The Weight of Diet Culture


By: Ebony Taylor

In celebration of Everybody is Beautiful Week, I want to share my journey of accepting my body. Body confidence took me a while to conquer, and I still struggle with keeping it intact some days. With all the social media influence and diet culture being a trend, it’s hard to not compare yourself. It wasn’t until freshman year of college that I started to realize who I was apart from my insecurities. Attending a big university, there were people of every shape, size, and body type. They say college is where you find yourself and I would agree. Living on campus, I could choose who I wanted to be, what that person looked like, and how to make the new me happy. There are days when I can wear a fitted dress or crop top and feel the most confident. Then diet culture and social media can make me second guess myself.

For those not familiar with the term diet culture, the term refers to societal expectations that determine a person’s worth by valuing ‘thinness and attractiveness’ over emotional well-being. Diet culture focuses on calorie restriction, “good and bad” foods, and normalizes self-critical talk about oneself. According to UC San Diego Recreation, this toxic idealization and obsession with physical appearance can be a risk factor for body dysmorphia and eating disorders. I did not realize how much I used to talk bad about my body and how those comments left a feeling of imperfection.

The Freshman 15 (when attending MU, it was the Mizzou 22, yikes!) was something I experienced over time. Add bloating, inactivity for a short while, and then COVID’s “pandemic pounds”, I noticed I didn’t fit into the same clothes. Family members would point out that I was heavier or say things like, “that [outfit piece] used to fit looser, didn’t it?” Unconsciously, I was engaging in diet-culture behavior. I didn’t realize at first that I was avoiding going to the gym or participating in group workouts because I felt I didn’t have the “right appearance”.

Social media constantly portrays what girls and women “should” look like. On Instagram, I couldn’t scroll for five minutes without seeing a post about restrictive eating or pictures of women modeling body types that didn’t portray the average woman. That’s when I knew I had to change my habits, leading to me deleting all my social media. I cannot express the feeling of that weight being removed. No more filtering photos. No more wasting time finding the “perfect” picture to post. I focused on accepting my body the way it was while learning healthier habits that were achievable for me, not what others’ claim works on everyone else.

So, for my journey and others walking their own, this last week of February is a reminder to focus on you and your body, listen to your body, and treat it kindly. If you came to the Every Body is Beautiful Information Table event, the Women’s Center partnered with other campus organizations, worked together to bring awareness to body image, body positivity, and eating disorders because every body is, indeed, beautiful. Take care of it because you only have one.

 

New Times, Same Habits

By Jordan Tunks

The world we live in today is very new and different. Everyone is being impacted differently, and are experiencing new obstacles and barriers to overcome every day. One thing that we should be focused on while we are stuck inside and have limited access to gyms or recreation services is our physical health. Women tend to have lower iron compared to men because of pregnancy or heavy menstruation. Women lose a lot of blood during periods and childbirth, so it is important to replenish this mineral. Being low on iron can cause dizziness, weakness, and headaches. These can severely impact one’s daily lifestyle. Adding beans, dark leafy greens such as spinach or kale, nuts, or whole-grain bread can increase the iron intake and prevent the headaches and dizziness. Some easy ways to add these into your diet could be to add them into a smoothie, eat a salad every few meals, try a new bean soup, or trying a new trail mix.

Sometimes it is difficult to add these things to a diet and it takes time for a change to be made, so in this case a multi-vitamin can be added to the daily routine. These will increase iron and some other vitamins that can be hard to get in one day. Finding the right multivitamin for your body is also important and making sure it will work with your body and lifestyle. There are multi-vitamins specifically for women and these would be a beneficial addition to the daily lifestyle.

Nutrition is a big factor in one’s overall well-being and lifestyle. Making sure to still make time for at least 30 minuets of exercise each day is still very important. This can be achieved by daily walks, at home yoga, cleaning the house, or even doing yard. It is important to find a way that is enjoyable to you so it does not seem daunting and you will be more motivated to keep consistently doing it.

Ending War On My Body

By Elise Wantling

 

One day, when I was very young, probably 6 or 7, I was drawing at the kitchen table with some crayons. I was furiously working on a self-portrait. I picked out the perfect shade of blue that matched my eyes, made sure my hair went down to my waist (as it did at the time), drew a t-shirt and pants in my favorite colors. I remember looking down at the drawing of a little girl lying in front of me, and something struck me as off. Then I realized the difference between the drawing and myself: she was skinny, and I was not.

My weight has been my biggest insecurity since I was young. I have always resented my flabby stomach and my thick thighs. I have been consciously fighting my body for over a decade now, trying to make myself slim while my body insists on being all curves. It didn’t help that other people enabled me. Like when my fourth-grade teacher, who ran into me in the cafeteria when I was in fifth grade complimented “it looked like I had lost a lot of weight.” I can’t recall the exact words anymore, but at the time they stung, and they weighed on me for years. Or the aunts and uncles who were always quick to give me dieting tips when I saw them on the holidays, or let me know if I had gained or lost a few pounds since I had last seen them. Some of my worst enablers were my friends, who would sit with me and lament about their own bodies. We would plan how we could lose weight and dreamt about how great our lives would be as newer, skinnier people.

I wish I could say one day I woke up and said “no more” and that was it, but that wouldn’t be the complete truth. I have reached high points with my self love a number of times. There have been many times where I have concluded this is just how my body is meant to be and what is truly important to me is being healthy. But I’ve dipped to low points as well, like crying in the fitting room while trying on clothes and vowing that next time I came back to that store, they would fit like they were supposed to. Loving your body is a constant struggle, especially when we exist in a society that is constantly encouraging us to do the opposite.

While no one has found the perfect solution to the problem of negative body image, there are tools out there to help. One such tool is Jameela Jamil’s “I Weigh” campaign. The purpose of her campaign is to push back against the negative things people see in the media and on social media, like advertisements for weight loss products, body negative posts, toxic beauty standards, etc. She encourages people to take unedited photos of themselves and over those photos insert texts saying “I weigh….” And then list the positive, immeasurable things they “weigh”. For example, one could say “I weigh wonderful friendships, fulfilling career, loving partner, bright future”. She then encourages people to post these photos on social media and tag her account @i_weigh so that she can like and share them on her page. She also encourages people to redo their posts when they’re feeling down and need a reminder about why they are worthy and wonderful.

Maybe making a social media post won’t be the final thing to help me end the war I’ve started with my body, but it can at least help me in not feeling so alone while fighting these battles, and it’s a good way to show support for others who are fighting their bodies too. The important thing is to remember, there is so much more to every one of us than the number on the scale.

Is Barbie Forever?

By Skye VanLanduyt

My English professor in college distorted my image of Barbie after assigning Marge Piercy’s poem, “Barbie Doll.” Piercy’s poem criticizes Barbie’s negative psychological impact on young girl’s body image. In my opinion, the last stanza is particularly haunting not just for its sexual implications but for its praise of non-bio-degradable beauty standards. For me, this is what makes Barbie so controversial. Her “perfect body,” painted lips, and little outfits are put into the hands of little girls around the world. This teaches little girls there is only one standard of beauty.

I was excited when the UMKC Women’s Center announced M.G Lord, author of “Forever Barbie: An Unauthorized Biography of a Real Doll” would be coming to The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures to speak about the complex role Barbie plays in the feminine experience. In September, Mattel launched “Creatable World,” a gender-inclusive doll line. I was surprised by the Lord’s response to Mattel’s efforts. She felt the gender-inclusive doll is nothing new. “Children mutilate and cross-dress their dolls. I was that child. Children have been making dolls their own for years.” So, perhaps, Lord has a point. I know as a child, I too, cross-dressed and cut the hair off of my Barbie dolls. I am sure most kids experimented with their dolls’ hair and clothing.

For Lord, her reasoning is deeply psychological. At the height of her childhood, her mother was diagnosed with cancer. Lord believes she coped by “cross-dressing her Barbie dolls as a way of protecting her vulnerability.” The act of dressing Ken in feminine clothes preserved her image of her mom. For corporations, she poses these questions, “is there only one way to be non-binary?” and “does Barbie reflect or shape the market place?” In some respects, Barbie is a teaching tool for gender performance. Lord calls this “impersonation, approximation.” Drag Queens have been using Barbie as a feminine paradigm for years.

While I think it is amazing the LGBTQIA community is uniquely invested in Barbie’s femininity, I wish the doll was not idolized by young girls. Lord talked about a number of different Barbie’s Mattel released such as the Sally Ride Barbie, the David Bowie Barbie, and Skipper. Lord claims none of Mattel’s career themed Barbie’s are deeply loved. She calls the David Bowie Barbie and Skipper “grotesque,” and I would have to agree with her. Although the Skipper doll comes with a desk for academic studies, Lord explains, “When Skipper grows up her desk for homework turns into a vanity.” What is even more alarming is knowing Skipper and the David Bowie doll were created by men. It seems like corporations are teaching girls to become vain and overtly feminine. In the case of women’s equity, the marketplace is a bad teacher for “shaping” women to be a certain way. Thus, answering Lord’s previous questions regarding non-binary expression and the market place.

Lord’s extensive knowledge on the inner workings of Mattel and the corporate world reiterate similar, troubling themes from Marge Piercy’s poem. However, Lord provides some hope for those worried about gender expression and equality. If children are making Barbie their own rather than being swayed by corporate ideas, where does children’s idolization of Barbie come from? Is Barbie really forever? Maybe this all draws from childhood psychology. Lord’s talk left me with so many unanswered questions. It would be interesting to continue research on why and how Barbie is still in the hands of so many young girls today.

Join The “I Am Enough!” Photo Campaign

By Kiana Mullins

Body image was one of the many things I struggled with in my high school career.
Over the years, I learned the definition of self-love. I had to learn to love myself first and accept the fact that I am beautiful regardless of how I look. I would look at social media and see so many women and believe they were the definition of beauty because of their body image. Today, I look in the mirror and see I am beautiful enough.

The phrase “I am beautiful enough” means I do not have to strive to show my worth, I do not have to change the way I look, I do not have to be self-sufficient, and it does not mean I am the final product. Being enough does not mean you are changing yourself, but you are being yourself.

On October 23, 2019, I will be coordinating the “I Am Enough” Photo Campaign.
This event will inform people on campus on how to love their body. Participants will be able to take a photo with their board describing why they are enough. This will build confidence in the participants to know they are worth it despite their body image. I am very passionate about the development of this event because I want to reach out to the community to help them understand the importance of positive body image to achieve overall health.

Body positivity means feeling comfortable and confident about your body image and accepting oneself concerning body size and appearance. Negative body talk can be linked to negative health issues. I want this event to intervene with the risk of health issues by promoting resources that are available on campus for students.

We hope you will join us on Wednesday!

When: Wednesday, October 23 from 11 a.m. -1p.m
Where: UMKC Student Union, 5100 Cherry St.

Co-Sponsored by: Campus Recreation and UMKC Counseling Services.

Why I Choose Not To Wear Makeup

By Anonymous

After I graduated from high school, I made the decision to stop wearing makeup. I vividly remember looking at myself in the mirror without makeup and being scared to really look at my own reflection. It was only until I had on makeup for the day that I could look at myself without cringing. I knew in the moment, this was not okay. On one hand, I generally enjoyed makeup, but on the other hand, I realized I had been using it as a crutch to keep myself from truly loving my physical appearance. So, I made the choice not to wear makeup for a while. I wanted to get to the place where I would be able to wear makeup in a way that added to what I hoped would become my already existing self-confidence.

Flash forward two years later, and here I am, still not wearing makeup. After getting over the initial hurdle of desperately wanting to cover every imperfection I perceived, I realized I was so much more at peace with my personal confidence when I forgoed makeup altogether. It was amazing to feel truly comfortable in my own skin for the first time in my life. However, I was confronted daily by many feminist issues surrounding the modern conversation about makeup. The first difficult crossroad I came to was whether or not I should wear makeup to a job interview. I was so paranoid if I did not wear any makeup, my potential employer would perceive me as lazy, tired, unkempt, etc. Nearly every woman that wears makeup has experienced the slew of “concerns” people have for their well-being if they go a day without it.

Among other women, I noticed some speculated I choose not to wear makeup as an attack on their freedom to enjoy the artistry and enhancement of makeup. Others envied the freedom I had in my workplace to wear makeup, or not wear it. I had a close friend at the time, who was required to wear a full face of makeup as a part of her dress code. Her male coworkers could wear makeup but it was by no means a requirement. At the heart of the issue, perpetuating all of the trickle-down effects that follow, is the media and many men make something like makeup into a requirement, indication of character, standard of beauty, etc.

My decision to stop wearing makeup was not a politically charged act of defiance. It was a choice made as a personal step toward being at peace with my physical appearance. But those around me, for better or for worse, often box me into having an agenda. All of this has opened my eyes to the larger issues about this topic. I made the conscious choice going into that job interview to not wear makeup and risk the negative opinions someone might have of me. In the interview, I had to ask “Is it okay that I do not wear any makeup?” Their response was ‘Yes, of course” but there was hesitation.

I made the conscious choice to not work anywhere where I might feel pressured to wear makeup. But I still love the artistry of makeup. I love the talent other people have, and I appreciate the passion others have for it. I encourage the women around me to present their face to the world in whatever way makes them feel the most confident.

The Vanity Myth of Makeup

By Christina Terrell

There should be no shame in doing something that makes you feel comfortable in your own skin. One of the latest trends that has taken the beauty community by storm has been the development of all the possibilities that makeup offers. The only issues are women have started to get backlash for exploring all these makeup possibilities, for instance women are being told that since they wear makeup, that they are trying to wear a mask that hides their true self from the world, rather than this is something women do to empower themselves. Sha’Condria, also known as “i’Con” is a female poetry empowerment speaker and at the 2015 Texas Grand Slam Poetry Festival, Condria presented a poetry piece titled “In My Skin”. In this poetry piece Condria speaks about her personal experience with being shamed for wearing makeup and how it is almost as if people treat the word makeup as if it were a curse word.

From my personal stand point I feel as though a woman should not be told what defines her as beautiful, because beauty should not be what anyone else’s definition of it is but should be whatever your own personal definition is. Self-love is a concept that is already hard to acquire and find in one’s self and when you add the negative opinions of others it can make things much harder on a woman who may deal with insecurities.

There is an issue that stands in the way of women who choose to wear makeup and then the people who disagree with wearing makeup. That issue being that typically someone who says you shouldn’t paint your face to be pretty or that natural beauty is the best beauty. Would be that those individuals do not understand, is that in a harsh world when women find peace and something that aids their happiness then they must do all they can to continue to empower and up lift themselves.

To watch Sha’Condria’s powerful piece, follow this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5_kkbKs9pY4

 

You Can’t Objectify Me or My Leggings

By: Christina Terrell

Over the years women have always been told what they should and should not wear. Even in the current year of 2019 women are still held to a stigma that they should not wear things that show their “curviest” assets or skin. The impression has been that when women are body shamed for what they wear and how their body is built, it is men who are doing the scolding. This is far from the case of Maryann White and how she expressed her feelings about young ladies wearing leggings.

Maryann White is a mother of two boys who one day when she was at Notre Dame’s church for mass service, noticed a group of young ladies dressed in “black painted on leggings”, with short shirts that did not cover their backsides. This was a distraction in Maryann’s eyes, not only for her but also her children. She responded by writing a letter to the Notre Dame student newspaper, expressing her concerns with the wearing of leggings and how young ladies should not be allowed to do so in mass or on campus.

However, after Notre Dame received this letter, it was quickly published in the student newspaper by request of the female students in question. The female students of Notre Dame decided that the best way to respond to this through awareness and peaceful protest. One of the outcomes of their actions included the women of Notre Dame starting a #leggingdayND. During this day, which later turned into a full week, encouraged the women of the Notre Dame campus to wear their leggings and then to post a video or picture to social media, expressing that there is no one or nothing that should be allowed to tell a female what they should and should not be able to wear on their campus and religious spaces.

In my opinion women should not be objectified to having to look a certain way in a place of religion but they should instead be able to freely practice their religion in their own skin or what makes them comfortable. It is important that we engage in the conversation that no one wants to have, women are not the issue, and neither is what we decide to put on our bodies, after all, it is our body!

Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM)

By Caitlin Easter

“People want this to be an anomaly…. we can handle monsters, we can’t handle our neighbors doing these things. We can’t believe these are the same people we see at Christmas parties, and basketball games.” ― T. E. Carter

Did you know that 1 in every 3 women and 1 in 6 men will experience sexual violence in their lifetime? Did you know that in 8 out of every 10 rapes, the victim knew the perpetrator? April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, so let’s talk about it. The National Sexual Violence Resource Center defines Sexual Assault Awareness Month as “a campaign to raise public awareness about sexual violence and educate communities on how to prevent it.” This year’s theme is “I Am,” and serves to “champion the message that asking for consent is a healthy, normal, and necessary part of everyday interactions.”

In its officially documented capacity, this year is the 18th anniversary of Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM); if you’re wondering why this month should be important to you, I’ll tell you why—sadly, almost everyone knows a victim or a perpetrator, and sexual assault doesn’t seem to be a thing that is getting better. This campaign aims to bring awareness and spark a conversation about sexual assault and its long lasting effects. As we talk about it more, we create a safer and less stigmatized space to come forward and say #MeToo.

This month the Women’s Center, in partnership with campus sororities, will be hosting a Denim Drive from April 8 – April 19 and a Reclaiming Denim art event on April 19 where we will decorate the denim to prepare for Denim Day on April 24 where all of the denim artwork will be displayed on the quad as part of a sexual assault awareness campaign. We would love for you to join us!

The NSVRC has some amazing resources for understanding and teaching consent for Sexual Assault Awareness month. If you would like to view these resources, you can find them at https://www.nsvrc.org/saam

You can read more about the history of SAAM at: https://www.nsvrc.org/saam/history

Concluding Everybody is Beautiful Week

By: Christina Terrell

Everybody is Beautiful Week is a movement that the UMKC Women Center puts on to celebrate body positivity and combat eating disorders. The idea comes from the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA). This nonprofit organization, based out of New York City, has been around since 2001 with a mission of supporting individuals and families affected by eating disorders while serving as a catalyst for prevention, cures and access to quality care. Although this is the main mission of the NEDA they also participate and advocate for many other things that go hand and hand with spreading body positivity and uplifting others and accepting themselves physically, mentally and emotionally.

There are many great ways that the NEDA tries to get involved and supply support to the world and one is through some of the events that they put on. For starters, they host an annual walk called the NEDA Walk, for families and friends to join their loved ones to walk in their own communities to silence eating disorders. Along with the NEDA walk, there are many other events that are put on in order to fulfill their mission.

In honor of Body Positive Week, UMKC Women’s Center decided to put on a project called Operation Beautiful. During this week we hosted several events that supported NEDA’s mission. To Jump start the week we began with doing a movement around the UMKC campus, which included students on campus making colorful sticky notes that had body positive phrases on them, stating things such as “RIOTS BEFORE DIETS” and “I AM STRONG, I AM ENOUGH, I AM BEAUTIFUL”. Throughout the week we, along with other students, posted theses sticky notes on campus to spread the word.

Some other great events that we put on during Operation Beautiful included a Crafty Feminist Session where students could come make shrink art or a body positive sticky note to spread around campus. To close out Operation Beautiful we hosted a tabling event here on campus, which displayed lots of information about the NEDA and other body positive information, the table also included activities that the students could partake in to get their own message about Body Positive Week out on UMKC’s campus!