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Author speaks about body image at SMC

Nikki Taylor | Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Courtney Martin, author of the book “Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters: The Frightening New Normalcy of Hating Your Body”, and winner of the Elie Wiesel Prize in Ethics, spoke at Saint Mary’s Monday about women’s body image. Martin discussed the trend of women hating their bodies and what a young generation of women can do to reverse this development.

Speaking to a packed audience of students and faculty, Martin gave statistics about American women and girls and their views on body image. For example, women spend about 100 minutes a day obsessing about their bodies, she said. Also, there are around seven million women and girls in this country with an eating disorder, Martin said.

Martin focused her talk into two parts: how women began to think this way, and what can be done to change it.

Body image, Martin said, is always related to the relationship between mothers and daughters. Daughters learn to love or hate their bodies based on what they observe from their mothers, she said.

Martin also points to a skewed view of feminism in this generation as a factor for poor body image. Daughters of the younger generation saw their mothers being busy and involved and making their crazy lives look glamorous.

“Just because the door is open doesn’t mean we have to walk through it and make it look effortless,” Martin explains.

Women today are also influenced by the media telling them that beauty is all in their hands, she said.

“We are all socialized to believe that if we have enough power or money we can all look like Nicole Richie, which is a fallacy,” Martin said.

Martin said changes can be made and that women can help to reverse the current trend of negative body image. She said spirituality is one way to do this.

“Anyway we can create [spiritual] rituals for women, men, boys and girls that help us reconnect ourselves, the better off we’ll be,’ Martin said.

She offered some advice about dieting.

“Never diet,” she said. “Never, never, never.”

Dieting, Martin said, is a $30 billion industry, and, 95 percent of the time, diets fail.

Martin also advised all students with eating disorders to seek help immediately, and for all students to find ways to exercise that they enjoyed, and that “make your body happy.” Martin told all women to find friends that make them feel beautiful, and avoid people who do not.

“I really truly believe that if each woman in this room made a conscious effort to change, we could change the world,” she said.