Among children 8 - 10 years old, 50% are dissatisfied with their body size.1
80% of US women do not like how they look.1
Girls’ self-esteem peaks when they are 9 years old.2
7 in 10 girls believe they are not good enough or do not measure up in some way including their looks, performance in school and relationships.2
In November, Duke unveiled the WHO SPEAKS campaign, where the Women’s Housing Option (WHO) teamed up with photographer Ashley Tsai to take a stand against negative body image and to facilitate dialogue about women’s experiences. How did they do it? By painting the bodies of WHO members with comments they have actually received, comments that have impacted them and their self-image. With this powerful campaign, WHO aims to encourage conversation across campus (and beyond) about the impact of unattainable bodily ideals that exist today.
Personally, I feel that this image is one of their most powerful:
It captures the daily reality that girls face, the societal pressure and judgment they experience, and the emphasis they, and others, place on their perceived “flaws”. No two bodies are exactly alike, nor should they be. Until we get rid of the pressure that the media, others and even we place on ourselves to measure up to these idealized body types and features, we will keep battling these unfair standards.
And as the WHO SPEAKS photos demonstrate, the judgment and dissatisfaction with body image goes both ways:
Just as those who weigh more than the “ideal” face criticism and negative assessments…
…so do those who are naturally thin (as they are often accused of having eating disorders).
Sure, you can argue that the world has always been like this, that there have always been impossible standards of beauty. That doesn’t make it right, nor does it mean that we should not try to change it.
Consider these questions:
Why do women feel pressured to aspire to unrealistic and often harmful bodily ideals in the first place?
Where do our ideas about our appearance come from?
When did we start believing them?
How are we affected by these pressures on a daily basis? Who fits the ideal? What are the consequences if we don't?