They Learned The Truth At *Seventeen*

They learned the truth at Seventeen
Now when they picture beauty queens
They’ve made the choice, and now they opt
For photos that aren’t photoshopped
The power of an eighth-grade girl
Reflecting the ideals of youth—
To take a stand and change the world
At Seventeen, they learned the truth…

They may still have ads with airbrushed faces
Those still come from other places
Desperate to maintain their pull
An image, unattainable
That calls and says “come be like me”
An artificiality
The ads aren’t what they seem at Seventeen

We need more people brave and bold
As Julia, fourteen years old,
Deciding that it’s up to me
To be the world I want to see
To shine a light when all is dark
Insist on truth, when all is lies
Sometimes it only takes a SPARK
To open up a culture’s eyes

In the small category of “News that makes you hopeful about the future”, I give you Julia Bluhm. (Seriously, go follow that link, read her impassioned blogging, and let it sink in that she is 14 years old. Then, look around the rest of the site and feel a bit better about the future.) Ms. Bluhm saw a problem in her school, a problem that reflected the greater society, and set about to change it. And succeeded. Via NPR:

Somewhere between school and her extracurricular activities, eighth-grader Julia Bluhm found time to launch a crusade against airbrushed images in one of the country’s top teen magazines.

And this week, she won: Seventeen magazine pledged not to digitally alter body sizes or face shapes of young women featured in their editorial pages, largely in response to the online petition Julia started this spring.

They don’t have complete control over the content of their advertisements, so there may still be some artificial women in Seventeen, but Ms. Bluhm should be proud and happy… which, by all accounts, she is.

For those who did not immediately recognize the song I parodied, I give you the amazing Janis Ian, and one of the best songs ever written:


  1. says

    Preachers of equality, they say believe in it so why won’t they just let us be……

    They say I can’t see you any more, baby, can’t see you anymore….

  2. bassmanpete says

    Yes a great song, and I don’t think she was an ugly duckling.

    Was TOGWT shown in the US? IMHO it was the best music programme on British television.

  3. A 'Nym Too says

    I adore Janis Ian. I first heard ‘At 17’ on the ‘Torch Songs’ episode of GayTimeTV (UK, BBC2).

    I emailed her, and she sent one straight back which amazed me in a “The internet is magic. It’s only 1998 but we’re living in the future” way.

    It’s a devastatingly accurate song (for those of us, with…), and your reworking of it is a great tribute to this kid.

  4. lcaution says

    Thank you – for the callout to two amazing teens from different times – and a wonderful albeit painful song.

  5. carpenterman says

    Now I’m going to have that tune stuck in my head all day.
    Seriously, man… you have got to start listening to more jazz.

  6. Cuttlefish says

    Dude, I have a fantastic jazz collection… all loaded on an iPod that no longer charges. Nothing quite like running to the Cellar Door recordings.

  7. Randomfactor says

    Absolutely love Janis Ian…was listening to her on the way in to work this morning. Had to wipe away the tears before going in from the parking lot.

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