About-Face has been honored to serve girls for nearly 20 years, turning education around how media & misogyny affects girls and their sense of self into activism.
About-Face began with activism — a poster, actually — and a lot of passion. We took on the media for their constant barraging of women with images of unrealistic body ideals before the ideas of “body image” or “body positivity” were on most peoples’ radars. Since then, we’ve expanded our mission — and our approach — beyond the concept of body image to make sure girls can navigate our toxic cultural landscape and develop the mental health and self-worth they need to reach their full potential.
2017 – forward
The New About-Face
Changes in our culture are calling for us to transform About-Face once again. Today teenage girls aren’t only feeling the effects of thin, white supermodels on the runway and in heroin-chic fashion spreads. They have smartphones in their pockets and constant access to web sites and social media that are filled with negative, limiting messages of all sorts. And their media isn’t only top-down: They’re making their own media via social media every day.
Inspired by this shifting media landscape and the awesome, galvanizing force of the Women’s March in January 2017, the staff and board of About-Face engaged in a strategic planning process that re-energized About-Face around its activist roots and underscored the importance of our core media-literacy work.
About Face is Founded
It All Began with a Poster of Protest
In 1995, San Franciscan Kathy Bruin acted on her frustration with the unrealistic and limited images of women in advertising by creating provocative posters parodying a Calvin Klein ad for Obsession perfume, stating “Emaciation Stinks”.
1996 – 2002
National Attention for Guerrilla-Style Activism
This seminal act garnered national media attention, and About-Face was born — harnessing the power of community activists to fight back against the homogenous, limiting versions of women in mass media that were destroying girls’ and women’s body image and self-esteem.
About-Face was a dedicated group of activists for many years, creating and plastering posters Bodies Are Not Fashion Accessories: Question the Motives of the Diet Industry” (1996), “Please Don’t Feed the Models” (1998), and “Fashion Plate” (2002), writing letters and postcards to advertisers like Guess, Calvin Klein, and Nike, and staging protests throughout San Francisco against the tactics of Diesel and Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers.
This “guerrilla-style” activism and the fun we had creating it became part of the heart of About-Face, evident even today in the style of direct action the girls in our programs often take.
First of Its Kind Web Site
We launched the About-Face web site in 1997, long before the web turned into the vast universe it is now. The site was the first of its kind to shine a far-reaching light on the media-driven body images women faced.
New Executive Director
In 2001, Kathy Bruin passed the baton to passionate About-Face volunteer Jennifer Berger, who became the organization’s second Executive Director. Jennifer transformed About-Face from an activist group into an official organization.
She had been deeply influenced by the pioneering work of Dr. Jean Kilbourne — now an advisor to About-Face — and over the ensuing years worked with PhD-level experts to develop and deliver media-literacy programs, action groups, and an even more expanded web site that has since taught thousands of young women how to navigate their media environment, while giving them the tools and opportunity to fight back through direct action.