A three day conference happened at Lehigh this past week called Feminisms Beyond the Secular, and I wish I had been able to see more of it. Women from across the country and world came to share their insight and research from within their area of specialty and study. It was interesting to see how they all came together and discussed feminism and how it can be used in religions and races as a tool and language.
I say I wish I had been able to see more because I came during the last panel discussion they had. Not many students were there, and I guess its hard when people have class and everything. But I could tell just from their wrap ups and summaries that a great deal had been talked about the days before, and that they were really important topics that more students should have been interested in. Lehigh has so many great speakers and opportunities– yet nothing of course is mandatory, and not everything fits in with the busy undergrad schedule.You have to just keep an ear out for anything that may spark your interest, and even if it doesn’t seem like it is worth it, and would be something that you could easily skip to watch Netflix instead, usually you’ll be really happy that you went. You leave thinking about new ideas from different perspectives, and have a subject of conversation when someone asks you how your Tuesday night was.
This question is asked by everyone on campus, and even seen on the Installments (Lehigh info posted on wall of bathroom stall). Some students have plans to go to cool and interesting places, places that require bathing suits and beautiful bodies.
The Installments and Spring Break mindset/anticipation bring up very good questions and issues about body image and general health. The Multi-Source Eating Disorders Association (MEDA) has statistics that 40% of college women have eating disorders, and 90% have tried to control their weight through dieting. In a college campus that is seemingly full of skinny fit and beautiful women it is no wonder some women turn to dieting and eating disorders, maybe thinking they are the only one who needs to change or catch up. But it obviously isn’t just one person.
Its a problem across high schools and colleges, urged on by the marketing world’s expectations and definitions of what a woman looks like. It creates a society that hates how they look and changes how they look to fit a standard that is impossible to reach. Its a system where you’re going to feel let down and not good enough because no one can reach that level.
So what can we do about it? Try and promote body positivity, hold seminars discussing it… That all will help for sure, but its not going to solve the issue. Advertising needs to change, and some have already begun. Target shows “plus size” models in their bathing suit commercials, and Sports Illustrated used a “plus size” model in their magazine. (I say “plus size” because that starts at a size 8, which most women are anyway). Maybe there is hope, and women can actually begin to start loving themselves.