What sorority rushees can teach us about body image

Confident women!

Sorority girls are hard on themselves.

At Psychology Today, Dara Chadwick blogged about a study that found some, well, not-so-surprising things about sorority rush participants and body image. She used the study to teach about how friends can influence how we look at ourselves.

I agree but would go further: We can influence how our friends look at themselves.

From the study’s press release:

Undergraduate women who join a sorority are more likely to judge their own bodies from an outsider’s perspective (known as self-objectification) and display higher levels of bulimic attitudes and behaviors than those who do not take part in the sorority’s recruitment process.

A month after the rush, new members also displayed higher levels of body shame. Those women with higher body weights were more likely to drop out of the rush process and feel dissatisfied with it, even though those who dropped out were not overweight but simply less thin than those who joined the sorority. [Emphasis mine.]

Chadwick, who wrote You’d Be So Pretty If …: Teaching Our Daughters to Love Their Bodies—Even When We Don’t Love Our Own, mentions some after-college situations involving “body pressures.” For example:

Fat talk as bonding. “Ugh, my thighs are so fat.” “You think your thighs are fat? Look at mine — see how they jiggle.”

Good point! And I say, stop it! What’s the point of talking about jiggly thighs? If a woman needs to lose weight for health reasons, bemoaning how fat she is doesn’t get her anywhere except further into the pit of self-negativity. And if she doesn’t need to lose weight but is just complaining because she doesn’t look like so-and-so skinny actress? Well, that’s just ridiculous.

What we say affects how we think—and how other people think. Chadwick offers advice to moms of girls, such as, “Play to her strengths,” and, “Help her feel she looks her best.” But as adults, moms aren’t always there to build us up. We have to do it ourselves—and for our friends.

The more confident women there are, who have a realistic image of what a healthy weight looks like—and who realize that they are more than a number on a scale anyway—the better.

Let’s peer-pressure the world!

I’m a freelance writer and editor. Read more about my fascinating self here.

Published in: on 03/09/2010 at 12:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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