We Are Enough

LYBDEvite.10.07.2014By Kacie Otto

Self confidence is something that I’ve got to work on every day. Because my body is not what I see in the media, it took me a long time to accept and love my body for what it is. That’s why I’m particularly excited about the program that the Women’s Center will be putting on today in collaboration with the MindBody Connection, the UMKC Counseling Center, Swinney Recreation Center and UMKC Health and Wellness.

Love Your Body Day is a national campaign that encourages women to disregard what the media tells us is beautiful and love our bodies for what they are. In celebration of Love Your Body Day, we are launching the I Am Enough! Photo campaign. Students, staff, and faculty can visit one of our two tables today and reject the pursuit of body ‘perfection’ and declare themselves ‘Good Enough!’

Find our tables today from 11:00-1:00 PM in the ASSC Cafeteria and from 4:00-7:00 PM in Swinney Recreation Center. Love Your Body Yoga (for free!) is also taking place today at 6:00 PM in Swinney Recreation Center.

Beauty Defined

By Farah Dabbagh

As a young woman of this century, I fit many stereotypes of what most women love. I love to shop for clothes and shoes, I love to wear makeup, and I love getting a manicure (I mean honestly though, they massage your hands, who wouldn’t want that?!). I also enjoy things like wearing sweat pants, not brushing my hair every day, and showering every other day. So which of these falls under “natural beauty”? I have been asking myself this question since more and more campaigns have been targeting natural beauty and standing up against Photoshop.

Recent ads popping up all over social media are displaying more photos of normal-sized women with no make-up on. Dove’s “Real Beauty” campaign or Aerie Lingerie ads have been aiming to show a more realistic view of women. Recently, a photo campaign by Ben Hopper exhibited several women with their arms raised to show their armpit hair and he named the series “Natural Beauty”. Since then, many women and girls began taking selfies of themselves sporting their armpit hair and posting those photos to social media. The Women’s Center here on campus applauds women who embrace their bodies and their minds with events like Love Your Body Day. However, I feel that although these campaigns have good intentions they have turned around and shamed the rest of who enjoy wearing makeup, doing our hair, and shaving our arm pits.

My concern is that we are leaving behind one extreme and moving on to the next. I am overjoyed that so many companies have joined this battle against the world of Photoshop, body shaming, and going against the beauty standard. However, defining beauty is what got society in this mess in the first place. Let us not define what real beauty, natural beauty, or beauty in general is. Let’s just say that everyone is beautiful in their own way.

What if Women’s Roles were Played by Men?

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z6UUAE2CXXM[/youtube]

By: Maritza Gordillo

I came across this article on Buzzfeed.com and it caught my attention as it described something we’re not used to seeing: reversed gender roles. As you see the video it seems pretty funny and absurd to switch the women’s roles to men’s, but why? Could it be that we are so used to seeing women objectified on the big screen and internalize it? The answer is yes. Society has created tools tailored to view women as sex symbols or objects. Just think that if men look ridiculous playing these roles, why shouldn’t women look ridiculous too?

Marginalized Voices in Eating Disorder Recovery

NEDAwarenessLogoIn honor of National Eating Disorder Awareness Week and UMKC’s Every Body is Beautiful Week, this is a guest blog from the  National Eating Disorders Association Blog.

For more information about UMKC’s Every Body is beautiful Week events, please visit our Facebook page.

By Melissa Fabello, Editor, Everyday Feminism

Pick up any eating disorder memoir at your local bookstore, and you are more than likely to find some iteration of this narrative arc.

Well-to-do, young white woman develops an eating disorder, spirals into near-oblivion, seeks treatment for her eating disorder (which usually results in her being admitted into a residential facility), experiences a myriad of successes and failures, and eventually commits to finding her Self again. Well-to-do, young white woman walks out of treatment with a new sense of hope on the road to recovery.

From a consumer-driven standpoint, it makes complete sense. Of course people are buying (and selling) these stories. Just as we see in our media landscape, there is a huge market for the most extreme and “graphic” version of any issue, and there will be people who are attracted to cathartic memoirs that are moving in that they’re so terrifying. It takes courage to tell your story of struggle with a mental disorder, to confront the stigma. They may be written from a place of good intention to educate and raise awareness about how serious eating disorders are, but they can also have the unintended effect of making us feel better about ourselves, our lives – hell, even our diets. “At least I’m not like that,” or “I’m not that sick.”

From an eating disorder recovery perspective, we have to ask ourselves whether these limiting representations of life with an eating disorder are doing more harm than good in the absence of other diverse voices and experiences with these illnesses.  As important and valid as stories like the above are about a commonly misunderstood illness – and as necessary as it is for people, from the field of psychology to the general public, to read and understand them – they simply aren’t telling the whole story.

My eating disorder didn’t look like that, and it’s been difficult to find stories that more closely resemble my own. My eating disorder was private and lonely. My rapid weight loss raised a few concerned eyebrows and flippant comments, but only one intervention. My doctor didn’t offer anything to me except a nutritionist and an SSRI prescription – oh, and the dreaded diagnosis of EDNOS. My eating disorder wasn’t (yet) killing me. It wasn’t making strangers stare at me. It looked entirely from the outside – so long as no one ever got a peek at my journals – like a diet.

And yet, my eating disorder was terrifying. And it was serious. And it mattered. Considering most people struggling with bulimia are of average weight, binge eating disorder is the most common eating disorder, most doctors hardly  receive any training about eating disorders, and people are socially rewarded in our culture for dieting or weight loss, I have a suspicion that I’m not alone.

While some may argue that these bestsellers are raising important awareness about a growing problem, my question is: How beneficial is it if the scope of what the shoppers see is such a narrow picture of eating disorder experiences? How concerning is it that many write these memoirs without realizing how critical it is to share their story responsibly – in ways that doesn’t invite comparisons of “not sick enough to count” or with triggering images and instructive behaviors?

Because here is what happens when the only eating disorder stories that we hear are the ones that fit the aforementioned description: We use them as examples to hold our own disorders up to. We use them to judge and determine what is and isn’t “really sick.” We start to trust that these narratives represent “real” eating disorders, and that experiences that fall outside of these confines just don’t count.

And that’s dangerous.

It’s dangerous for the men and the boys who are struggling when they’re looking in the mirror. It’s dangerous and invalidating for women and other people of color when eating disorders are chiefly looked at as a “white woman’s problem.” It’s dangerous for trans* folks whose body image battles are always lumped in as related to gender-related dysphoria.

It’s dangerous to every person who’s ever peered into the DSM for diagnostic criteria and thought, “Well, I don’t purge that much” or “I haven’t lost that much weight.” It’s dangerous to every person who’s ever thought that they must not be “that bad” just because they don’t see stars when they stand up or don’t have heart complications or haven’t been questioned about erosion by their dentist or don’t have to take a leave of absence from school or don’t ever see a therapist or don’t get admitted into residential treatment or don’t have to be fed through a tube.

As is every structure that exists to serve a hierarchy of power, when the landscape is primarily non-inclusive eating disorder stories, it’s dangerous to the marginalized. They say, “Your voices don’t matter. Your experiences aren’t important.” It’s dangerous to reality.

And something has to change.

So, with that in mind, I (in collaboration with NEDA) would like to collect and curate your eating disorder stories. We want to highlight recovery stories that challenge that dominant narrative formula. There are already some brave people out there sharing their stories, talking about how their ethnicity, gender identity, orientation,  age, or religion have impacted their experience with an eating disorder, but as a field and community, we have still have so far to go. You are invited to join us.

We want all of it: your successes, your messes, your relapses, your questions. We want to hear from people of marginalized identities and from different parts of the world. We want to span the entire spectrum. We want to create a collection of stories that tells the whole truth so that we can present the world with what the reality of most eating disorders look like – because how can we truly address a problem if we don’t know what it looks like?

So if you have ever read an eating disorder memoir and felt misrepresented, underrepresented, or unrepresented, we want to hear from you. Submit your story now!

Interested in sharing your experiences as a step toward public enlightenment? For guidelines and to submit your stories, check out our submissions page here.

And for more on what I wish people understood about eating disorders, check out this video.

Fight the Stereotypes: Never Apologize for Who You Are

By Morgan Paul

A cartoon example of how degrading steretypes are. Image found on Google Images through Creative Commons.

A cartoon example of how degrading steretypes are. Image found on Google Images through Creative Commons.

“You throw like a girl.” “Boys don’t cry.” “Be a man.” These are just a few of the phrases that are pounded into young boys’ heads, and they are great examples of how the patriarchy hurts everyone! Why do we feel the need to tell young boys that if they do not conform, they are a girl? And furthermore, what’s so offensive about being a girl? Then girls are told to “be a lady,” and stay pretty and polite. My niece is almost 2 years old and I don’t tell her she’s beautiful. I tell her that she’s smart and she’s funny and that I love her, and I hope that she never bases her self-worth on her looks because she is so much more.

While reading through something on my friend’s Facebook I found a quote that really stuck with me:

“Girls can wear jeans and cut their hair short and wear shirts and boots because it’s okay to be a boy; for girls it’s like promotion. But for a boy to look like a girl is degrading, according to you, because secretly you believe that being a girl is degrading.”—Ian McEwan.

Another cartoon example of how degrading steretypes are. Image found on Google Images through Creative Commons.

Another cartoon example of how degrading steretypes are. Image found on Google Images through Creative Commons.

While on one hand this was seen as progress for women, it was really telling them that if they wanted to be better then they must be like men. Yet if a man wants to wear a skirt he’s ridiculed, because who would want to be like a woman? (and don’t tell me that men wouldn’t want to wear skirts because they are comfortable!) So the best insults people can come up with are not about their intelligence but they’re poor attacks on their expression or unrelated insults calling them a “pussy” or “faggot” because being a girl or being gay is the worst possible thing they can think of. Then there are quite possibly the easiest insults: attacks on one’s appearance. In a society that already tells us that no matter what we do we’ll never be pretty enough, the last thing we need are our peers using our insecurities against us. Do you honestly think that I don’t know I’m “fat?” I am well aware. And you want to call me a “cunt” or “gay?” I won’t get offended. If you want to offend me then insult my intellect! But I will never apologize for who I am.

Getting Perspective: Body Image and the Disabled

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E8umFV69fNg[/youtube]

By Morgan Paul

While struggling with my own weight problems I have tried to encourage others to accept their bodies as they are, but I’ve never thought much about how the disabled must feel. This short video put things in perspective.

To read the article from the Huffington Post about the video, click here: http://huff.to/1hyMVrH

Respect Your Body: “The Earth Isn’t Flat…and Neither are Our Stomachs”

The media skews our perception of what is real. Fight back and love your body! Image from Google Images.

The media, like this fun-house mirror, skews our perception of what is real. Fight back and love your body!
Image from Google Images.

By Morgan Paul

I’ve always been a bigger girl, and it’s been frustrating when I look at “plus size models” and see smooth skin and flat stomachs. I thought that the point of plus size models was to show an average woman’s body? I (now) wouldn’t say that I’m far from average size, but when I see cellulite and belly fat I still get insecure. Then I remind myself that media portrayals are just that, they are not real women. They are Photoshop and expensive lighting. I loved this article, titled “The Earth isn’t Flat… and Neither are Our Stomachs,” and it even sparked an idea to do a photo shoot of all sized women, nude and unedited.

I hope all of you enjoy the article as much as I did!

You are Beautiful, and so is Your Vagina

By Maritza Gordillo

While browsing through Jezebel.com, I came across this interesting article titled: “Your Vagina Isn’t Too Big, Too Floppy, and Too Hairy-It’s Also Too Brown.” This article caught my attention because the title itself is demeaning towards women, but after reading through you realize it’s said in a sarcastic way.  This article talks about a commercial of a new product that lightens up the color of your vagina with one simple wash. The woman in the commercial is showing sadness because a guy wants nothing to do with her unless she fixes her “problem.” What is disgusting is the idea of the product and it wanting to help lighten up a “brown vagina.” The concept that lighter is better, the skin tone hierarchy, and that we should be the ones changing because the man is unsatisfied is absurd. The many products that have been invented for women are ridiculous because again, it portrays a constant unsatisfactory appearance of women. Media is constantly telling us that our vaginas are too big, too hairy, too dark, and that our appearance isn’t quite perfect yet, and therefore, we should change it now. Be happy with your own body and don’t let media tell you anything different. Love your body!

To see the commercial, view the video below.
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Tx9vVVMWw0[/youtube]

We Need Feminism to Foster Positive Body Image

By Torshawna Griffin

From UMKC's "Who Needs Feminism?" 2012 Campaign.

From UMKC’s “Who Needs Feminism?” Campaign 2012.

Recently, I read this article about body image; it was called Young, Feminist, and Hungry: An Insider’s Perspective on Body Image. What attracted me to the article was the fact that the author told her testimonial about how she gained a positive body image through becoming a feminist. She gave us insight on how, at a young age, she was teased by someone who was supposed to be her friend. She expressed how this “friend,” who happened to be a boy, “cried for days” after she told him that she liked him. She talked about how having “girl power” made her want to love herself. This empowered me because all women don’t know that we are our best allies when it comes to body image. The slightest joke can cause someone to get really low about her no matter how thick her skin is. I’ve learned that positive body image is the most powerful weapon that any woman can have on her side.

To tell us why YOU need feminism, stop by The Women’s Center (105 Haag Hall) between November 11 and November 15 and join our “Who Needs Feminism?” 2013 Campaign.

Wonder Woman and Body Peace Advocate: My Close Friend, Bailey

Nowfoundation.org's Love Your Body Campaign Poster from 2009.

Nowfoundation.org’s Love Your Body Campaign Poster from 2009.

By Morgan Paul

Earlier this week I sat down with a good friend of mine to talk about body image. While I’ve been incredibly fortunate to be surrounded by a supportive peer ground, I wanted to know how they became so supportive. Bailey and I met in the 6th grade, but it’s only been the past few years that I began to notice her body positivity. As a child she said that she was unhappy with her body, as most children are, but she also told me that when she would talk to her friends about her insecurities they would agree with her. So not only was she having these negative thoughts, but they were then being reinforced by her peers.

When kids openly talk about insecurities, it normalizes the notion that we should be unhappy with our bodies, and schools don’t help this idea. There is no intervention to body negative talk, and no support for body positive talk. When I asked Bailey about public school health classes she said that they leave things too broad. She believes that “schools should ask kids what they think, get opinions, and let them know that there are people they can talk to.” Growing up in public school I would have to agree that schools do next to nothing to inform students about health or to promote body positivity. We spent the majority of the time in my high school health class watching movies like Transformers and Cool Running.

Bailey was fortunate, as many of us are, to have access to alternative media. She soon began to think independently and stopped responding to the media’s images of women. She believes that media is a significant cause of insecurities and that exposing children to media so young is not healthy. She also explained that actresses in kid’s shows are too old to be playing the parts. Bailey found herself wanting to look like the character who is 16, but really she was trying to look more like the actress who was around age 25. Pressures from the media like this one are causing kids to grow up too quickly. Another example is the way break-ups are perceived in the media. We naturally get defensive and want to compare ourselves to their new partner, but Bailey says that we should focus more on the fact that there was obviously a problem in that relationship and that you should just be happy that you got out of it. She also says that it is never healthy to compare yourself to others. “Everyone is on their own journey,” she said, so you are not any better or worse than anybody else, you’re simply at a different part of your journey.

One of the things that stood out to me most in our discussion was when Bailey said “The amount of beauty you see in yourself you should see equally in other people.” I find that an important rule to live by, no matter how hard you try. Balance your negative thoughts with positive ones. I have been talking a lot about loving your body, but Bailey made me rethink my approach when she told me “you don’t have to love your body, but you need to love yourself.” It’s such a subtle approach to the significance placed on beauty. When we say “love yourself” people assume body, but really you need to love all of yourself. Love your imperfections and your talents and your quirks. “Loving yourself is the greatest thing you can ever do and loving yourself and others goes hand in hand,” Bailey said. “Any way that you want to better yourself and life, loving yourself will help you get there. You’ll be surprised.”