“Come as You Are: Hindsight 2020”
By Susanna Penfield
Next week, Feb 24. through March 1, is National Eating Disorder Awareness week. The theme, “Come As You Are: Hindsight 2020,” encourages folks to “reflect on the positive steps they’ve taken — including those stemming from setbacks or challenges — toward accepting themselves and others.” To achieve this reflection and to enable acceptance and celebration of selves and others, we must not only address current preoccupations with body shape, size, and weight, but also the larger cultural dialogue that encourages such preoccupations.
Individuals are often complimented for their body size. The flatness of one’s stomach or the leanness of one’s legs become objects of scrutiny, sized up by others in an overall assessment of someone’s level of health, fitness, beauty, or desirability.
“You’re so skinny” is tossed around with awe, envy, and appreciation.
For many women, Western society has determined that being “skinny” is often synonymous with being feminine. For many men, masculine appeal is characterized by a certain height and musculature. Although all bodies occupy various spaces in a wide range of normality, especially when accounting for age, race, ethnicity, and ability, cultural ideals have developed which continue to exert influence over an individual’s relationship to their own image, as well as how others in society perceive and treat them.
Though all genders are susceptible to the harm imposed by beauty standards, women often feel an intensified burden. Consider the evolution of aesthetics within the United States. In the 1960s and 70s, beauty ideals for women shifted from the mature, curvaceous body of stars such as Marilyn Monroe to the stick-thin, flat-chested figure epitomized by supermodels such as Kate Moss.
The compelling fact here is that just as women started to make dramatic gains in the areas of education, employment, and politics, the ideal female body began to look like a malnourished preadolescent girl, weak, emaciated, and non-threatening. Women may have been gaining freedom and power, but they were increasingly encouraged to ridicule and discipline their bodies through diet and exercise to conform to ideals that were almost impossible to achieve.
Discourses that promoted emulating supermodels of this era narrowly constrained beauty ideals to bodies with a certain skeletal structure and to a specific distribution of muscle and fat; excluding many non-white and disabled bodies. The danger in this construction lies in the pressure it imposes on individuals of all genders. This pressure often has psychological effects such as depression, eating disorders, and low self-esteem. Therefore, we enter this year’s National Eating Disorder Week with a call to shift the narrative of “beauty” and the norms that surround it.
Conversations can start at the interpersonal level by deconstructing beauty standards through the way we comment on or compliment the bodies of friends, family members, or teammates. By recognizing a variety of beauty in others, we might start to be kinder towards our own bodies as well.
To support students who have struggled, continue to struggle, or know someone struggling with an eating disorder, the WRC will be running several events next week. Check out @wellnessCC to participate in an Instagram challenge centered around body appreciation.
Additionally, Monday through Wednesday WRC staff will be tabling with eating disorder screening tools and resources as well as “You Are Beautiful” templates for people to color in. These creations will be installed in their window in the Worner Center on Friday. On Wednesday, Feb. 26, the documentary “Embrace” will be screened from 7-9 p.m. in the Cornerstone Screening Room and on Thursday, Feb 27, Rebecca Meyer from EDCare Colorado Springs will run a “How to Help a Friend” workshop at 3:30 p.m. in the Wellness Resource Center. For more information, visit nationaleatingdisorders.org.
If you are worried you or a friend might be suffering from an eating disorder, schedule an appointment at the CC Counseling Center or stop by the Wellness Resource Center to discuss your next steps.