Ten million American women suffer from eating disorders, according to the National Eating Disorder Association.
Campus women’s magazine Avant-Garde is trying to combat these statistics by encouraging self-love and positive self-esteem, one Post-it note at a time.
A group of 60 to 70 students, along with various campus organizations gathered together to discuss issues of self-image and insecurity in Student Union 62/63 at 7 p.m. as part of the Operation Beautiful program on Wednesday, Nov. 28.
Students wrote positive messages like “you are beautiful” and “love yourself and others will follow” on Post-it notes and left them in residence halls and academic buildings throughout the SUNY New Paltz campus.
Kaitlyn Vella, health and beauty editor for Avant-Garde, said this is the third time the publication has hosted the event, hoping to change the way women perceive themselves.
“The goal of this program is to spread as many of these messages as we can across campus in order to encourage individuals to feel empowered and beautiful,” Vella said. “A lot of the times the media can send negative messages and we want to change that by spreading positive ones instead.”
Operation Beautiful started in 2009 when Caitlin Boyle, a healthy living blogger wrote “you are beautiful” on a piece of paper and posted it on the mirror of a public bathroom. She created the blog “Operation Beautiful” to encourage others to do the same and a nationwide movement was birthed.
According to operationbeautiful.com, Boyle began the movement because she is “dedicated to ending negative self-talk in girls, women, and men.”
Ryan McEwen, event coordinator for Avant-Garde said the publication reached out to organizations on campus “who we felt cared about women’s issues.”
One of the organizations who co-sponsored the event was the sorority Kappa Delta Phi N.A.S. The sorority screened the trailer of the documentary “Killing Us Softly 4,” which discusses gender representation in advertising. Filmmaker Jean Kilbourne dissects the image of women in advertising and how it has transformed over the last 20 years.
Krystan Rainone, treasurer of the sorority, said they decided to show the trailer because the documentary addresses the root of the problem.
“We chose to show this trailer because in order to adapt positive ideas about body image for ourselves we need to understand where the negative ideas come from, which is largely advertising and media,” Rainone said.
Third-year Women’s Studies major Kaitlin Montelione said there are certain images that women have to constantly face everyday that affect her self-perception.
“I can’t think of an exact incident when someone called me fat or ugly, but I definitely feel insecure all of the time because of images I see,” Montelione said. “I don’t fit these images.”
Beauty Lab, a campus organization that holds discussions, presentations and activities about beauty, makeup and personal care also co-sponsored the event.
They created a letter writing station and encouraged participants to write a positive letter about themselves to place on their mirrors.
“I hope people have a new level of confidence after the event and have better respect for themselves [and] others,” Shelly Weresnick, historian for Beauty Lab, said.
Avant-Garde ended the night with a “walk the line” activity where people were asked to form a line and step out of it if they answered “yes” to a set of questions.
“The questions will show that we all struggle against negative thoughts and experiences but the positive thoughts, feelings and experiences are just as common and even more powerful,” McEwen said.
Vella said the event has a lasting impact on the people who attend and also on the whole New Paltz community.
She said she and others involved hope the notes on campus will go on to encourage more students to spread the message of self-love.