Media shouldn’t influence ‘Our Bodies,’ author says

Inspired by the idea media images have more influence on young people than ever before, Judy Norsigian, one of the original authors of “Our Bodies, Ourselves,” spoke last night at the Warren Towers Cinema Room, telling the crowd of 50 that staying in touch with realistic values and resisting media stereotypes has become increasingly important.

Her visit coincided with the printing of a new revised edition of the women’s health resource. Since its original release in 1970, the book has undergone numerous changes and has evolved from a time when it was one of the premier sources of information on women’s health.

“Nobody knew about the workings of women’s bodies. … [Women] weren’t allowed to play leadership roles,” Norsigian said.

In 1970, women were starting to challenge gender stereotypes, however, only recently did gender roles really start to change, with men taking more initiative in child-rearing and household chores, Norsgian said.

She said the media is again changing gender roles, this time for the worse. Along with a video titled “Redefining Liberation,” Norsigian discussed the influence of the media on young girls regarding drinking, smoking and eating.

Images of Kate Moss and similarly thin models appeared in the video, along with pertinent facts and statements by women affiliated with women’s rights organizations.

According to the video, one out of five young women have an eating disorder, and 80 percent of fourth grade girls are dieting. Models in the era of Marilyn Monroe were only 8 percent lighter in weight than the average woman, while today models are approximately 23 percent lighter than the average woman.

Norsigian feels advertisements encourage young men and women to drink heavily, and linked heavy drinking to statistics of sexual assault. She noted over 25 percent of women in college smoke, with that number climbing to 45 percent in some areas.

“The lecture was eye-opening on a lot of issues that affect women today. The statistics were really important to get out,” said College of Arts and Sciences and School of Education junior Brooke Nagel.

“It really hits home for girls in college, because we are prime targets for ads,” said Christine Buckley, a CAS junior. “Your typical model is between 18 and 25 years old, and bringing this to college campuses can get people motivated.”

At the time of the original publication, abortion was illegal and sexually transmitted diseases went largely untreated because relatively little was known about them. As one of the limited sources of information on these topics, the book reached bestseller lists.

While some issues from the first printing were carried over to the updated edition, the book now encompasses modern women’s health issues as well. Transformed from its original copy strictly in newsprint to a book of over 800 pages, it was recently released in Spanish, under the title “Nuestros Corpos, Nuestras Vidas.” Over the years, revisions have come from numerous sources, including more contributions from women of color.

The program was sponsored by the Office of Residence Life Warren Towers RHA and College of General Studies Professors Megan Sullivan, Joellen Masters and Jenna Ivers, all of whom share an interest in women’s studies.

“We were trying to put together a forum on issues important to women and men today, and we hope this is the first [event] of a series,” Sullivan said.

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