Julia Bluhm might seem like the average 8th grader in the eyes of the public, but once you get a chance to listen to what she has to say you realize her voice represents women of all ages and walks of life.
She has begun a petition on change.org that is pushing to have Seventeen Magazine offer one unaltered photo spread a month. The goal of the petition is best summarized when she says " I think we should all be able to recognize our own beauty even if we don't look like the models in the magazines because that isn't what beauty is limited to." I got the chance to talk to Julia about the petition, being a ballet dancer, and other topics that are of major importance to the younger generation. Being beautiful equates being confident and happy with who you are, which is something every girl should remember and the mission of Julia's petition.
DM: First off if you can just introduce yourself and give us a little background on what it is you're doing?
Julia: I'm Julia. I'm in the 8th grade and I am a blogger for Spark Summit. I started a petition to make Seventeen Magazine to do one unaltered photo spread a month. The photoshopped images that often are in the media can be really hurtful to girls for their body images and how they feel about themselves, it can lead to bad things like eating disorders, dieting, depression, and low self-esteem.
DM: What exactly are you asking Seventeen Magazine to do when you say unaltered images? Are you asking for the cover photo to be unaltered?
Julia: It can be inside the magazine. We're starting with baby steps, we hope it will influence other magazines and grow into something bigger. Right now we're just asking for one photo spread somewhere in the magazine.
DM: Why Seventeen Magazine when there are other magazines geared towards the younger demographic?
Julia: Seventeen Magazine is actually doing a lot to help girls with their body image because they know it's a big issue. They started "Body Peace" where they have blogs about feeling good about your body image and feeling good about yourself. So I thought Seventeen Magazine might want to take it a step further and use some pictures that aren't photoshopped because they are already doing so much to make girls feel good about themselves.
DM: So you have heard about their Pretty Amazing contest?
Julia: Yes, I have. That's really good because it's a contest for girls to show off their accomplishments and skills, not just focusing on their looks.
DM: Have you heard anything from Seventeen Magazine?
Julia: We're emailing out about the petition and we're getting a lot of people to sign it. Now we're going to email the Editor-in-Chief about our petition and we hope that as we get more signatures we'll get a response.
DM: Once you do reach the goal on the petition...
Julia: We'd want to have a meeting with them or have them think about what our proposal is.
DM: You are 13 years old how does it feel that so many people are agreeing with what you are saying in the petition and signing it?
Julia: It's really exciting. I've had girls come up to me at school and tell me "I heard about that petition you started; I'm going to sign it". It makes me feel very good, even if I'm living in a small town I feel like I'm starting to make a difference.
DM: How long have you been working with Spark?
Julia: For like a year now. I started last Spring, I'm a blogger along with other girls all over the country. It's been really great. We have meetings with the Spark coordinator and the other girls and we discuss a lot of topics. It's been a learning experience.
DM: On the Spark website it describes you as a feminist and that you've been working with those goals in mind for a few years. How long and in what ways?
Julia: I've been blogging with Spark for a year and before that I was involved with Hardy Girls. I know a lot of Hardy Girls coordinators and I learned a lot from them, that was probably what got me so interested in being a feminist.
DM: What interests you the most about Spark and all these organizations?
Julia: First off I am a teenage girl so I know how it affects people like me and my friends. I felt like I can be the one to step up because I know from first hand experience what it can do and how it can make girls feel. I've always been interested in doing something to help people and I thought this was a great opportunity.
DM: You are a ballet dancer. Do you think that this particular creative outlet has helped you understand feminist issues a little more?
Julia: Yeah, I think it has. You always see ballet dancers that are skinny, but there are a lot of dancers who aren't super skinny and are more muscular, like contemporary dancers. It helps myself to stay driven, confident, and healthy.
DM: What are the bucket lists of changes that you'd like to see the world embrace?
Julia: I'd love to see the media break down some of the boundaries they've put up. For instance, how a beautiful girl is considered, in the media, only as skinny, blonde hair, a narrow category that very few women fit in to. I would like to see more diverse pictures of women of all shapes and sizes. I feel strongly about it being a teenager, since it does affect my friends and me. I also have a lot of adults that are backing me up that help me out.
DM: How do you think that the younger generation can get involved in supporting topics like this and the prevention of eating disorders, depression, etc.?
Julia: I think that they should learn about the topics and be able to look at magazines and instead of feeling bad because they don't look like those pictures, they should recognize they (the magazine) are fake and I'm not. I should be proud of my own beauty because I'm not edited by a computer and I don't need to be edited by a computer to be beautiful. I think we should all be able to recognize our own beauty even if we don't look like the models in the magazines because that isn't what beauty is limited to.