“I’d always been interested in issues like abortion rights and eating disorders in high school, and college gave me an opportunity to take action and meet other people [who] were also interested in those things,” Squire said.
“Women are generally dissatisfied with their bodies because of pressures from the media and socialized perspectives we have of the feminine beauty ideal,” she said. “The bodies of [Amherst] women try to conform to the feminine ideal … The bodies here are certainly not representative of those in the real world.”
Squire said that the goal of the two groups is to inform the campus that deviation from this norm is not inherently wrong. “[Our goal is] acknowledging that these things exist and working to promote a healthy body image within ourselves,” she said.
Even though the groups’ events are open to all students, Squire noted that Listening to Our Bodies is geared more towards women. “Body image inherently affects women more than men,” said Squire. “Historically and culturally, women have been and are objectified a lot more than men. Women’s bodies are in 20 times more ads. Women’s bodies are seen as a measure of their self worth; men’s aren’t.”
According to Squire, low meeting attendance reflects the societal pressure many women feel. “I think that women are afraid to talk about it; they don’t want to admit it, they’re just embarrassed, or they don’t think that it’s a problem,” she said. “As for the AFA, women are reluctant to label themselves ‘feminists’ because of it’s negative connotations, when in reality, feminism means equality for women,” Squire added. Regardless, the very presence of the groups on campus promotes awareness of women’s issues and empowers women in search of such groups. “It’s available to those that need it,” she said.