The Body Peace Treaty

Friday, July 13, 2012

Seventeen Magazine Seventeen Magazine (Joe Shlabotnik/Peter Dutton/flickr)

Dana Edell, executive director of SPARK, and Carina Cruz and Emma Stydahar, high school students and members of the SPARK movement, discuss their petition to encourage Teen Vogue to follow in Seventeen magazine's footsteps and issue a Body Peace Treaty.

→ Read the Letter from Seventeen's Editor in Chief Below


Dana Edell, Carina Cruz and Emma Stydahar

Comments [40]

Robin from NJ

I am a 59 year old baby boomer who remembers coming of age at a time when many young women rejected the constraints of fashion. My peers & I never wore makeup in high school, dressed for comfort not style & wore our hair the way it grew, naturally. As the mother of two college aged young women, I recall observing the increasing sexualization of even very young girls over the course of their growing up. It was a challenge to find non-suggestive clothing for them as tweens, & my husband & I have tried our best to educate them about the manipulation of their body images,self-esteem & overall appearance by the media. I feel so sorry for the young women of today. I was lucky to have grown up during a time when "fashion" was a thing to rebel against.

Jul. 13 2012 02:11 PM
Melissa from New York

These young women inspire me! They should be fighting back. Fighting back raises awareness and helps to empower other girls (despite what the magazines choose to do).

I've been working on this video project that I just released MonsY. I asked women in my life to be photographed by a professional fashion photographer without make-up, in just their underwear and a tank top, as they speak about their personal experiences with body image and media. The photos that appear in the video were not altered or touched up.

You can view and share your thoughts here:

Keep the movement going!

Jul. 13 2012 01:21 PM
PJ from NJ from New Jersey

Gary, to excuse this gross manipulation as a mere business practice is both intellectually and ethically deplorable. These magazines are not simply responding to the demands of readers. If that were the case, why is it that both anecdotal and statistical information consistently show that women have concerns over excessive photo shopping and view this practice in a negative light?

Advertising preys on the psychological hang-ups of people, finding what they hate about themselves or what they feel they’re missing in life and then convincing them that if they buy a certain product, they will magically transform and no longer have to live with their self-loathing or unfulfilled desires. To argue that magazines are doing this just for graphic design sake and that they don’t have an agenda is nonsense.

I don’t understand why women continue to buy these magazines. Maybe they do it with the hopes of finding that magic bullet that will alleviate those psychological hang-ups. Not being a woman, I can’t say. But if women (and men) continue to allow businesses to manipulate them and prey on their insecurities, they only have themselves to blame.

And considering your ‘liberal media’ comment, I take it you’re a conservative. And just like a typical conservative, you must introduce a racial element into the conversation to distract and cause strife (which is what you guys always say liberals are doing!!!). Your example of the white basketball player is ludicrous! ‘Unattractive,’ out of shape people, that is to say, NORMAL PEOPLE, are not upset because they don’t have role models on the covers of these magazines! They are upset because these images are false, idealized images of women. These idealized images then create psychological hang-ups for girls and women, who attempt to live up to these standards, and for boys and men, who then constantly desire idealized versions of women. This combination of neurosis really screws up relationships.

Jul. 13 2012 11:49 AM

Thanks to these young women for standing up for this topic. I also appreciated the woman who discussed the hypersexualization of young girls. To take it a step further, I look at Victoria's Secret ads and know who they are addressing. It is not me. I am a woman who needs a good bra, that looks nice and functions well,that makes me feel good about myself.

Jul. 13 2012 11:37 AM
Louis James Iocca from New York City


I've worked in video for years and have shot the Mercedes Benz Fashion Week runway shows multiple times. Invariably some designer will send a female model down the runway in a see-through top or one with a plunging neck line where the models breasts and nipples are clearly visible. A lot if not most of the models in these shows are extremely young, often 14, 15, 16, and 17 years old. As far as I understand it, it is completely illegal in the US to have someone under the age of 18 be asked and paid to expose themselves like this in public or in print as it would be legally considered child pornography. I can't say that these particular girls that were dressed this revealingly were not over 18, but sometimes it seems every single model used in a show was under 18. Print magazines, while they do not publish images that qualify legally as child pornography, they certainly seem to come as close as possible. I find this disturbing. If a girl is asked to pose that seductively, she should have to be over 18 at least. And never should a girl under 18 walk the runway in front of scores of photographers and videographers when her breast are exposed or are visible through see-through fabric.


Jul. 13 2012 11:11 AM
anna from tuckahoe ny

This project is very crucial to future generation.
As a 30 something African American mom with too
gorgeous little girls I am striving to combat all the
destructive images. I stopped wearing my hair strait for
them. I do remind them that they are beautiful everyday just
to combat the beuaty standard.
But listening you taday I will try to do that less and emphasize
there talents more. Not what they look like. you are not just doing this
for younger girls but there is a whole population of 30 and 40 somethings who are still struggling to think of themselves as beutiful.
Thank you and please continue to advocate for us.

Jul. 13 2012 11:09 AM
fuva from harlemworld

Mark -- wrong. There's a long, long history of whites propping up white athletic heroes in every sport. This has happened concurrent with periods of overt race hate and terror. Every sport has actively excluded blacks. Most have utlimately been unsuccessful. The campaign to populate the NBA with eastern Europeans and Asians, for example, is ongoing.

Gary,...*sigh*...your knowledge and understanding of the black experience is quite limited. You don't know. Worse, you don't know you don't know.

Jul. 13 2012 11:08 AM
Ellyn N. from Manhattan

I commend the girls for being brave and taking on the magazine industry. I read 17, Glamour, Cosmo and Mademoiselle in the 70's, when I was a teenager. I NEVER felt bad about myself after reading these magazines. I have very muscular legs and a huge butt. I never saw girls like that in the magazine but I never wanted to be stick thin or change my body in any way. I understood that it was fictional... models modeling. I think we need to raise our children to be nonconformists and independent minded individuals who are unafraid of not looking like anyone else, especially models. We, the parents, the aunts, uncles and grandparents, need to be the support and role models they look to. Magazines are money making ventures with deals with designers, manufacturers and conglomerates. I suggest not buying the ones that are unsupportive or offensive.

Jul. 13 2012 11:07 AM
Meghan from Jersey City

Such an important issue! These girls are so smart and should be commended for having the courage to stand up to mainstream teen magazines. Unless girls are exposed to an alternative to what they see on TV, in magazines, online, etc., everyday, they will continue to be brainwashed into popular culture's very narrow definition of acceptable female body types: We all must be tiny (yet somehow still voluptuous), have pouty lips, flawless skin, and straight hair, always be stylish and "sexy"...Given the countless figures, skin tones, and hair types beauty can take, perpetuating one "default" female image may be good for psychiatrists, but not necessarily for young girls' self esteem.

Jul. 13 2012 11:06 AM
Erica from Brooklyn

I gave up magazines for informative blogs and other internet sources. As a now natural curly haired woman of color, the CurlyNikki blog and was the first time I breathed a sigh of relief, finally seeing real women with similar struggles, questions and solutions about beauty, hair, health and life.

Jul. 13 2012 11:02 AM
Mia from Manhattan

One movie that tackles this issue is the documentary America The Beautiful:

Can't wait for the 2nd film to be released.

And what someone else said above is so true..... when you're in your teens and 20s, you find so much fault with your body, and when you get older, you look back and think "I was totally fine. What on earth was I thinking then?"

Jul. 13 2012 10:59 AM
Shana from Clinton Hill, Brooklyn

Seriously, complaining that a teen fashion magazine is focusing too much on looks and not academics! It's a fashion magazine. I read Seventeen, YM, Jane, Sassy and Teen Vogue when I was in high school and middle school, but my father also got me a subscription to National Geographic, Scientific American and U.S. News. I was encouraged from young to appreciate the fact that I looked different and would not look like the white girls in fashion magazines. It seems the problem is more about failures of parents and society as a whole. On top of all that, we do not have an anorexia/bulimia epidemic, we have an obesity epidemic. What does that saY?

There definitely needs to be more racial diversity in media in general. As a black woman, I find it strange strange that depictions of black people in media are more along the lines of Tyler Perry, something I have never ever identified with.

Jul. 13 2012 10:59 AM

This is a very important conversation to have,but equating this with the Penn State/Paterno moral implosion does not help.

Jul. 13 2012 10:58 AM

I've worked for fashion magazines as well, and also know they're "in business to sell periodicals." Regardless, any alterations other than technical color correcting are unnecessary for teen publications (adult magazines are fair game). If anything, making content and products more accessible to all girls will result in greater profits for everyone.

Jul. 13 2012 10:58 AM
MichaelB from m

The current caller is correct: it's about making money. How is the fashion industry "preying" on young women different than other industries preying on ALL consumers, young or old?

For example, Apple products: people (especially young folks) lined up around the block every time Steve Jobs sneezed. And still do. Same for movies and a whole host of things that they think will make them be "cool."

Jul. 13 2012 10:58 AM

Esthetic ideals cannot be lived up to by virtually anyone, and even those few who are genetically "blessed" (or perhaps cursed) by near esthetic perfection also get old and eventually stressed to see their beauty fade away.

We all have to accept ourselves as we are, try to improve where we can, but not reject ourselves just because we cannot live up to the images we are bombarded with.

Jul. 13 2012 10:57 AM
Amy from Manhattan

I remember a hair ad years ago that started with "You can have *every* hair in place--but if it doesn't shine, it isn't pretty." That encapsulates the whole model of these ads: No matter what you do or use, it's not good enough...unless you buy our product.

Jul. 13 2012 10:56 AM
Cathy Mc from W.Islip, NY

Please have the girls comment on the advertising catalogues for young women's fashions like FREE PEOPLE.

Their models don't only look like they're anorexic, they are entirely void of affect - they look like vapid zombies!

Jul. 13 2012 10:56 AM
MichaelB from Morningside Heights

What do the guests say to the idea that women's beauty and how it is prized is a universal character, for all time? It is NOT just OUR society and in our time.

The notions of beauty may vary, but the celebration and desire for it is universal.

Also, in much of the animal kingdom, the male is drawn to the female, and has to "convince" ("seduce" is too anthromorphological) and females in turn are highly selective.

In other words, where does actual nature come in to their positions?

Jul. 13 2012 10:55 AM

Fashion magazines are fun to me because I love fashion---creative, imaginative clothing, as art and design.
It shouldn't be about the models, but about the clothes. Models are skinny because they are human clothes-hangers. The "supermodel" phenomenon was catastrophic for the self-image of ordinary women. And the models, too, for that matter.

P.S. As an aside, the only model I remember from Teen magazine when I was young is...Whitney Houston!

Jul. 13 2012 10:55 AM
BK from Hoboken

As a father of two girls, here is my advice: don't read the magazines! Why is the one guest reading Teen Vogue as a 6th grader?
Have you looked at an Abercrombie and Fitch catalog? The guys in those magazines have more unobtainable bodies for young men than the skinny women in Teen Vogue. Anyone can lose weight and be thin- yet I go to a fairy hard core gym and even the guys working out every day can't get te 6 pack abs that the A&F models have. Why does this seem to affect girls' self esteem more than boys?
This is blown out of proportion. If they want a change, don't buy the magazine.

Jul. 13 2012 10:54 AM
irving from nyc

I applaud the young ladies activism.
I wish them luck getting major media outlets to change (not likely but worth the effort).
Another target for this type of activism could be reality tv--and most Tv.--which mostly encourages young. Women to use their bodies and sex as their most valuable asset.

The next step is to boycott these Mag's and their advertisers.

Jul. 13 2012 10:54 AM

Its not just young girls, its all women, all ages that feel
badly about their looks from magazines. The magazines make people
buy cosmetics, clothes, etc. Advertisers and businesses set these standards to sell goods. Its quite simple to see and not a conspiratorial view. It also develops the "cult of celebrity" which makes people care so much about celebrity gossip and not other hobbies, learning, developing, etc.

I have had problems dealing with signs of aging (crow's feet) in my late 20s, and I am so happy to see "real" photos
of celebrities with normal aging especially those who do not get work done (like Kate Winslet).

I also agree that people should focus much less on the outside and much more on the inside.

Jul. 13 2012 10:54 AM
Syd from NYC

What a great campaign. Why even dedicate so many pages to model images anyway?

In addition to subscribing to some teen magazines growing up (Jane and Sassy were more conscientious than the others...but went out of business), I used to subscribe to Rolling Stone magazine. After they did a huge spread of a scantily clad Britney Spears, I let my subscription lapse.

Jul. 13 2012 10:54 AM
Bill Haydon from Brooklyn

A very small point, is it possible to avoid using the name of a specific digital retouching program so much in this discussion? Photo retouching has been around a long time and using the word "Photoshop" is a little weird sounding to me.

Jul. 13 2012 10:53 AM
Amy from Manhattan

I think the reason girls & women keep reading fashion magazines even though it makes them feel bad about themselves is that they're supposedly telling them how they can look like the women in the magazines. Which of course involves buying the products advertised in those magazines.

Jul. 13 2012 10:53 AM
Bryan from New York

And when are we gonna see Zach Galifianakis on the cover of Men's Health? Really, find a real cause.

Jul. 13 2012 10:52 AM
Jessie Henshaw from way uptown

Well, there are the girls who do it for competition, and there are girls who do it for the pleasure.

I think women getting joy from how they dress as a self-expression are the distinct majority. The unusually pretty girls who get in a trap of public approval, and need to be told it's OK to just dress for how it makes you fee.

Jul. 13 2012 10:52 AM
fuva from harlemworld

If that young woman of color is depending on Teen Vogue (or any other mag not targeting persons of color) for validation, then she's exercising futility. POC need venues they control.

That said, i agree that excessive photoshopping is counterproductive and unnnecessary. STILL, everyone can't be a model -- however diversified the industry becomes.

Jul. 13 2012 10:52 AM

YAAAAY for these young women!!! And for young women everywhere, because of what they are doing!

Jul. 13 2012 10:51 AM
Gigi from NY

My older sister and I read all of the teen girl mags when we were growing up in the 70's and 80's. Of course, neither of us could ever have achieved the physical appearance/perfection of the girls in those magazines, but we were too young to realize that. Even then, media ruled.

Now that I'm in my 40's, and am genuinely overweight (but improving), it's made me realize all the emotion and time that I wasted back then...when my body was actually healthy, normal, and realistic.

Jul. 13 2012 10:51 AM
carolita from NYC

I so remember reading Seventeen Magazine when I was a teen, and finding all these articles about how to "fix" everything that was wrong with me. In particular, how to make my lips look thinner -- my lips were huge, and I'd read all these tips about how to 'fix' them. I'll never forget the day I read, in another magazine (years later when the tide had turned for full lips) a tip about how to make my lips look fuller! I felt so betrayed. I realized these magazines were fickle, and that I'd been a fool to turn to them for help with my self-image. I never ever EVER read glossy magazine anymore, unless it's for research. They make me so angry.

I always advice young women not to read them. I tell them to read RookiMag or TheHairpin, online, instead.

Jul. 13 2012 10:50 AM

I recall seeing these magazines in the 1970s (!) -- before PhotoShop existed -- when I was 15 and thinking "Why on Earth would I read this? It makes me feel inadequate. So to hell with it." Chuck it, girls!

Jul. 13 2012 10:50 AM
Alex G from NYC

Sounds like a fine goal to ask magazines to make this pledge. But isn't airbrushing and photoshopping a bigger problem in the ads than the editorial content? Have these activists pursued approached advertisers? Or asked magazines to not carry photoshopped ads?

Jul. 13 2012 10:48 AM
winkie from nyc

do they feel bad about their necks?

Jul. 13 2012 10:48 AM
Inquisigal from Brooklyn, NY

Gary, I think that perhaps the notion of manipulation of imagery was, or perhaps even still is, to sell more magazines, but in a time in which the consumer has more of a voice, as well as access to those who are making business decisions, those making those decisions need to be more accommodating to their desired audience or they will simply lose readers to other media; there are countless other blogs and niche digital-only magazines online, and with those options, younger readers are not going to have the kind of brand loyalty to Teen Vogue that us older folks did. And frankly, it's high time that these editors (and art directors) start listening to what their female audience and client base actually wants to see. While some aspects of fashion-oriented magazines are "aspirational," many girls (and women) get completely turned off when the models are always and only rail thin, and Photoshopped past the point of reasonable fixes. I personally can't stand to see females who's arms look like they'd snap in half if you shook their hand too vigorously, and I dislike that creepy, glowey brushed look so many of these magazines perpetuate in which no one's face is portrayed with any real form - makes the subjects look like robots.

I applaud these young ladies for bringing this issue to a larger forum. Though I am in a different age demographic, I also find myself getting irritated by the continued use of very young, super thin, white, heavily made-up models in advertising - especially when the age and body type of the model chosen isn't even really appropriate for the type of goods being sold in an ad (for example, there is a very expensive furniture brand that advertises in home decor magazines; they sell $20,000 couches, yet always feature a solitary 19 year-old-looking girl in their ads. I am always stumped by this, because it makes no sense in the narrative of the ad: who is this girl? A spoiled kid alone at her rich parents' apartment? A highly-paid escort of a rich, older guy with another apartment that houses his age-appropriate wife? I would much rather see a slightly weathered, but interesting-looking older person in those ads, who might get the narrative across of: "this is a beautiful couch: you earned it."). I am still stumped as to why art directors can't wrap their minds around the fact that really interesting faces and people, of all ages, could sell magazines or products. I am a photographer, and LOVE shooting multi-cultural, older or atypical looking people, and viewers often react so positively to these images. Art directors (and Hollywood) need to realize that their audience would still buy their products, and see their movies, even if they put in a more diverse cross-section of models and players.

Jul. 13 2012 10:38 AM
gary from queens

BTW Mark,

Your argument rests on the absurd idea that the white liberal MSM views athletic prowess to reside only among blacks. Is that why the networks compete to cover major tennis events, which is still dominated by whites?

Perhaps HBO knows that the american-centric tastes of US viewers would yield high enough ratings. I don't know. But to suggest that the level of sports coverage is based on such a retro idea as yours strains credibilty

Jul. 13 2012 07:15 AM
gary from queens

Mark, I agree that the media is race obsessed, but their narrative and agenda is a false one today, even though it was accurate 50 yrs ago.

What I mean is that there's another kind of "retouching" of reality that's going on, which has graver consequences for our polity, race relations, and history as a nation. It is a "photoshopping" that is encouraged by the liberal media, which falsely makes black people of renown to "appear poorer, tougher, blacker, and more victimized."

And as a result, says best-selling author, Jack Cashill in his July 10th essay, "The Real Price of Obama's Prevarications", "what Obama and his media enablers have wrought," is "a constituency more alienated and a country more divided than before the "historic" 2008 election."

Cashill discusses his 2006 biography of Muhammad Ali, "Sucker Punch", and the "manufactured autobiography, The Greatest: My Own Story", and the 3 dozen falsehoods in "Dreams From My Father" and observes:

The elite media have indulged Obama for the same reasons they indulged Ali. That indulgence allows them to assert their own virtue and revel in their own enlightenment. Largely controlling the information flow, they continue to produce -- fabricate if need be -- racial morality plays in which their guy triumphs over some frightful species of right wing troglodyte. They did it with Ali-Frazier. They did it with Obama-McCain. And now, dangerously, they are doing it with Martin-Zimmerman. That this reckless game playing helps convince black America of white America's villainy troubles them not at all.

Black NY Times book reviewer Gerald Early admitted to the falsehoods in Ali's book, but said "the story was metaphorically true."

Damage to girls' self image----by media manipulation of reality----is a social issue worth addressing. Maybe BL will also address its more worthy complement in politics and history?


Jul. 13 2012 06:43 AM

I think if the public really wanted to see more white basketball players in the NBA they would find some in a matter of months. But part of American racism is based around the idea that blacks are good at "athletics" and whites are good at "academics". Remember in the 80s when there weren't any white heavyweight boxers that anyone would take seriously? Everyone looked at white people like they were a race of wimps. Last ten years heavyweight boxing has been dominated by Eastern Europeans. Guess what happened? HBO stopped showing heavyweight title fights! Having the heavyweight division dominated by Ukrainians just doesn't fit American narratives of racial hierarchy...and if the media doesn't want to show white heavyweights they probably aren't keen to show black scientists either.

Jul. 13 2012 05:12 AM
Gary from QUEENS

In the 1990s, I used to work for Applied Graphics Technologies, a prepress service bureau. (Mort Zuckerman was the owner.) At the division where I was an operator, inside the Newsweek Building at Columbus Circle, we assembled for final press all the pages and covers for dozens of magazines, from Time and Newsweek, to Penthouse and Child magazine.

Most images in every periodical got altered in some fashion----either color correction to improve the image for print display, or the air brushing to improve someone's appearance. Altho most of the latter ocurred inhouse by the publication, before we received it. The only exception was certain products, which FTC rules proscribed any image alterations.

I personally don't prefer to see images altered, but the reason female images in magazines are altered to appear slimmer, sexier, younger, or yes, whiter or less "ethnic", is a business decision. They're in business to sell periodicals, and not to improve the self-image of females young or old.

I offer the following hypothetical. Suppose there was an organization called BSFE: "Bench-Sitter's For Equality." It was founded to lobby sports magazines to display more images of white basketball players who are not good enough to make the starting lineup. Their argument was that America's youth, particularly white boys, do not currently have enough role models that look like them to inspire them and improve their self worth as an athlete.

We would laugh and shake our heads at such an organization. Why are we not doing the same for SPARK?

I will be away at meetings when this show airs. But I hope to read some intelligent rebuttals when i return.

Jul. 13 2012 04:28 AM

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