by Maya Brown
This past summer, fabulous SPARKTeam members Emma and Carina wrote a Change.org petition and staged a mock fashion show outside of Teen Vogue headquarters, asking the magazine to follow the lead of Seventeen and pledge to stop photoshopping the bodies and faces of girls in their magazine and commit to showing diversity in girls’ skin tones and body types. Unlike Seventeen, who hosted Julia Bluhm for at least an hour and eventually responded with a “Body Peace Treaty,” Teen Vogue invited Emma and Carina to their headquarters for a short five minutes.
Instead of a promise to let their readers know that their magazine would print diverse, un-retouched girls and models, the editors sent them away with an admonishment to “do your homework.” What’s more, they handed Emma and Carina a stack of Teen Vogues–some more than three years old!–with post-its marking the “real girls” in their pages. Each issue had 1-3 post-its pointing out a few pictures of girls of various ethnicities or disabilities. Though we absolutely love these scattered photos, approximately 1-3 examples per issue is not enough.
We were not impressed. Teen Vogue told us to do our homework, and we’re showing them that we’ve done it. We know a few diverse depictions of girls in their pages don’t come close to the thousands of images of unrealistically thin, white girls who all look exactly the same. Studies show that 81% of ten year old girls are afraid of getting fat! We’ve asked Teen Vogue to show us girls and women who look like us and they’re not listening. So we’re speaking louder. We’re sharing our research in a way that Teen Vogue can’t ignore.
As members of the SPARK team, we’ll be sharing our analysis of Teen Vogue issues from the past year. We’ll take post-it notes and mark each image we see of girls we consider diverse: girls with disabilities, with different body types, skin colors, ethnicities, or girls who just look like us. Then, using different colored post-its, we’ll mark every visibly retouched image of unrealistically thin, Caucasian girls or women. We’ll share our thoughts on the images and how the two types of images compare.
We’ll post a new video or blog post showcasing an issue of Teen Vogue every day this week. Then, it’s your turn! Find yourself an issue of Teen Vogue and do what we’re doing: make a video of yourself reading through the magazine, post it to our Facebook page, and then make a snapshot of the issue. Show the videos to your friends, and share the snapshots across every social media site!
We want to bombard Teen Vogue with so many numbers, so many images, that they can’t with a straight face tell us we haven’t been doing our homework. All girls deserve to be represented by the media, and if Teen Vogue won’t listen to the 36,000 plus people who have signed our petition, maybe they’ll listen to their own magazine—our to their advertisers. We’re asking Tampax, Neutrogena, and Clean n Clear to stand with us by refusing to advertise with Teen Vogue makes a public commitment to real, unretouched diversity. Help us show Teen Vogue and their advertisers that we’ve done our homework, and now it’s time for them to step up.