Teenagers Carina Cruz and Emma Stydahar delivered a 28,000 signature petition to Teen Vogue today to express their distaste for the common magazine practice of airbrushing images.
A group of approximately 10 girls staged a protest fashion show outside the Condé Nast building in Times Square to deliver the petition. Smiling for the cameras, the teenagers walked up and down a makeshift runway (which consisted of a 15-foot long red carpet produced by one of the activists and rolled out on Broadway) holding placards like “Let’s get real – all girls are beautiful” and “Teen Vogue #KeepItReal.”
“I don’t think girls should grow up in a world where beauty magazines dictate they should have a low self-esteem,” said Emma Stydahar, 17, a high school senior from Croton-on-Hudson, New York.
According to Stydahar, 75% of girls get depressed within three minutes of shuffling through a beauty magazine’s pages because the beauty patterns they convey as ideal are unattainable.
“Images that have been photoshopped have a bad effect and can really hurt young girls. We’re looking for more diversity of girls and body types [in these publications],” added Stydahar, whose younger sister, Hanah, 14, was also at the protest and said she wants to follow in her older sister’s footsteps.
The girls were part of a similar fashion shoot outside the offices of Seventeen magazine in May, when a 15,000-signature petition requesting the magazine to promise one un-photoshopped spread a month was delivered to the magazine’s editor-in-chief Ann Shoket.
Julia Bluhm, 14, along with Stydahar and Cruz, is a member of Sparksummit, an activist movement demanding the end to the sexualization of girls and women in the media. Bluhm’s petition quickly gained support after the Seventeen magazine action and ended with more than 84,000 signatures.
In Seventeen’s August issue, the editor promised to limit photo-editing to things like stray hair and zits, but not bodies. She also said the magazine would post before and after pictures on the magazine’s Tumblr.
“We’re focusing on Teen Vogue now, and then we’ll see what happens,” said Stydahar.
To organize the action, Stydahar started a petition on Change.org, an online social action platform, with activist friend Carina Cruz, 16.
“They are one of the lead mags on teen fashion, and if we can accomplish something with them then hopefully we can keep going,” said Cruz.
Teen Vogue has an audience of more than 3.5 million readers, 93% of whom are female. Outside their offices on Wednesday, the makeshift photoshoot was meant to show the magazine what kind of girls they would want to see on the cover of the popular fashion magazine.
In an official statement, Teen Vogue said: “Teen Vogue makes a conscious and continuous effort to promote a positive body image among our readers. We feature healthy models on the pages of our magazine and shoot dozens of non-models and readers every year and do not retouch them to alter their body size. Teen Vogue pledges to continue this practice.”
The magazine’s adult-targeted inspiration, Vogue, announced in May that it would only use models who are aged over 16 years and who, based on the editor’s judgment, do not have eating disorders.
Stydahar’s mom, Sheila Kelly, 54, attended the protests and told the Guardian: “I think it’s wonderful what they’re doing. They’re constantly bombarded with images that are overly sexualized and unattainable, and that clearly don’t contribute to their self-esteem.”
Kelly was a feminist activist in the late 70s in Chicago, where she went to DePaul university.
“I think young women are very active again, and with social media you can get your message out much quicker,” said Kelly.