Image is everything. And everywhere. Whether it’s on the internet or in magazines (or anywhere else, to be honest), we are being told what it means to be beautiful. Yet America’s perception of beauty has changed throughout the years, and we’re having a hard time keeping up. For women, we are seeing airbrushed images of models with not much diversity. For men, we see chiseled chests and 8 packs with, again, not much diversity. The majority of the images we see do not reflect our population in America. Looking at the photo on the right, it’s clear to see that we are NOT being shown accurate representations. (Picture on the right depicts avg. woman size, avg. female model size).
*For those of you that are curious about men, the average weight and height for men is about 194 pounds and 5’9. The average male model is 150 pounds and 6’0.
The comparison of ourselves to these images can be incredibly dangerous – mentally and physically. So what can we do about it? Well, the body rEvolution at the Women’s Center has some ideas.
The students working on the body rEvolution have spent many months in preparation, doing research on how beauty is defined in America (for both men and women) and how it has evolved. They have covered all facets of self-image, ranging from the accurate representation of men and women in media, the complications with Photoshop, and what happens when someone tries to mimic these images they see.
I was fortunate enough to have seen a program put on by the Women’s Center, by Avery Bolton and Lauren Anthony (Lauren is another one of our bloggers! Be sure to check out some of her posts). The presentation ran about an hour long and was filled with information and encouragement.
Talking about body image is not an easy topic. It is filled with frustration, sadness, and even outright anger. But the presentation was also filled with encouragement and hope, and the women watching the presentation were able to walk away feeling hopeful about beauty standards changing in the media.
Avery and Lauren addressed a large number of issues like those I’ve mentioned here. They discussed the misrepresentation of models and their lack of cultural and physical diversity, and how this affects Americans. There was a history of how body image has changed throughout the years which led to a nice build-up of what this means for us today.
On the left, we see an untouched image compared to an image that has been reworked in photoshop. Pretty scary, right? It goes to show just how easy it is to manipulate what people think is reality. The women of the Body Revolution has dicussed the effect photoshop has on the world and the cost of it. You may have heard of potential Photoshop laws that are being passed, prohibiting advertisers from using it without the model’s consent AND without explicitly stating Photoshop has been used on the photo. America isn’t quite there yet, but we’re headed in the right direction.
They talked about the influence that body image had on children and on relationships with others. Avery and Lauren asked us a bold question: “Would you talk to your friends about their body the way that you talk to yourself about yours?” It resonated with everyone in the room
They brought up the implications that elective plastic surgery and pornography were having on people and how it was giving them unrealistic expectations for what their body should look like. (Check out “Porn Taught Me Everything I Know About Sex”, from earlier on this year).
Don’t feel too left out, men! They also talked about the impact body image has on men. We have become so much more critical on what it means to be masculine and it is
setting unrealistic expectations. Not everyone is going to have a 6-pack, and that’s okay. Even if the media says otherwise.
They did a wonderful job of being inclusive and bringing a discussion about the lack of racial diversity within the modeling and advertisement industry as well, which is a discussion that absolutely needs to occur.
Last but not least, these women began the discussion of eating disorders.
Now, with the body rEvolution, their tagline on the Women’s Center website is that this is “not your average eating disorder awareness program.” And they’re right. It isn’t. They were able to add in their own personal touches, and reach out to the people they were giving the presentation to.
Many of the women that watched the presentation walked away saying that they didn’t realize the different kinds of eating disorders there were beyond Bulimia and Anorexia Nervosa. They also didn’t know how many people suffer from it. Eating Disorders can be a difficult, emotionally draining discussion. They made sure to mention all the different resources on campus for those that were struggling, such as the counseling and testing center, the campus dietitian, the women’s center itself, and many more places.
But I think one of the most important things they discussed in the presentation is how to talk to a friend that you think is struggling with an eating disorder. You may not realize it, but you are surrounded by those that may be struggling or HAVE struggled with an eating disorder. And it’s important to know how to talk to your friends about it if you’re concerned. The presentation was informative and motivational – they really do want to inspire change.
If you’re interested in joining this body rEvolution, there are internship spots available! Or if you would like to schedule a chance to view this presentation for your living group or club, feel free to contact Lysa Salsbury.
In order to change the way society sees body image, we DO have to start a body revolution. And the Women’s Center has taken the right steps.
Comment below if you’ve seen the presentation, want to learn more, or want to share stories of your own personal body revolution!