Author lectures to capacity audience in Glenn Miller Ballroom
“What if we don’t have to hate ourselves?” Naomi Wolf, an author and feminist, asked an overcrowded Glenn Miller Ballroom in her lecture Tuesday night.
Ladies, take a second to imagine not hating your lopsided breasts, love handles and bulging stomach, or men, your flabby abs and minuscule biceps. What difference would accepting your body make in your life?
Wolf has written several books and was named Glamour magazine’s woman of the year and one of Time magazine’s 50 most notable leaders under age 40. She also co-founded the Woodhull Institute for Ethical Leadership , an institute that focuses on teaching women skills to become successful leaders.
In Wolf’s lecture, she spoke about her international best-selling book, “The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty are Used Against Women,” and applied her research to modern society and perceptions of body image that women struggle with. The event was part of Body Acceptance Month put on by the Student Wellness Program.
“We think of ourselves as marginal special interests,” Wolf said of the way women perceive themselves in today’s society.
However, she said that women have the power to reclaim the concept of beauty and deconstructed how the beauty myth came to be and how it can be disproved.
Specifically, Wolf targeted three ideals all women secretly wish to compare to: transcendental perfection, healthy bodies and a sense of feeling sexy. She then went on to explain how each ideal is represented in our culture and how all of these ideals are false.
Take every woman that appears on the cover of a magazine. Wolf described all those women we see through the media as “space aliens.” Unfortunately, Wolf said, women are trying to imitate a transcendental perfection that is not even possible to achieve without enhancement or image distortion.
She went on to comment on the views of other cultures, even our own culture in the past that emulate a “size 16.” Another fact that she revealed to women, and to the men that sat in the audience as well, was that a woman’s weight can correlate to her sexual life.
“A reason women have curves is so they can be orgasmic,” Wolf said. “Go eat a donut for your sex life.”
Wolf blamed three industries for perpetuating the beauty myth: the dieting, cosmetic and cosmetic surgery industries. All three industries pressure editors and producers to not allow different body types on their pages and on the air because if people of all shapes and sizes were seen in the public light, women would be all-around more comfortable with their bodies, Wolf said.
“You pay $70 for a half ounce of zebra placenta cream,” Wolf said. “If you saw women of all ages with wrinkles you would feel comfortable and not anxious about losing your youthful appearance.”
Towards the end of her lecture, Wolf disclosed that she struggled with an eating disorder when she was young and had a doctor tell her he could feel her spine through her stomach. Based on the results from an eating disorder survey done by the Student Wellness Program, 1,200 people at CU suffer from anorexia and 1,400 from bulimia.
“Our rates [of eating disorders] are high compared to national rates,” said Anne Schuster, the professional coordinator of the Student Wellness Program.
Schuster recognizes that this is an issue on campus.
“We need to seek help and communicate differently to reframe what we think about ourselves,” Schuster said.
Following her lecture, Wolf opened up the floor to questions from the audience and the men spoke up. One student questioned why Wolf didn’t address the male perceptions of beauty as much as she did with the female. The response from the males in the audience was so powerful that Wolf acknowledged she needed to update her lecture to address a new kind of male beauty that is emerging from the same pressures women struggle with.
Sean Murphy, a freshman open-option major, said men feel outside pressures to fit a stereotype image.
“You see sports stars and athletes on TV,” Murphy said. “And the girls are always pointing out the guys that are hot. They are the guys on steroids. There is a perception of what masculinity is and what you have to have to be it.”
One girl was in tears when she came to the microphone to address Wolf.
“I walked out of Abercrombie and Fitch today and was so self-conscious about my love handles,” she said. “But you have taught me why they are called love handles.”
Wolf delivered a message to both women and men about body image and feeling good about yourself no matter what you look like. Many people came to the microphone to give her praise and personal stories of their own experiences with dealing with their inner beauty.
Murphy said there are things that men and women together can do to help eradicate the beauty myth.
“Beauty can’t be defined by something that can’t be real,” Murphy said. “We need to communicate with each other to get rid of the beauty stereotype.”
Wolf asked that everyone walk out of the room with the will to search and find their own respective beauties.
“I truly believe there is a part of every woman that knows she is a goddess,” Wolf said. “You’re all gorgeous.”
Contact Campus Press Staff Writer Ashley Herzberger at Ashley.Herzberger@thecampuspress.com