Instructors advocate body positivity

Department discusses ways to combat poor self esteem

Lindsey Carman, women’s studies professor, speaks about women’s health issues and ways to combat it on
Friday morning at Avery Hall. ”Poor body image adds another layer of stress to your life that’s not necessary.”


Lindsey Carman, women’s studies professor, speaks about women’s health issues and ways to combat it on Friday morning at Avery Hall. ”Poor body image adds another layer of stress to your life that’s not necessary.”

REID BROWN, Evergreen reporter

The women’s studies department has introduced body image-focused material to educate WSU students on how the media plays a role in peoples’ self-perception.

“Poor body image adds another layer of stress to your life that’s not necessary,” said Lindsey Carman, WSU women’s studies instructor.

College students must balance demanding class schedules, possibly maintain jobs and keep up with their social groups, Carman said. Poor body image may contribute to a feeling of being overwhelmed for all students, not just women.

The impacts of negative body image can affect women for their lives, said Leah Wilson, WSU women’s studies instructor. This can span from when women first wear makeup and adjust their appearances to societal ideals, to when they try to hide the fact that their bodies are naturally aging.

“It starts when you’re young and it can play into your long term,” Wilson said.

She said from wearing corsets to the practice of traditional Chinese foot-binding, women have been pressured to limit their bodies to fit social ideals. The portrayal of female beauty correlates greatly with the status of women, Wilson said.

In the 50s, Marilyn Monroe, who was famous for her curvy figure, became a symbol of idealized femininity when women were encouraged to return to the home instead of being involved in the workforce, Wilson said.

“Everything is curated, you’re being sold something,” Wilson said. “There’s a purpose behind every image that you’re given.”

The media plays a large role in shaping body image for many people, especially students, Carman said. Many of the celebrities and influencers who are popularized now introduce unrealistic standards of beauty. Expectations like this can be pressuring for consumers, she said.

“I really hate the Kardashians,” Carman said. “They are a bad example of selling diet, diet products, things that encourage diet and weight loss and always making the body thinner.”

Media producers and advertisers target their female audience because women are more likely to buy beauty and weight loss products, Carman said.

Wilson said being a good media consumer is important for students so that they do not unconsciously begin to hold themselves to the impossible standards set by editing software, filters and other means of editing.

Elizabeth Canning, WSU assistant professor of psychology, said she thinks counseling and the people you surround yourself with contribute to how you feel about yourself.

“If you don’t have a good sense of self, then that could lead to a lot of negative outcomes like higher rates of depression or a smaller social network,” Canning said.

It is crucial for all students to recognize if they are dealing with negative body image and to seek help before it becomes a problem, Canning said.

“Make sure that your social network has good self-image. When you hang around people who also don’t have good self-image then that sort of feeds on itself it is hard to get out of that cycle,” she said.

Although there are stigmas and stereotypes surrounding the idea of seeking counseling, it can be beneficial for students to have an objective, caring opinion on their health, Canning said. Counseling and Psychological Services offer opportunities for students to receive the help that they may need in combating negative self-perceptions.

“You go to your regular doctor every year for a checkup. That can be the same for mental health,” Canning said.

Body image is a concern that is long-lasting and may affect individuals far into their adult life, said Carman. Practicing self-love and self-acceptance during college can set a student up for long-term health and awareness towards themselves.

“There isn’t a specific look we need to fit,” Carman said. “We’re all diverse and we should all celebrate that … Your body is perfect the way it is. Don’t let those negative, anxious thoughts get to you.”

College can be competitive in nature, so it is sometimes difficult for students not to compare themselves to their peers and to celebrities they may admire, she said. But it is important to remember that all bodies are completely unique.

“Life’s too short to worry about what other people think,” Wilson said. “Just have fun and be yourself.”

Leah Wilson, women’s studies instructor, talks about the history of
women’s health on Monday morning at the Chinook Student Center.