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Courtney Martin’s lecture highlights “Healthy Body Image Week”

Courtney Martin, author of the provocative book, Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters: The Frightening New Normalcy of Hating Your Body, will speak at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 27 in Whitaker 303.

In her book, Martin reflects on many of the struggles, questions, hopes, and needs of young women of the millennial generation in terms of how they literally live in their bodies, says Rita Jones, director of the Women’s Center.

“Martin’s discussion is important not so much to raise awareness of body image and healthy bodies—we are hopefully all cognizant of those needs now—but to think about what it's like for young girls and women to live in a culture where they are so aware of their bodies and their relationships to their own bodies,” she says.

Jones says that she hopes those who attend Martin’s talk “come away with a newfound or strengthened sense of their bodies” and the ability to “reflect on finding the body as a source of empowerment rather than as an impediment.”

A week-long series of events

Martin’s talk highlights an extensive roster of activities and events related to “Healthy Body Image Week,” which is nationally recognized to encourage both men and women and raise awareness of body image issues.

They included a “Room with a View” art exhibit relevant to body image, yoga sessions, a pop culture brown bag lunch discussion, and a “Where Do You Draw the Line?” exhibit where students could write reflections on different body shapes. The Women’s Center also collected donated jeans through a “Be Comfortable in Your Genes” event that benefited the Turning Point shelter for battered women and children,

The Lehigh events were organized by the Body Empowerment Alliance (BEA), a group that focuses on body image issues, eating disorders, and self-esteem. The BEA is coordinated by Women's Center student staff members Alisha Gonzales and Elisa Pennetti and is advised by Michelle Issadore, assistant director of the Women’s Center.

“My impression of Martin's book was incredibly positive,” says Issadore. “She was 25 when she wrote it, she's actively involved with young feminists and she ties the issue of body image in with so many other areas: feminism, mothers and fathers, partners, compulsive exercise, college life, obesity, male body image and more.”

In contrast with other approaches that focus only on eating disorders, Issadore says, Martin has studied the many women and men with negative body image issues who think about, or are close to having, eating disorders.

“She discusses how negative body image affects our daily lives, how constraining it is, how many more useful things we could be doing with our time and energy,” she says. “I'm inspired by her work and I hope others get as much out of her presentation.”

Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters: The Frightening New Normalcy of Hating Your Body was published to critical acclaim in April 2007. Martin is currently at work on a collaboration with Emmy-winning activist Marvelyn S. Brown, on her memoir called The Naked Truth: Young, Beautiful, and (HIV) Positive.

She has written for such publications as Newsweek, The Christian Science Monitor, Newsday, The Village Voice and Publisher’s Weekly, and is a book editor for Feministing, the most widely read feminist blog on the web.

She has spoken about feminism, body image, and youth and political culture at schools across the nation, and has made numerous television appearances to discuss body image issues and its relation to pop culture.

Martin has been honored with the Elie Wiesel Prize in Ethics, the Joan Cook Scholarship from the Journalism and Women's Symposium, the Setting the Message Straight Award from ChoiceUSA, a Books for a Better Life nomination and a Clark Foundation Fellowship. She is also a Woodhull Fellow and part of the first class of the Progressive Women's Voices project at the Women's Media Center.

She has a Master of Arts degree from the Gallatin School at New York University in writing and social change and a Bachelor of Arts from Barnard College in political science and sociology.

--Linda Harbrecht

Posted on Wednesday, March 26, 2008

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