A brown bag discussion on the media’s impact on women’s body image was held Oct. 8 at the Women’s Resource and Research Center in partnership with the CSUN Women’s Studies Student Association.
Sociology professor Melanie Klein spoke to a group of male and female students about her struggles with body image, specifically how she overcame them, and the way the media impacts women’s body image.
“Diet was a major occupation in my life from the time I was eight years old,” Klein said. “This manifested in incredible issues with my body.”
Issues discussed by Klein included eating disorders and the substance abuse many women are going through in order to achieve what she called an unattainable goal.
“This is cultivated. It is not a matter of cause and effect,” Klein said. “Media images are constructed to sell you something (?) telling you there is something wrong and that product is what you need to fix it.”
In American society, people’s value is very much associated with the way they look, and many of these people think “I’m a failure because I look this way,” Klein said.
Klein said women need to realize the actors and celebrities they want to emulate aren’t perfect, are paid to look a certain way and are airbrushed and altered in photographs, which means ordinary women are going to great lengths to reach an unrealistic body image.
“Gyms used to be called health clubs,” Klein said. “Now they are aesthetic clubs. People are there to modify their physical exterior to reach one that more closely resembles the images they see.”
Time was spent talking about the difference in being clinically diagnosed with an eating disorder and having an unhealthy relationship as a result of media images.
“We have come to fear food and that translates to the way we feel about ourselves,” Klein said.
Symptoms of a disordered relationship with food include thinking obsessively about food, thinking about calorie content and whether or not to eat at all.
“We are constantly denigrating our bodies (?) it’s an abusive relationship,” Klein said. “Women are really trying to go to drastic measures to maintain the beauty ideal.”
A recent study shows 3- and 4-year-olds are already concerned about their body images, Klein said.
“It creates a reality that is embedded in our cultural fabric,” Klein said.
Another statistic Klein used during her discussion was the increase of eating disorders in women older than 40.
Klein’s overall message was that people should be thankful for what the body does for them, instead of picking it apart for flaws.
In considering cosmetic surgery or dieting, “really be honest with yourself and ask ‘why do I do what I do?'” Klein said. “Examine where that feeling comes from ? discover who you really are and the choices you want to make.”
June Kwon, 20-year-old women’s studies major and president of Women’s Studies Student Association, said Klein’s talk was important since their organization’s mission is “to raise awareness on issues that affect women.”
“We are reaching out to young women on campus, touching on issues of rape, violence, birth control?so (they) can take control of their lives,” Kwon said.
The WSSA will be having guest speakers every Monday from noon-1 p.m. at the WRRC.
Twenty-two-year-old Stephanie Montes, vice president of WSSA, said, “(We) focus on feminist and gender issues. It is important to spread awareness within topics of feminism (women’s rights and equality).”
“Our current issue is a birth control campaign. They want to raise the prices of it, making it less accessible to college students or low income people,” Montes said.
The WSSA and the WRRC, in association, are passing around a petition addressing the birth control price issue, and they also have clothing drives to benefit women’s shelters.
Students of any gender, major, or interest can join the WSSA. Anyone who’s interested in joining can visit the WRRC Web site for more information.
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