It’s well known that most of the readers of fashion magazines don’t look like the images they see on the pages. Impossibly thin models with perfect skin appear in page after page, creating unrealistic images for young women who may make bad choices about their health trying to achieve the impossible.

What is not as well known is that the models who appear in those pictures are among the real-life people who can’t live up to the image. Even though they are already beautiful, special effects are used to make them look even thinner, taller and without any blemish.

It was those images and the damage they have done that inspired Waterville eighth-grader Julia Bluhm to write a letter to the publisher of Seventeen Magazine that has become an online petition. At the age of 14. Bluhm has become a leader in a national movement that advocates against the sexualization of women and girls in mass media.

“Here’s what lots of girls don’t know,” Bluhm wrote in her letter. “These ‘pretty women’ that we see in magazines are fake. They’re often Photoshopped, air-brushed, edited to look thinner and to appear like they have perfect skin

“A girl you see in a magazine probably looks a lot different in real life.”

These images, Bluhm wrote, are not just misleading, they can be hurtful.

“Girls want to be accepted, appreciated and liked. And when they don’t fit the criteria, some girls try to ‘fix’ themselves. This can lead to eating disorders, dieting, depression and low self-esteem.”

Bluhm offers a reasonable solution to the magazine’s publishers. In addition to the traditional photo spreads with artfully retouched images, she is calling for a single photo spread in each issue that shows real girls whose images haven’t been manipulated. It would provide young readers with a reality check to go along with the fantasy images peddled on the other pages.

The publishers should listen. A magazine geared to young readers has a special calling to be responsible in the images it exploits.

The company would be wise to listen to a smart customer like Julia Bluhm, who understands the dangers in what she is seeing and knows how to speak up about it.