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Girlfriend releases body image policy online

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Girlfriend magazine won the government’s Positive Body Image award for Media and Entertainment in 2012 for their efforts in portraying images of young women that are inspirational and truthful. In a world where young women are still constantly receiving an influx of negative images of bodies such as super skinny fashion models and skin perfected by many hours working on Photoshop, it’s important that magazines like Girlfriend impose a strict policy on the images they portray. And Girlfriend does just that: its body image policy is forward thinking and transparent.

Recently, this policy was released online. This means that more girls than ever can now easily find out about what Girlfriend is showing in its photos. The release of the policy online was due in part to Jessica Barlow, former Lip writer, and creator of The Brainwash Project and Brainwash Magazine, as well as DearHolly. Jessica’s work is heavily involved in getting images out there that will inspire girls instead of make them feel uncomfortable and body conscious. She approached the editor of Girlfriend and asked them to put the policy that they’d have in place since 2006 into the online sphere. Girlfriend magazine thought it was a great idea and immediately released it online.

I had the chance to ask Girlfriend editor Sarah Tarca about the body image policy and the new release of it online.

Tell me a little bit about the history of the body image policy at Girlfriend - when did it start, how is it actioned in the magazine, why was it formed?
Girlfriend instigated its body image policy in 2006. As a brand we have always championed teen causes and know that our readers are smart and switched on. This generation expects to be heard, and as a magazine we’ve always given our readers a place to voice their concerns, and are quick to respond to and action their feedback. The need for a body image policy became apparent through this feedback, but Girlfriend took it one step further, by also creating our “reality checks” at the same time.

Girlfriend’s reality checks are found throughout the magazine, and even on our cover. They disclose whether an image has – or hasn’t been – retouched and are also used as a media literacy tool so our readers can understand just how much goes into creating a “perfect” image. They will say things like ‘it took four hours, 189 shots and a professional hair and makeup team to get this one photo’. They are also used to indicate when readers, not models, are used in our shoots – which they are in all but one of our fashion and beauty shoots. In this way we aim to get the best representation of our readers and they know that they can all participate in their favourite magazine irrespective of size, shape, ethnicity or sexual orientation. Everyone is welcome at Girlfriend and this is the culture we are continually creating. You can find our reality checks throughout the magazine and an explanation on what they mean on our contents pages. Our body image policy is distributed internally and given to all staff including our pre-press department who are all across our stance on retouching. We all work together to make sure the guidelines are followed each month.

What do you think the most important part of the policy is?
It’s most important to me that we continue to be transparent with our readers as this builds a trust and loyalty between us. Our readers come to Girlfriend because they know we have these policies in place and that we’re honest with them about what goes into creating an image. We’re the only teen mag in Australia that does this, so it’s important to our readers to know.  It’s also really important that we continue to use readers of all shapes, sizes and ethnicities as it really helps our readers understand that “normal” is a myth and that all body shapes should be celebrated.

How did the policy move to the online world and why? What involvement did Jess have in this?
We have always been really open with our readers and send out our body image policy regularly to schools and students wanting to know about it, as well as to work experience students (of which we have three a week). Jessica contacted me suggesting that it would be great to have it online so as to be accessible to more people. I agreed it was a great idea, and so it went up!

What do you think about Girlfriend’s move to publish its Body Image Policy online? What do you think of the policy itself? (You can check it out here)

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