Get REAL! and use your social media to talk back to media and advocate for more diverse and authentic body shapes and sizes
Get REAL! and talk back to media messages that tell us how we should look and feel and sell us ways to achieve the "ideal" body image -- pressuring us to diet and exercise, even take supplements or undergo cosmetic surgery to attain a certain body standard.
In our media saturated world, it's hard to escape the onslaught of messages about our bodies. Messages that can make us believe that reshaping our bodies to attain a certain look can lead to happiness and success.
How can we become less vulnerable to body perfect "ideals" pervasive in the media culture? One way is to join Proud2Bme and spread body positivity wherever you go.
Proud2Bme_CSUN is a community service-learning project to educate, engage and empower students to counteract media's potential influence on body image, self-esteem, and subsequent unhealthy eating and exercise behaviors. In 2013-14, CSUN students collaborated with the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) to create the Get REAL! Digital Media Literacy Toolkit for high school and college students. Last year students helped NEDA launch its national collegiate initiative Proud2Bme On Campus and created the guide How to Spread Body Positivity in Your Community. This year students will continue to develop resources and serve as peer mentors to colleges and universities across the country who join the campaign.
What is Proud2Bme On Campus?
Proud2Bme On Campus is a collegiate version of NEDA's online youth outreach program Proud2Bme. When NEDA launched the campaign, they partnered with CSUN student advocates to develop a model program to raise awareness about eating disorders and early intervention because of a growing concern about disordered eating on campuses: 10 to 20 percent of female and 4 to 10 percent of male college students are affected by eating disorders.
In Fall 2014 and Spring 2015, the CSUN team developed social media-driven strategies to help students apply media literacy skills to understand body image messaging and advocate for authentic and diverse body shapes and sizes for women and men. Students wrote Proud2Bme blogs and produced vlogs, initiated the 5 Day Proud2Bme Photo Challenge on social media, participated in a Google Hangout about the role of student advocacy, and created activities to inspire others to use their voice for personal and social change on their campus and in their online communities. The activities are described in a step-by-step guide, How to Spread Body Positivity in Your Community, available on the Proud2Bme website. This past Fall 2015, students developed activities to engage students online and on campus for the first National Media Literacy Week in the United States. In Spring 2016, they will partner with Proud2Bme for NEDAwareness (National Eating Disorders Awareness Week).
Why media literacy?
Everywhere we turn, media bombard us with digitally retouched illusions of body perfection. Researchers studying body image issues have found that media literacy education can help counteract media's role in normalizing this unrealistic cultural body standard that, in turn, can affect negative body image and the drive for thinness and femininity in women and for muscularity and masculinity in men. Individuals who are media literate tend to be less susceptible to media's influence on body image.
1. Get media literate.
Think critically about media's body messages, especially images that reshape real bodies into unrealistic human forms and normalize artificial body "ideals" achieved with retouching techniques... wrinkle smoothing, waist slimming, arm toning, thigh thinning, tummy flattening, cleavage enhancing, ab and bicep sculpting.
2. Talk back to media.
Tell people who profit from media and establish content guidelines, policies and practices what you like and don't like about their message - particularly digitally altered images that can negatively affect healthy body image - let them know why you feel this way and what you plan to do about it... take a stand by refusing to read, view or listen to that media or buy the advertised product until they make changes.
3. Advocate for change.
Send a message of support to media outlets, retailers, advertisers, and celebrity product endorsers who voluntarily practice transparency or adopt "no retouching" policies that encourage positive, realistic body images... spread the word on social media and commend them for celebrating our natural looks, body sizes and shapes...or start your own campaign!