Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
Smile, You’re Beautiful
For the past week and a half, I’ve found myself detouring through Kohlberg’s courtyard simply for the pleasure of obeying the order “Smile, You’re Beautiful.” Maybe because it’s hard to feel beautiful with a typical Swattie sleep schedule, maybe because newspaper block letters screaming from a second story window somehow seem more affirming than the same words murmured during pillow talk, the message is grin-inducing and, however cliché, an effective pick-me-up for homework ravaged eyes.
The Swarthmore Feminists worked hard to promote Love Your Body week across campus this past month. As a campaign sponsored by the National Organization for Women, its purpose is to encourage a healthy body image within the maelstrom of media portrayal and societal expectation of beauty. Although eating disorders typically demand a large focus in the campaign, Swat Feminists president Lisa Sendrow ’13 broadened the classic parameters to include an appreciation and respect for the body as a whole.
“So many of my female friends are always very negative about their bodies, or use other people’s bodies to make them feel better about their own,” said Sendrow. “[This campaign] ties many different issues together, from sexism to media portrayal to women’s rights. It’s not just about wanting to be skinny or wanting big boobs.”
In order to bring the issues to campus, the SwatFems hosted a parlor party and a student panel led by Worth Health Center’s Director, Beth Kotarski. A picture campaign is also currently in the works to further promote healthy body images.
One of the aspects of the campaign Sendrow found interesting was the manner in which people tend to only discuss parts of their body, and not the body as a whole. When asked to write what they liked about their bodies on index cards, students tended to isolate their eyes, their hips, their legs, but never discussed the body in its entirety.
“In the end, our bodies are all we have,” said Sendrow. “We need to be able to view our whole body as being well.”
The SwatFems consider Love Your Body week to have been a success, and well worth the three weeks spent planning. Approximately 50 students attended the group’s parlor party in Parrish. Next year, they hope to continue the campaign on campus and increase participation.
—Alli Shultes ’15
How I Learned to Love My Body
As a young girl, I used to hate my body. I still dread looking at old pictures of me from the 9th or 10th grade (even middle school years) when my face was oily and pimply, and I was about 15 pounds heavier than I am now. I often wonder why I hated my body so much—I wasn’t really made fun of in school and people still *liked* me, especially as those bosoms started popping up and I started utilizing them to my advantage. Maybe it was because I wasn’t blonde. Maybe it was because I was a bit on the chubby side because I didn’t play sports and wasn’t a perfect quadruple 0. Maybe it was because I have a bump on my nose from my Jewish side and my Mexican grandmother told me I needed a nose job when I was 10.
I hated looking at myself in the mirror, and I know that there are many girls (and women) out there who still feel that way. Not because they are necessarily comparing themselves to their classmates, but because of what they see in the media. You see people like Kim Kardashian modeling girls’ sneakers. You see Britney Spears clad in…nudity?…on stage with a nice body (and the plus of being blonde!). And who can forget the likes of Angelina Jolie, Rihanna and Scarlett Johannsen?? I could actually probably go on forever listing names of celebrities who are “perfect” and make girls, like the young version of me, hate their bodies.
So how did I come to love my body? Well, let me first start off by saying that sometimes I have doubts about loving my body. Seeing images of what is societally beautiful and then seeing pictures of me in comparison brings me down again, but I just try to avoid those pictures. Or I approach them and think about how real I am in comparison. And how I’ve come to understand each body is different. I’ve come to love my not-DDD breasts, my non-JLo booty (I can’t say I’m a bootylicious Mexi-Jew), and my non-0 waist.
The worst part is hearing people tell me when my body is not what they think of as perfection. Like, when I was in 11th grade and I couldn’t finish a mile in 8 minutes, so they made me run another lap because I failed. My body wasn’t good enough. It wasn’t in shape. Who are they to decide that my body isn’t good enough? Who is the state to determine that I am overweight? I took care of myself, but I cried as I finished that last lap and was late to my chemistry class.
This “loving my body” process really began, and is still continuing, in college. The body can do so many amazing things, and each body is different. And this is when I started to realize that my confidence in myself will lead to confidence in my body and love of and for my body. And I realized that not fulfilling a national expectation did not make me healthy or unhealthy and did not mean that I was flawed. I knew I took care of myself, living with a health-freak mother (who is 52 and still runs a faster mile than I do). I realized my potential as a woman and therefore the potential my body had. I began to realize that because each body is different, I should not make my body into something that it’s not and hate it because other people want to change themselves. Their body is not my body. And the state does not control my body, either.
This body has gone through countless things. It has been loathed and abused, but it survived and has come out stronger than ever. It has been apologized to. It has been loved…by me and by others who love me. It has its imperfections, but I’ve come to love (many) of them (not including stretch marks and cellulite which MANY if not ALL women have. And ladies, those stupid creams won’t work. Just embrace yourselves). It has gone skinny dipping, gone climbing a mountain to a waterfall, and carried me through every moment of my life. I LOVE my body.
As a closing note, I am the President of Swarthmore Feminists, and for our main event, we had a parlor party (a mini-party where we have free food and an artsy event). We bought cranberry juice, tea, strawberries, pretzels, and made chocolate fondue (yum!). We also made a poster where we had 3 sections: what I love about my body, what needs more love, and a pledge to take care of my body. And the results were amazing. It opened a discussion about why people dislike certain parts of their body and why, and evidence that the more we love a certain part, the less we’ll feel conscious about it and even start to emphasize it. Right now, I LOVE my nose. It has character. It is me. I love that mini-roll on my belly—it’s going to help me give birth to healthy baby feminists someday. I love my vagina, my feet, my big toe that cracks every once in a while, my eyes, my hair, my smile, my lips…and all of those little things come together to make, well, this beautiful body.
—Lisa Sendrow ’13
Swarthmore Feminists is sponsoring an event this evening, November 4, at 7:00 p.m. Ben Atherton-Zeman will be performing “Voices Of Men,” which you can read more about here.