Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Women's Health: Body Image

When I started the American Women's Medical Association on my campus, I knew I had to organize an event focused on body image. 

 Most of the other public health topics I'm interested in are more prevalent in the developing world (domestic violence, PTSD in rape victims, etc.) And yes, hunger is a worldwide issue. 

But just because a problem is relative to a place doesn't make it any less of a problem. We are a product of our environments and I see---in my personal and professional lives---this silent sickness of body hatred. Of picking apart limbs and noses and stomachs for analysis. Of using measurements as signs of womanhood. 

Now, there are books and documentaries devoted to the science of beauty. They're fascinating in their own right and I'm not even saying that it doesn't make sense 

But when we are taught that our image (specifically, a target weight) is all we have to offer, that's when the problems begin. When it shifts from health to hate. The young women who are compassionate, intelligent, funny, tough, or athletic still tend to feel inadequate. 

I approached my dean about the issue and we are in the process of organizing a body image workshop. Right now, I'm planning to show clips from a documentary called Killing Us Softly, followed by a panel discussion of women's mental health experts. 

I know engaging in dialogue won't alleviate the pain for women with body image struggles but I hope that at the very least, it can increase awareness. 

P.S. As an interesting tie in, here's a New Yorker article on female beauty in fiction