“I asked the audience to raise their hands if you or someone you know has suffered from an eating disorder or eating disorder symptoms. The entire room raised their hands, save an amount less than I could count on one hand. Over 100 girls, from freshmen to seniors, were in attendance. Truly, I think that says it all.”
Julie Katz ’11 challenged students to question their understanding of eating disorders and body image at the screening on Feb. 16 of the documentary America the Beautiful during Rollins’ Eating Disorder Awareness Week.
The week consisted of many activities including discussions on “Eating Disorders, Women, and Advocacy” and “Eating Disorders and Men,” an Eating Disorder Network of Central Florida (EDNCF)/National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) Walk at Lake Eola, and the viewing of America the Beautiful.
Katz and Marnie Davis, a mental health counseling intern at Counseling and Psychological Services and a board member of the EDNCF, organized the week together. Katz explained their fi lm selection. “We chose America the Beautiful because we think it critically investigates some of the industries that promote this wretched idea of perfection that women are constantly pressured by. [It] opens a wonderful opportunity to talk about eating disorders and body image issues. Everyone wants to be beautiful; not everyone realizes they already are.”
The documentary focused on the ever-increasing pressure for women to fi t an unrealistic narrow mold of beauty. In our capitalist society, advertisers construct an impossible idea of what a woman should be through manipulated and over-sexualized ads.
No one will ever accomplish this look, so women will always be searching for the next product to help them reach that unfeasible goal.
The strategy seems to be working: Americans spend over $45 billion on beauty and fashion products every year, and plastic surgery operations have increased by 250 percent in the last decade. One of the scariest aspects of America the Beautiful was the way it demonstrated how low self-esteem is starting to affect girls younger than their teens.
The documentary followed a 12-year-old model who, when her modeling career began to slow down, convinced herself that it was because she was ugly. Designers pressured her to lose weight when she already had little to no weight to lose.
Katz comments, “Every day in the cafeteria, every day, I heard at least one conversation that was laden with anxiety regarding what to eat, how many more calories it was, how much exercise had been done, how much weight needed to be lost because of how much weight needed to be gained, what kind of diet was being maintained. Girls as young as second graders are starting to worry about weight, diet and appearance and at whose cost?”
After watching America the Beautiful, many students felt terrible that so many women (and men) feel ugly and put such an emphasis on their outer appearance. They also felt extreme frustration toward society and the media that encourage this negative behavior.
Katz hopes that this week will make students more aware of this crisis and inspire people to make a change.
“If we could raise enough awareness to the point where Rollins’ students, if not women across the country, put an end to buying in the beauty industry… we literally would, for once, cost the industry something. I think this awareness is important because, if we’re talking about cost, we as a nation, as consumers, as self-abiding citizens, and as women really need to ask ourselves: At whose expense do we keep buying into this crap and what is it really costing us?”
For more information about eating disorders visit www.edncf.com, or contact Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), which can be found in the basement of Elizabeth Hall.