We Are Here

On March 8, women around the world disappeared: in commemoration of International Women’s Day, the “Not There” campaign removed images of women from billboards, posters and magazine covers in order to send a message that “we’re NOT THERE yet,” according to the campaign’s website. Although Women’s Day occurred during our Spring Break, some recognition of the event is still necessary on our campus. Girls, especially teenage girls, are still forced to struggle with unrealistic beauty standards every day, creating a dangerous perception of body image that needs to be disassembled.

According to The Phillipian’s 2014 State of the Academy, 22 percent of female students have had an eating disorder while at Andover. Nationwide, more than 90 percent of girls 15 to 17 years old want to change at least one aspect of their physical appearance. Unfortunately, this is nothing new. Unrealistic beauty standards have been around since the earliest civilizations, from whitening chalk in ancient Greece to foot binding in ancient China. Recently, similarly elusive body standards have emerged in our culture: the thigh gap, the bikini bridge, the perfect butt and the yearlong summer glow.

In a culture where simply posting a “selfie” might take hours of makeup and heavy filtering, it’s no wonder that young girls are beginning to fret about their appearances at an earlier age. Women are too frequently expected to live up to the unachieveable “ideals” set by society, which are more than often white-centric.

It is important to note that men also suffer from unrealistic beauty standards, as evidenced by the hoards of chiseled, 6’3” male models that grace the covers of magazines. According to a survey conducted by the American Association of University Women, 64 percent of high school boys said they experience feelings of physical inadequacy and often feel unhappy with their appearance.

Andover should provide mandatory forums with the goal of alleviating the damaging effects of the media on the self-esteem of teenagers. Personal and Com munity Education (PACE), a course only taken by Lowers, only touches briefly upon body image during its curriculum. In the January 8 issue of The Phillipian, the Editorial Board suggested hosting a speaker to address body standards and teenage self-esteem at All-School Meeting, which the entire school could attend. Bringing the conversation to a more public and inclusive platform would allow the dialogue to include not just women of all races, but people of every gender, culture and creed, making for a more diverse and complex discussion. For those seeking a smaller environment to facilitate debate and discussion between students, yet inclusive to both genders, the Office of Community and Multicultural Development (CAMD) or even advising and dorm groups could coordinate opportunities for conversation between students on a smaller and more intimate scale. Of course, eradicating the century-old, unrealistic and often unhealthy beauty standards will be extremely difficult, but Andover must take that first step.