Since the first-ever UN International Day of the Girl Child in 2012, the UN has drawn our attention to a variety of topics affecting girls around the world. While some issues affect certain parts of the world more than others, it’s important to remember that domestic issues deserve your attention just as much as global issues.
This year, the UN has chosen to spotlight girls’ empowerment with the slogan “Digital generation. Our generation.” which acknowledges the reality of girls today. This slogan is why your children need to know about Julia Bluhm: In defence of teenage self-esteem, she took to the digital realm to ask major media outlets to change their photoshop practices. Julia’s story is a prime example of how the digital age has made advocacy more accessible for kids and teens to be heard and influence change.
So who is Julia Bluhm?
Julia Bluhm is a teenage ballet dancer and body image activist. At age 14, she successfully convinced the editor-in-chief of Seventeen Magazine, an American magazine for teenage girls, to feature images of real girls and healthy models without digital manipulation. To capture the attention of Seventeen, Julia collaborated with a friend to create a video showcasing the honest feedback of their classmates to the immaculate portrayals of teenage girls and women inside the magazine. The video was posted to an online platform that enabled the collection of petitions endorsing her request for Seventeen to give girls images of real girls by having at least one spread free of digital enhancements each month.
When it came to the issue of body image and self-esteem, these were issues that were pertinent to herself and the entire generation of young girls she’s growing up with. Julia wasn’t sure that she would successfully change the behaviour of a mega-media outlet like Seventeen, but she also asked herself: They do so much to promote self-esteem for young girls, so why wouldn’t they consider this request?
The petition for change yielded over 86,000 digital signatures - a clear call to action that Seventeen could not ignore. Julia wasn’t one voice. She demonstrated that she was part of a huge choir that was so loud that other media giants, including Teen Vogue and even retailers like H&M, took notice. Julia’s campaign provided hard evidence of what teens all over the nation really wanted.
So what does this mean?
In 2023, the internet will be the ripe age of 40! And even though social media and other digital platforms can’t boast of such maturity, every child today lives with these things deeply embedded into the fabric of their everyday lives. Their reality is a genuinely digital age with ultra connectivity and powerful devices which means that they will need all the help they can get to navigate this brave new world. Though Julia’s story is one that demonstrates the power of the internet to amplify a voice, it’s worth noting that the campaign’s success can also be credited to nuggets of good judgment behind the scenes. Julia chose a credible platform and made a request that was both reasonable and feasible. Her communications were polite, respectful, and presented her case in the best possible light. Rather than keeping abreast of the latest developments in technology, it’s helping to develop sound judgement and respect that kids need us most.
This week, I leave you with these words from Julia herself: