The Keep It Real Challenge was inspired by the kickass teen blogger Julia Bluhm, whose online petition took her to the steps of the Hearst building to protest Seventeen magazine’s use of airbrushed models. How mature is she? How media-savvy? The SPARK activist didn’t ask Seventeen to cease and desist. All she asked was that the magazine print one unretouched photospread per issue. Using her petition as a springboard, the Keep It Real Challenge is a social media campaign asking the larger pop media community to do the same.
Yesterday was a tweetfest that convinced Joanna Coles, the editor-in-chief of Marie Claire, and Lucky magazine to consider printing one unaltered photo per month.
Today we’re taking to the blogosphere. Making it personal. Trying to explain how a bunch of chirpy pictures can be so damaging. Even at my advanced age, when I absolutely know better. Have known better for a lot longer than Julia Bluhm’s been alive. Here’s the statistic that got me. “Twenty years ago, the average fashion model weighed 8% less than the average woman.Today that number is 23% less.”
We finally almost had our first female President. More than a few decades too late, if you ask me, but still. Progress. So why are our imaginary fantasy women shrinking? Penance? Punishment? A very creepy kind of wishful thinking?
I keep writing and erasing jokes. Good news, bad news: we’re going to starve models into extinction. Those personhood initiatives? A covert effort to produce the next generation of models–seeing as fully-gestated babies won’t be able to make weight. But they’re not putting my discomfort at a comfortable distance. Where we are on this as a culture is truly tragic. Saddest of all for me is knowing that all the intellect in the world, all the knowledge, isn’t always enough to beat back the bad feelings.
I was one of those smart girls. Smartass, even. Right up to that predictable point when I realized that smarts didn’t get you bupkis in the popularity sweepstakes. Not that I wanted to be popular or anything. I mean, hey, A student here: I knew about peer pressure. I’d been to assemblies about it. Written essays. But knowing something isn’t the same as feeling it. Of course I knew that no supermodel looked superglam and giddy every second of every day. It wasn’t enough to stop me from hoping that getting skinny would be the answer to everything that ailed me.
I was smart enough to read up on eating disorders. Smart enough to convince myself that if I only had four of the top five symptoms, I didn’t have one. So a lot of my life passed me by while I ate and dieted and gained and lost weight. Did it matter if Christie Brinkley weighed 8 or 88% less than me? On any conscious level, did I really believe that a skinnier me would suddenly sprout legs twice as long as my body? No. But it didn’t make me feel any better about the me I was stuck with.
These days I can almost pass for a body positive person. Which may be the best I can hope for as a woman in this culture. Amazingly, it turned out my friends and I had a lot to talk about when we stopped talking about how our diets were going. I stopped buying the magazines I thought were the guiltiest parties. But I can still stick my smart head in the sand. Until I got involved in this campaign, I’d been lulled into believing that ”good” magazines like Self and Women’s Health weren’t digitally altering their images in exactly the same way as the worst offenders.
For me, being an almost body positive person in a world where unreal women are the photoshopped ideal means not taking or looking at many pictures. Banning everyone from the wedding dress hunt because there really isn’t a dress for every woman and the me in any dress isn’t going to look like the me I imagine. Reminding myself that when I looked my best I felt my worst. Thanking my lucky stars that I finally grew bullheaded enough to make being happy my number one priority.
Would one unretouched photo spread in a sea of glamazons make much of a difference to me? Probably not. But it’d be a good start.
Jodi is a freelance writer and recovering academic with more enthusiasm for sports than athletic talent and a prodigious taste for the health food known as dark chocolate.