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Saint Mary’s hosts talk examining faith, self-image

| Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Christine Caron Gebhardt, director of Notre Dame’s Gender Relations Center (GRC), spoke at Saint Mary’s on Monday at a lecture titled “Embodiment: Our Bodies and Right Relationships,” an installment of Campus Ministry’s seven-part series examining sexuality from a Catholic perspective.

Gebhardt said an individual’s self-image can have internal and emotional effects on a person, while also affecting his or her relationships with others and connection with God.

Christine Caron Gebhardt, director of the Gender Relations Center at Notre Dame, speaks at Saint Mary's on Monday night. The lecture was part of a seven-part series examining sexuality and the Catholic faith hosted by Campus Ministry.Monica Villagomez Mendez

Christine Caron Gebhardt, director of the Gender Relations Center at Notre Dame, speaks at Saint Mary’s on Monday night. The lecture was part of a seven-part series examining sexuality and the Catholic faith hosted by Campus Ministry.

“How we see our bodies impacts how we see ourselves, and how we see our bodies impacts how we relate to one another,” she said.

Advertising tactics create a disconnected world, Gebhardt said. Objectified images of the body, shown through advertisements, can generate the pressure to pursue to an “ideal” body type and societal role, she said.

“We start to have this sense we live in a body that’s not valued,” she said. “We never reach the ideal.”

In today’s society, many associate men with the mind and women with the body, which, in turn, leads to a devaluation of women in the workplace, Gebhardt said.

“Women are primarily responsible for being a mother, and it doesn’t go outside of that.” she said. “Is that all she is?”

However, humans are not just bodies, Gebhardt said, and should not be treated as such. 

“Descartes says it correctly when he says, ‘I am a thinking thing,’” she said.

According to Gebhardt, our bodies are a small part of who we are and how we form relationships with others and with God. The way to form our deepest connections with God, she said, to know who we are in our souls.

“The here and now is challenging, but it’s not everything if we live towards eternal life,” she said.

Relationships with God are at their best when people love themselves and when they stop worrying about what others think of them, Gebhardt said. Women are more prone to concern about being judged, she added, so they will often change themselves in detrimental ways.

“College girls often worry about others’ perceptions of their bodies so much that it can change their educational experience,” she said.

Gebhardt said sexuality consists of all the ways people engage with one another physically on a day-to-day basis. It’s not reserved for sex, she said — it’s displayed in every hug, every hair stroke and every hand hold.

Sexuality is the way humans show intimacy and connect with those they are close to, Gebhardt said. But individuals have to know their bodies — and be comfortable with their bodies — before they can display affection for another person, she said.

“Surround yourself with others who let you be you,” Gebhardt said. “When you have a positive self-image, you project that — so how do we help others project that?”

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