From Our Teen Readers
Updated May 20, 2015 @ 5:41 pm

A new year means new experiences, new drama, new friends, and new kick-ass clubs. Coming into this new school year, a group of my friends and I (and, of course, our super cool new photography teacher) started a club — no, a secret society — and we call ourselves “18.” Not only are we a kick-ass secret society, but we come to school at night to install themed projects that we create from scratch!

It all started in our second period Advanced Photo class, when we were having a group critique sesh. We stumbled upon a girl’s photograph that rubbed some people in different ways. I wouldn’t say the wrong way, because that’s kind of our thing — no one’s opinion is wrong; it’s just different from the people around you. This photo inspired our first project.

As an up-and-coming society on the scene at school, we didn’t want to be too bold, either by making someone uncomfortable or by hurting someone’s feelings. So, as our first project theme, we chose to tackle the issue of body image. We knew people had been talking about body image at our school for quite some time, but we felt that no one was truly understanding what the bigger conversation was about — that society’s ever-changing perceptions and expectations of body image, specifically of women’s bodies, are unrealistic and dehumanizing.

In preparation for our first installation, we built a large, wooden contraption for our main staircase, where we hung hundreds of ripped out pages from women’s magazines, covered with red X’s.

We hung banners from the staircases on either side of the contraption lined with more magazine pages filled with red X’s. As the center of our installation (and what would become our signature piece), we wrote a “Love Letter To Yourself,” draped around a mannequin.

On both sides of the mannequin, we placed blurry full length mirrors with x-ed out scales below them to show you are not your weight or the flaws you see in yourself when you look in the mirror.

As a final hoorah, we spray painted our secret group’s stencil onto hundreds of sheets of paper and blanketed our school with our signature logo.

When people started arriving the next morning, kids stood in awe; no one at our school had ever addressed this issue as openly as our installation did or in such a powerful way. Students, teachers, and even parents who happened to be at school talked about our installation all day, and I mean ALL day. I overheard a freshman say to her group of friends, “I have no idea who 18 is, but I want to be part of it.” It’s comments like this freshman’s that make me tingle with happiness; our simple (and yet not-so-simple) installation helped unify the girls at school and showed everyone how much girls have in common when it comes to body image issues.

Two nights later, we snuck back to school to demolish our beautiful creation that spoke so loudly to the students without us even having to say a word. For those of us shy high schoolers still trying to find our place, I learned an important lesson: iI is possible to speak out without speaking up. You can use your voice and your voice can be heard without having to stand in front of a large crowd and quiver through the speech your more outgoing best friend wrote for you.

Don’t watch change happen, be a part of it.

Lauren Rubenstein is a 17 year old, born and raised Texan girl who has a serious love for animals and reading sappy teen romance novels. Her best friend is her pet hedgehog, Nala Jalapeño Quesadilla, and my four fluffy shih-tzus. Her favorite thing to do for fun is binge watch dramatic tv series on Netflix and write/sketch in her art journal.

(All images via here, and with permission from Lauren Rubenstein.)