When we took up women’s mags everything changed
It was different back in year seven when none of us really read magazines like Cleo or Cosmopolitan. The girls in my year at my all-girls college were just like me: we didn’t wear makeup, we didn’t obsess over clothes, and we didn’t judge others based on appearance so much.
Most of us were just disappointed that there was no playground or school oval we could access at lunchtime. It was a year of big transitions, certainly, but it was also the year that I would miss the most during the remainder of my time at high school.
All too soon we became addicted to magazines like Cleo and Cosmopolitan.
Most of us wanted to be more grown up than we were so we didn’t read Dolly and Girlfriend for very long, a lot of us bypassed them altogether. By year nine no one else was caring that there was no oval – it was all about the newest type of mascara, foundation, hairstyle and appearance. Distinct groups were formed which mirrored how well the girls in them adhered to the beauty norms dictated in the magazines.
The popular girls were the ones who wore the most makeup, bragged about hookups with boys, and wore the most fashionable clothes. They were also the nastiest when it came to commenting on the looks of others. I remember one instance on free dress day when one of their members came to school wearing the wrong type of pants. They refused to let her sit with them at lunchtime because she was ruining their look.
It sounds ridiculous now, but when the culture bred by women’s magazines is your daily reality, it’s hard not to get sucked in and think that it is anything but normal.
The magazines inspired us to compete with each other, and the competition was anything but healthy. As a freckly girl with pale skin, pimples and braces for a time, I struggled to match my appearance to those of retouched models in the magazines. All the girls at my school were either trying to look beautiful like the girls they saw in magazines and advertising, or they were doing their own thing and being bullied and excluded for it.
By the time I finished high school I’d had enough of magazine culture. I now know that my appearance reflects nothing about the person I am. Yet due to being so largely influenced by magazines in my teens, I still have the body image and self-esteem problems that got progressively worse the more magazines I read.
A few months back I heard about a teenage girl in the U.S who managed to convince Seventeen Magazine to stop digitally altering the appearance of girls within their pages and I was ecstatic. If someone so young could initiate such a big change and actually make a difference in the U.S, then surely the same thing could happen here, I thought. Once I realised that I could do something to make magazines like Cleo and Cosmopolitan listen, I jumped online and started researching.
I got onto Change.org and created a petition asking Cleo Magazine Australia to print one unaltered photo spread per month, and to put a disclaimer on any image that has been digitally altered such that the appearance or shape of a person has been changed.
I decided on Cleo because it was the most popular magazine amongst my friends and I growing up. I also think that it would be really good to see a magazine that originated in Australia lead the way on body image for the rest. Once one magazine takes a stand and decides to do this, it will be much easier to get other magazines on board, particularly large ones like Cosmopolitan.
I’m asking them this because I don’t think magazines should be allowed to present girls with images of women that are impossible to attain – it’s setting readers up for failure. Lots of girls are unaware that images in magazines are photoshopped, and even if they realise they don’t often understand the extent to which photoshopping occurs.
I wish that magazines like Cleo would respect us as readers and tell us when photoshopping occurs. It’s not a bad magazine, and I’m not trying to victimize it. I wanted to start my campaign with an Australian magazine and one that I read a lot as a teenager. I love the body-positive editorial content often included in Cleo that tells us to love our bodies the way we are. But I don’t understand how I am supposed to believe such positive editorial content when the magazine behind the words is digitally slimming down and smoothing out the appearance irregularities in the all the people they feature on the pages.
Please get behind me and support my petition on Change.org. It’s something small that we all can do to help so many girls feel more comfortable in their skin and proud to be themselves.
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