing an unretouched photo spread.

When I was 14, I read magazines uncritically and prescriptively. What’s worse–

“…the church had nothing to say that helped; by my lights, there was little difference between Christians and non-Christians in attitude toward food, bodies, and dieting. I never heard the ‘make your body perfect!’ message that screamed from every billboard and every TV commercial soundly refuted by some good theology, which it could have been.

Yes, there were Bible verses hinting at the “fleeting” and “deceitful” nature of “external” beauty, and Brio magazine was certainly better than Seventeen, but something was still missing. I’m still not sure what that ‘something’ was.

PoweredByGirl.org has this great thing where people can deface magazine covers. I am helpless to resist posting this one.

But when I read about Julia Bluhm, I feel like there is that ‘something': she is taking a stand against the machines that manufacture discontent.

Maybe that was happening, too, when I was 14, but I don’t seem to remember it. I remember being told that condoms didn’t really prevent HIV. I remember being told that my body was a source of temptation to be covered. I remember being told that what was ‘inside’ was more important than what was ‘outside.’

But that it was good by virtue of being made by God? That it was not the enemy (or at least the opposite) of my soul/spirit? That it was not to be feared?

That I don’t remember.

What do you remember?

What is the ‘something’ that has been missing from Christian (esp. evangelical) body image pep talks?

Beauty Redefined: You Are Capable of More Than Being Looked At

Recently I was delighted to learn of the excellent work that twin sisters Lindsay Kite and Lexie Kite are doing through their nonprofit, Beauty Redefined.

From their website:

“Beauty Redefined is all about rethinking our ideas of “beautiful” and “healthy” that we’ve likely learned from for-profit media that thrives off female insecurity. Girls and women who feel OK about their bodies – meaning they aren’t “disgusted” with them like more than half of women today* – take better care of themselves. With obesity and eating disorders both at epidemic levels, this point is crucial!”

Lexie and Lindsay are working on their Ph.D.s in communication, studying the representation of women in popular media. Their website is fascinating–exploring everything from Photoshop to Victoria’s Secret to racism in the pages of Vanity Fair to how “fat” isn’t really the point. And their passion for redefining beauty comes from personal experience.

Check out their website! You won’t be disappointed.

Have a great weekend!