Monday night the Communication Department in partnership with the Women’s Center and Residence Life kicked off Media Literacy week by screening the documentary Straight/Curve Redefining Body Image. This year marks the 3rd annual Media Literacy week in the U.S. The point of the week being to educate people on the importance of being media literate in the world we live in today. The media surrounds us everywhere we go and are almost impossible to avoid which makes media literacy, “the ability to access, analyze, evaluate, communicate and create using all forms of media,” a critical skill. It is important to properly understand how the media operate and the effect the agenda they put forward is having on us and the documentary screened in Bello on Monday made an effort to do just this.
The film Straight/Curve takes a look at the standards media are setting as the “perfect body type” and the drastic effect it is having on women and how beautiful they feel. The film opened with a series of interviews with pretty and healthy looking teenage girls. As I watched the girls on the screen and heard what they were saying about themselves, I was immediately saddened by it. These girls were so critical of themselves and how they looked, some even called themselves ugly. These interviews were followed by a sign shot in a school gym where students were asked to look at magazines and point out what society defined as beautiful versus images of models they felt they could identify with. Barely any of the students in the gym felt they were
represented in the pages of these magazines and this is the issue that is leading people to feel disgusted with their own bodies.
This documentary originated with the Straight/ Curve project that a photographer created because she was tired of the stereotypes and guidelines out there to define whether or not a women was beautiful. She gathered a group of models of all different ages, races, and body types and decided to photograph them all together. As the film goes on, viewers get to hear testimonials from some of the models and what their experience has been in fashion industry. It was heartbreaking for me to hear that some of the skinniest girls in the group were getting pressure from the industry to lose weight because they were seen as “fat” by media standards. One of the girls was even harassed by people online and called disgusting because Aerie posted a picture of her where they refused to retouch her stomach. Another model in the group, who was also a mother, had her ten-year-old daughter inform all the other women modeling for the project that girls at school were telling her she was fat, proving that body shaming in this country is starting at a drastically young age.
The fact of the matter is that no person, male or female, should feel as confined to one standard of beauty and no one should feel disgusted by the number they see when they step on a scale. Our society’s beliefs regarding weight as a determining factor of beauty is detrimental to our health and is creating an epidemic. The number of U.S. citizens battling depression and eating disorders is increasing tremendously and will continue to be on the rise until we do something about it. One of the models in the film pointed out that the media will keep using only incredibly thin models and retouching them until they are unrecognizable unless we start speaking out against it.
After the screening, film watchers got to here from a panel of Bryant faculty, staff, and students about their opinions on the documentary. Each panelist made important points about what they liked about the movie, what they felt was missing, and how they have experienced issues with body image in their own lives. While I agreed with everything that was said by these panelists, I think the most important takeaway from this viewing and discussion was that the documentary was a good start, but we cannot let the discussion end here. We need to keep bringing up how important the issue of body image is. This discussion cannot be over until eating disorders and depression in this country are decreasing, when we finally stop using the term “plus size model,” when women and men of all ages and races can see themselves in a positive light, and when the media stop telling us that anyone who is not a size 0 is unworthy of being called beautiful.