UMass Boston's independent, student-run newspaper

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Dames in Distress: A Workshop on Body Image

Men watch women and women also watch women. Of the two sexes, women are the more scrutinized gender. Appearance is a determining factor for many people when mating or interviewing, but overall expectations for body image have gone beyond reality and beyond healthy, sentient beauty.

Today, body image for many is a vague thing. Advertisements are competent in producing figures that fit within the society’s limited and conditioned concept of beauty, complying with 20 percent of the population’s ability to reach these high standards, but excluding the other 80 percent who can’t or simply don’t want to. The majority of women who are confronted with airbrushed models that weigh less than what is healthy for them, could never obtain the overload of images that are sent out to them everyday of their lives, beginning from childhood without being influenced by them.

According to a workshop on body image held earlier last week at UMass Boston, by Cornelia Brenninkmeyer and Sarah Brophy, both interns at the UMB Counseling Center. The majority of females are unhappy with their body image because of ideals they try to meet that are unrealistic. It remains obvious how these ideals are put in their minds with media and an overwhelming focus on expensive material commodities to constantly “fix” and change your appearance, insinuating that a natural appearance is undesirable and less attractive. The main focus that is displayed by these campaigns is the visual body and not the functional usable body. This focus has proven destructive to females and their self-esteem especially during adolescence when their bodies are shifting to gather most of the strength they will need for the rest of their lives. Instead of building strong bones and muscles, young girls will diet and typically restrict needed fat, ultimately damaging their bodies as well as a healthy, pleasurable perception of food.

The goal of the workshop was to teach women the dangers of encompassing these ideals and the importance of boosting their self -confidence rather than focusing excessively on their appearance. The truth is that women tend to focus on specific aspects that they cannot change because of their genetic make-up. By pinpointing “flaws” and “problem” areas created by mental self-criticisms, women often cloud their view of their overall appearance. Learning how to change your outlook is the most effective strategy for gaining self-satisfaction. Those who attended the workshop took a series of self-tests geared at teaching females where their personal perception lies and if it obstructs their ability to confidently participate in activities or social gatherings because of insecurities they may possess.

Another dilemma discussed by participants was: while striving to obtain a healthy body image, being confident about your own body image can present you as being vain or egotistical if you think your body is beautiful, “this confidence can even be a sin in some countries,” said Cornelia. “We can get political,” explained Sarah, “feeling good about your image makes you feel empowered.”

Unfortunately, sometimes in society women are conditioned to initially compete rather than confide in each other, vanity is chosen over friendship. Women can sometimes go too far and search for negative parts of other women to alleviate their own jealousy of them, a spiteful behavior. By appreciating one’s unique style, and individual assets, a healthier embodiment of body image is possible.

So, what is the medium in the quest for satisfaction? Surround yourself with people who influence positive feelings and who inspire a healthy outlook. Physical movement is a sure way to express your body’s creative energy and dependence on strength not fashion. A mental understanding of other women’s experiences may help you to appreciate your own. Whatever it is that makes you feel beautiful, makes you beautiful. There is potential for another workshop to take place during the spring semester.

If interested, you can call the Counseling Center at (617) 287-5690 or e-mail at [email protected].