New organization promotes healthy body image
The group does not yet have a name and is still in the beginning stages of formation
December 2, 2013, 6:25 pm · Updated December 2, 2013, 10:46 pm·
Students are working to create a new organization that promotes healthy body image on campus.
The organization will be a community support system that offers regular discussion groups open to the public. Students are also planning awareness campaigns that Engineering senior Laura MacKinnon, who spearheaded the project, hopes will “really get people thinking about why it’s so important that we talk about this.”
According to MacKinnon, body image issues and eating disorders are “epidemic” on campus and a “a fundamental flaw in the culture at Penn.”
To MacKinnon, this is deeply concerning. “It’s more than just worrying about how we look,” she said. “Body image can have detrimental effects on self-esteem and well-being. It’s about caring for our whole selves, body and mind, something that Penn students often ignore.”
Building this organization from the ground up, MacKinnon said one of the biggest issues she faces is the stigma surrounding body image issues.
“It takes an enormous amount of courage to talk about it in the open,” she said. “My commitment is to create a culture at Penn that makes it okay to ask for help, to talk about uncomfortable topics and to stand for something bigger than ourselves.”
MacKinnon has spent the past few months meeting with students and University organizations to gather support for her vision. The group does not yet have a name and is still in the beginning stages of formation.
Because the University is currently home to many mental health and women’s advocacy groups, MacKinnon hopes this organization will fit in and collaborate with what she described as the “positive work [that is] already happening.” She added that this group will differ from some other similar organizations because it will “in no way be limited to women.”
According to MacKinnon, the Panhellenic Council has shown interest in co-sponsoring events. Penn Women’s Center has also been very supportive of the group’s efforts and is enthusiastic about adding a body image discussion group to its existing programs.
“We want students to feel comfortable discussing the cultural and environmental variables that affect how women and men view their bodies,” Jessica Mertz, associate director of the Penn Women’s Center, said. “We encourage these conversations and hope that the Penn Women’s Center is seen as a safe space to explore this topic.”