Class project investigates female self-confidence
p. This spring, one group of motivated students decided to use the required project in their women studies course as an opportunity to explore the effects of body image on young women.
p. In today’s world, individuals’ relationships with their bodies are often shaped by familial patterns, publicized health research and most significantly, the media. These sources, particularly the media, take their heaviest toll on women. In 1998, a study by Andrew Hill and Victoria Pallin found that among a sample of 8-year-olds, self-worth and weight were not significant predictors of self-endorsed dieting for boys, but were for girls. Self-image and societal pressure are concepts often discussed in women’s studies courses at the College.
p. “We’re trying to demonstrate to young women that self-confidence and self-esteem is really what’s beautiful,” Laura Bagbey ’11 said. “I’ve felt the pressure to conform and only recently have I really broken free from that. I’d love to share that with other women.”
p. The group spent two months researching for and executing the project. Monday and Wednesday last week, the students photographed girls and asked them to share what makes them feel most confident.
p. “I was shocked that the people who have come to be photographed are comfortable with their bodies,” Bagbey said. “It’s opened my eyes.”
p. The photographs and information about the project will be on display by the stairway in the University Center from noon Monday until midnight April 4. The members of the group hope that the exhibit not only shows students the type of work that they’ve been doing and what the women’s studies department is all about, but causes women to become aware of their inherent worth and beauty.
p. According to group member Eve Grice ’10, the project’s goal is to make people see the issue of body image as an institutional problem as opposed to a solely personal concern. In particular, the students stress that they want the women of the College, and women everywhere, to evade initiatives by the media to socialize people into believing that self-worth is contingent upon conforming to a distinct body type.
p. “We’re all women,” group member Rachel Burns ’10 said. “What if every single race were beautiful? What if curves were beautiful? We have a long way to go.”
p. According to Burns, the group’s aim in designing the project was to allow women to think more critically about the media and about the impact it can have on an individual’s mind, body and spirit. She cites the project’s target group as one that is more apt to approach the topic of body image.
p. “Because we’re in college, we have the ability to look more critically [at the media’s portrayal of bodies] than a teenager.”
The group’s one regret is that the time constraint on completing the project did not allow them to reach out to women of all ages.
“It’s important to get people comfortable with their body as soon as possible,” Grice said. “The media restricts the body ideal to young people. It also has an affect on older people. I wish we did have enough time to address [all issues]. The student body is a critical audience to reach, but I do wish we ha more time to reach the faculty and staff.”