I found the editorial on the Celebrate EveryBODY Week (CEBW) to be well intended but misconceived in recognizing the purpose and power of this event.
The IDS Editorial Board articulately expresses the problematic aspects of our society such as the overvaluation of physical appearance and the objectification of the body.
However, the board seems to suggest that CEBW contributes to this problem by using the word “beautiful.”
Furthermore, the author suggests that we are limited to only two ways of addressing this problem, writing, “There are two ways to confront this problem: insisting everything is beautiful or insisting that beauty does not matter.”
An underlying assumption to this dichotomous statement is that we all have to be the same kind of “beautiful.”
The CEBW event works to counteract this misconception with statements on mirrors and posters such as “Be YOUnique” and “Be Strong, Be Confident, Be You.”
For me, the problem surrounding beauty is not whether it exists or does not exist, but rather who defines it and how narrowly or strictly it is defined.
In terms of who defines “beauty,” we are discussing ownership.
I agree with the author that because of the messages concerning beauty espoused by the media, we internalize a strict sense of beauty that for the majority of the population does not fit.
Currently, we internalize socially constructed definitions of beauty that cause internal angst when we do not “measure up.”
Rather than changing these ill-fitted definitions, we spend energy — often at the cost of our well-being — changing our bodies in order to achieve this externally defined ideal.
The author writes that we find ourselves in a place where “beauty is mostly out of our control.”
I argue that it is not only “beauty” that is out of control — we are out of control.
This is evident in the fact that disordered eating and exercise are rampant in the United States and especially prevalent among college student populations.
So how do we regain this lost sense of control and balance?
I believe it starts by recognizing the external messages that we have swallowed.
Rather than changing our bodies, let’s change our definitions.
We can begin by taking back the power to see beauty in ourselves, as we are.
We can begin discovering the pleasure that we can gain by nurturing, appreciating and taking care of something that we care about, something we find beautiful: ourselves.
One of my favorite definitions of beauty, a quote by Kahlil Gibran, is posted on a mirror in the Campus Recreational Sports facilities: “Beauty is not in the face; beauty is a light in the heart.”
I think this quote, along with many others, seeks to challenge individuals to expand narrow definitions of beauty that focus solely on outward appearance.
I am grateful that there is an open discussion, which raises awareness of the problems caused by the insidious messages in our society to conform to a rigid sense of beauty in order to please others, rather than ourselves.
For my part, I hope that the Celebrate EveryBODY event continues to encourage us to form our own definitions of beauty — ones that actually fit.
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