This past week Goshen College took part in a week long program entitled “Healthy Bodies Week” to address issues with body image.Before I go any further I want to explicitly state that my main goal is not to protest against last weeks events or suggest it was a negative thing for the campus as a whole.
Last spring, I studied in Hollywood and helped to create an unnamed erectile dysfunction ad campaign and a woman’s workout DVD. I’d be the first one to tell you that sex sells.
This concept is heavily ingrained into the way that people purchase products today. I recall one director calling for more “camel toe” on the Workout DVD, and more skin for the erectile dysfunction promotion.
For the erectile dysfunction promotion, I sat through three days of casting, where actors had to interview in either a bikini or swim trunks. Our main goal was to find the “hottest” males and females to sell the product. For the females, it was all about body shape, hair and smile, and for the males it was all about the six packs and biceps. Actors ranged from Abercrombie and Fitch models to the average person trying to break into Hollywood. Half of the guys who tried out were uncomfortable taking off their shirt.
If some male actors in Hollywood struggle with body image, so to do males on campus. At the start of Body Week, I felt included in the convocation. As the convocation came to a close, the speaker announced that, “a lot of these events are for all genders.”
I think a gender-neutral week would have been very helpful, but I found myself looking at a list of events in which all genders were allowed to attend, and yet most were extremely sexist. I found two events which were male friendly: convocation and a discussion about gender, sex and sexuality.
Other events, like the booth on alternative menstrual products was initially to be women-only event, but was announced at convocation that it was now open for males too. This sort of event is great for women, but by allowing males to attend doesn’t create a gender neutral environment or week.
On Friday morning, all students were invited to the chapel entitled “Wholly Created in God’s Image.” The topics which were talked about were valid ones, and while I couldn’t identify with some of the morning’s topics, many hit too close to home for comfort.
I found myself appalled at some of the language and metaphors being used. I agree that God is not male, nor female, and that God is above gender. In chapel, God was described as Heavenly Father, which is how Jesus referenced God, and Heavenly and Loving Mother. But to consider God as a uterus simply was uncalled for and inappropriate in a chapel environment. By calling God a uterus, you are implying God has a physical gender and not just by name, which is almost hypocritical.
As a male, I am already under pressure to look and dress a certain way. The last thing that I need, is to be told it’s ok to go belly dancing. Coming from my perspective, this sort of activity doesn’t help to improve my perceived body image, it worsens it.
In closing, I ask for one of two things for Healthy Bodies Week 2011. First, to be open and honest about the single genderness of all activities and call it “Female Healthy Bodies Week,” or second hold events and activities which are truly gender-neutral and simply call it “Healthy Bodies Week.”