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Class hosts first annual Bold Beauty Conference

Megan Loney | Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Professor Terri Russ’s Female Beauty class held the first annual Bold Beauty Conference Monday. The conference featured the collaboration of approximately 30 Saint Mary’s students and alumnae on topics dealing with beauty and women.

The idea for the mini-conference began with Russ, an assistant professor of communications, who said that she wanted the classroom discussion in her course to reach the larger campus.

In Vander Venet Theater, five Female Beauty course students presented their projects that they researched: Kate Wojan’s “Kick Ass Beauties”, Caitlin Morrison’s “Childhood Beauty Pageants”, Elizabeth Flees’ “Women’s Most Public Private Part”, Kristle Hodges’ “Black Women’s Body Dissatisfaction”, and Emily Cusidak’s “Kusbach-Plastic Surgery-New Beauty”.

In addition to these five lectures, other students had their projects set up in the neighboring conference rooms. Topics ranged from childhood prostitution in New York City to a Photoshop project that modified images of students from the class to agree with conventional definitions of beauty.

The most visited display in the room was the table of Barbies that the class had designed as a class project.

“We have a number of Barbies on display who have been modified to reflect some aspect of women’s existence other than that usually presented by Mattel,” Russ said.

Junior Cassie McDonheh, a Women’s Studies Major, said she thinks the Barbie display is an important part of the mini-conference.

“In class we talked about how Mattel plays up how Barbie can be anything, and how this is supposed to be freeing for women,” McDonheh said. “In reality, there is no homeless Barbie. Barbie is restricting to what women can and can’t be.”

The Barbies that the class created included “Child Prostitute Barbie,” “Sexual Fantasy Barbie,” “Bridezilla Barbie” and even an “I’m Saint Mary’s Barbie.”

Russ said she believes it is important to open a dialogue among women about beauty.

“I hope that those attending will begin to see that beauty is a system that surrounds us and creates certain expectations, some of which we know many of which we do not,” Russ said. “I hope they will begin to understand that their beauty is their own and they should be defining what is beautiful instead of letting outside others do so.”

According to Russ, next year’s conference is already being planned.

“Ideally we will continue to offer the conference each year and add new elements with each new beauty class,” Russ said.

McDonheh said she thinks it is important for this event to continue.

“It is important to talk about and spread information about the distortion of beauty in the media, and this conference is especially prevalent since we go to an all-women’s college,” McDonheh said.