Disclaimer: Embody Carolina is a non-partisan organization. We do our best to address issues of body positivity and eating disorders as they come up in popular culture, regardless of the source. The below piece is one member's response to the current events that are affecting the human body’s value in our country.
In the United States of America, 30 million people struggle with some form of an eating disorder during their lifetime. Eating disorders arise from a huge variety of factors, including genetic risk and an individual’s psychology, but societal factors play a role too: how the media glorifies thinness and shames fatness, cultural norms that promote narrow and unattainable standards for beauty, and societal trends that place a higher value on a person’s physical appearance than on what they can contribute to the world around them, to name a few.
You may say that his comments are “just words.” And they are words, but these words normalize body-shaming and trivialize those who struggle with eating disorders and mental health issues. It’s important that we reflect on, especially during this time, the effect that our words can have on those around us. In an already too image-focused society, condoning this type of rhetoric is unacceptable. Condoning this behavior invalidates the unique personhood of your family and friends. It rejects the value of your loved ones beyond their physical appearance. It makes my heart ache so badly for every single person who has ever felt undervalued because of the way they look.
During this time, we need to remember why we do what we do even more so. Such a significant part of our beauty is rooted in the way we treat other people. I believe in fostering and promoting a culture of acceptance and inclusivity among all people, because every single person in the world has a body. I believe that all bodies are deserving of love. I encourage people to love their bodies by eating the food that they want to eat and the food that they know will fuel their bodies each day – rather than eating food in order to look a certain way. I encourage people to love their bodies by exercising in ways that they find fun and that they enjoy – rather than exercising because they feel like they have to or exercising in order to look a certain way. I celebrate the body by celebrating the person and by straying away from not just body-shaming, but also appearance-based compliments. I do this because I believe that each person’s beauty comes from the soul, which manifests in the way that they treat the people in their lives, the world around them, and themselves. This is why I do what I do with Embody.
So today and everyday, show respect and consideration to every person that you encounter. Love your friends, your roommates, your fellow activists, your peers; give hugs and ask for hugs. Engage in self-care by asking for support if you feel like you need it. Your friends and family were there for you yesterday, they loved you yesterday, and that does not change today and it never will. If you feel hopeless, look into the eyes of another human being and recognize that their value has not changed because of the results of the election. Look in the mirror and consider all of the incredible traits beyond your appearance that make you a unique and cherished contributor to society, because that has not changed. It never will.
Hillary Clinton said it herself yesterday morning: “This was never about one person or one election.” This is about all of us. Our mission is not altered because of the one person who was elected. The work we have done is not reversed, it is not for nothing, and it is certainly not over.
If you are seeking support, there are resources available on and near campus. Counseling and Psychological Services (located on the 3rd floor of Campus Health) has walk-in hours Monday through Thursday from 9am to 12pm and from 1pm to 4pm, and Friday from 9:30am to 12pm and from 1pm to 4pm. A directory of other resources can be found on the resources page of our website.