The Body Project Aims to Break Down Female Beauty Standards

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Illustration by Alyssa Long | Staff Illustrator

Sarah Renard

Nearly everywhere you look, there are examples in the media of women with seemingly perfect skin, facial features, or body types — which may teach many women that these things are important, or even necessary, to be considered beautiful.  

So, how can body acceptance become a more accessible reality at UCSB? In one important step toward this goal, a new UCSB Health & Wellness-sponsored group has been formed called The Body Project. This project aims to create a campus-wide impact in body acceptance for all students.

Body dysmorphia is a prevalent issue for young adults in particular as they mature and learn to navigate societal expectations, and the environment at UC Santa Barbara is no exception. Though social stigma surrounding body positivity may not be as conspicuous as other campuses, harmful body shame still exists for many members of this community and it is important that this issue be addressed.

The Body Project, which will offer two multi-week sessions for its meeting groups, both of which will run for four weeks. Session one will meet on Wednesdays from six to seven o’clock in the evenings, during weeks three through six of spring quarter, and session two will meet on Tuesdays from four to five o’clock in the evenings during weeks five through eight.

Women in the community will be welcome to discuss the societal ideals surrounding women’s’ bodies and how these ideals affect everyday perceptions of them. Members will also be encouraged to discuss ways that students on campus can foster healthier perspectives on their own bodies and what steps they can take to act accordingly in spreading positivity to other members of their community.

In an interview with The Bottom Line, team coordinator Arzoo Manandhar explained the origin of The Body Project. It was inspired by a research project at the University of Oregon, in which a similar group had been effective in its mission. After hearing about this success at a conference, Manandhar’s boss encouraged her in the idea of starting her own group to reach out to the female students at UCSB, hoping that it would have the same beneficial outcome it had at the University of Oregon.

Manandhar stated that she believed that this project has the potential to be truly helpful for female students on campus, particularly because many students are still in the transitional stage of defining their identities as adults. As a result, it is crucial that a positive outlook on appearance is nurtured throughout this stage, strengthening the foundation of a firm self-confidence going forward.

“I think with this project students will come out of it with a positive outlook on their body and learn to appreciate what our bodies do for us,” Arzoo added. The appreciation of health as a focus, rather than as an afterthought to visual appearance, is essential. It is important that those affected by a negative self-perception are supported in seeking a healthy mindset.

With conventional beauty standards being constantly imposed upon women of all ages, it is important that these standards are reflected on and discussed. The Body Project is a powerful first step in shifting away from these unrealistic standards toward a deeper understanding of what it means to be confident and positive about your body.