By Allie Ward
In today’s media-driven world, women’s bodies are stereotypically depicted as tall, rail-thin and with curves in all the right places. Despite the fact that it’s often drilled into women’s heads that real people come in all shapes and sizes, most women struggle with body image.
This year’s Gender and Sexuality Studies Colloquium, titled “Facing Our Identities,” will address the issues of body image and the perception of women in today’s society. Anya Galli, a 2008 graduate of St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn., will deliver the keynote speech and present “The Honest Body,” a photographic exhibit containing 33 nude images of women who volunteered to participate in the project. To coincide with the colloquium, the exhibit will be displayed in Moore Library from April 2-17.
“The goal is, primarily, to give women an opportunity to take back the experience of posing nude,” Galli said. “So often nude images are sexual and primarily for men to see, so I had women pose nude for their own reasons.”
As an art and women’s studies double major, Galli chose to do “The Honest Body” exhibit for her senior art show. She believes the way women are portrayed in the media is unhealthy.
“Images of very skinny women tell women there’s only one specific body,” she said. “The women we see are very stereotyped: They’re very sexual or very domestic. We rarely see a diversity in body types.”
Galli had each participant write a journal entry to accompany her photo. She also allowed the women to choose their poses and their final pictures.
“I wanted it to be a cathartic experience for each person,” she said. “I wanted the women to let people know as much or as little about their experience.”
Dr. Mary Morse, associate professor of English, is coordinating the photo exhibit and recalled when the photos were on display at St. Olaf.
“One young man said he’d never looked at women in a non-pornographic way,” she said.
Both Morse and Galli encourage men to attend the colloquium and “The Honest Body” exhibit.
“The way women are pictured in the media is harmful to women but equally restricting for men,” Galli said. “They don’t have many options to see real women in a positive way.”
The colloquium will also feature presentations by students on many different topics from hip-hop to social status.
Although images of nude women may make some feel a bit uneasy, the message behind the exhibit is powerful.
“When I first saw this exhibition as a woman, it made me faintly uncomfortable because the only time I have seen nude images of women is if they were produced by male artists or if they’re in men’s magazines,” Morse said. “It gave me a real sense of, ‘Wow, why do women in our culture have to feel that we don’t have this right to look at our own bodies?’ I want women to feel they have that right.”
The colloquium is April 2 in Sweigart 115 starting at 9:45 a.m. “The Honest Body” keynote address is at 2:20 p.m.