This is how some TCU students identified the “perfect woman” when curve-model Katie Willcox asked the more than 400 women who attended her event, “What Healthy Really Feels Like.” During the event, Willcox talked about her book “Healthy is the New Skinny” and about body image in relation to how the media manipulates the way women should see themselves.
One student in the crowd said the labels they offered up depicted a “utopian woman.” Willcox said it was an unattainable beauty ideal and that women’s body image has been negatively affected by advertising and cultural norms that imply that they must possess as many unattainable beauty ideals as they can in order to be accepted.
As she states in her book, “If we take a step back and look objectively at our culture’s beliefs about beauty, we can see an expectation that women’s bodies are meant to be pleasing to others, not to themselves.”
Since becoming a plus-sized model at age 17, Willcox said she has witnessed how models participate in unorthodox practices to book more jobs.
“The unhealthier they were physical, the more jobs they booked as the health model,” she said. “It’s an underweight ideal that’s being portrayed as attainable and healthy.”
In her vlog, Normal Girl in a Fitspo World, Willcox talks about how she felt she didn’t deserve good things because she didn’t look the way she was “supposed to.”
“That’s the mentality that we teach girls, that you don’t deserve good things until you’re hot,” she explained.
It wasn’t until Willcox adopted healthier lifestyle choices for herself that she realized that women’s looks don’t have to equate to societal norms.
“We don’t live in a society that fosters people being themselves,” she explained. “We’re now vulnerable to being made fun of or shamed, and that has been controlling our decision making.”
In creating “Healthy is the New Skinny,” Willcox said she strives to promote a “factory reset” – shifting the conversation away from what normal behavior surrounding body image, hoping to change the way women see themselves.
“One thing we have to do as women to start to look forward is sharing these experiences,” she said. “By sharing, we understand that we’re not the minority– we’re the majority.”
Willcox hoped that TCU students and women, in general, would recognize when something wasn’t good for them.
“I would hope that women feel empowered to know that they don’t deserve to feel like they’re being dismissed, or that they’re nothing, or that they don’t deserve love and attention,” she said.
Bianca Newton, program manager for Alcohol and Drug Education, one of the sponsors of the event, talked about the importance of generating these types of conversations on campus.
“So many women on this campus are excited to see a positive representation and to cultivate more opportunities where they can lift one another and shut down negative ideals,” explained Newton.
Newton also highlighted Willcox’s idea of a “factory reset.”
“Katie represents calling out expectations, realizing where those norms came from and moving forward together as women,” said Newton. “We want our students to be comfortable with themselves and not feel as if it is necessary to conform or participate in high-risk behaviors if that’s not how they want to be known.”
Willcox reminded the students in attendance to think of themselves as a lamp.
“The lamp’s purpose is to shine light, love and compassion,” Willcox said. “If we only care what our lamp looks like, and are not plugged into our source, we can’t be used for our purpose.”