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Love Your Body Event at GVSU

March 4, 2010

Last night about 100 students attended an event at the GVSU Allendale campus hosted by the Women’s Center. The event included a screening of the documentary Beauty Mark, followed by a discussion with 3 panelists.

The documentary, produced by the Media Education Foundation, is an investigation of the social construction of the beauty norm in the US. Filmmaker Diane Israel looks at this issue by examining her own personal struggle with not being comfortable with her own body. (The film is available locally at the Bloom Collective)

After the film there was a discussion with Julia Mason with the Women & Gender Studies Department of GVSU and Gail Hall, a local therapist who works with people struggling with eating disorders. GRIID was also invited to sit on the panel and talk about what role the media and popular culture plays in this issue.

There were not a lot of questions from the audience, in part I suspect, because the film challenged all of us to come to terms with the issues around body image. All of us, no matter what our backgrounds are, are confronted with the pressures to not accept our bodies they way they are. The culture projects a desire to achieve physical perfection, quite often a perfection that is very homogenous.

In addition, the mass media perpetuates this quest for perfection by presenting us with socially constructed images of beauty that are literally manufactured. The Dove Foundation’s video entitled Evolution, wonderfully illustrates how beauty is manufactured in today’s media world.

One of the things we discussed last night after the film, were the consequences of the social, cultural and media pressures to look a certain way. One of the main consequences of these pressures is that people develop eating disorders. According to the Eating Disorders Coalition roughly 11 million people in the US suffer from eating disorders and that anorexia is the third most common chronic illness amongst adolescents.

Gail stressed them importance of talking with friends who we suspect have an eating disorder, but to do it with compassion and in a non-judgmental way. “We need to see that over coming eating disorders is not a one time decision, but a process that can takes years.

In fact, GVSU Women’s Center hosted another session on just this topic, how to approach someone you think has an eating disorder. This session, like the film, was part of a week of activities that the center has organized around the theme of Loving Your Body. The Center also provides online resources and an ongoing opportunity for students and faculty to feel like they have a safe space to come and talk about these issues and get the support they need to become a better person.

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