Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

TEDx seminar explores beauty standards in media


On Saturday, Feb. 1, TEDx debuted its first intimate, participatory discussion on redefining beauty. TEDx volunteers used salon in its original meaning, showcasing and defining the art of beauty.

Events kicked off when Molly Cox, lead announcer, set the tone of the workshop by playing Jennifer Seibel Newsom’s TEDx talk video. Newsom is the woman behind The Representation Project — with the help of her team she created the 2011 documentary “Miss Representation.”

Newsom’s talk centered around how the media creates self-consciousness for both women and men. Newsom used her children as an example of how the media has created an unequal image for women and men.

“I had an epiphany. Whereupon in opening yet another package for Hunter, I discovered a blue t-shirt with messaging in large caps ‘future president’… Montana, our eldest, but also our girl, didn’t even receive the suggestion that she too could be president or her opportunities in life were limitless.”

Newsom points out that American teens consume about 10 hours and 45 minutes of media per day and that affects their perception of beauty. A clip from “Miss Representation” showed two news media segments where the reporters focus on how old Hillary Clinton looks and another reporter asks Sarah Palin if she had breast implants recently.

Newsom and The Representation Project team are also preparing a new documentary focused on masculinity in America. “The Mask You Live In” focuses on how men are taught at a young age to meet certain expectations that are conveyed by the phrase “be a man.”

Newsom suggests that the media can change how people perceive beauty behind the camera. If the media creates a culture shift, then it would be beneficial to prevent warped perceptions of beauty by supporting the good media that uplifts all while ignoring the bad media.

The first half of this salon approached both sides of how women and men define beauty, suggesting the images attached to each sex are unfair as well as unrealistic. The next TEDx talk brought representatives who supported this idea in Renee Engeln’s talk, Epidemic of Beauty Sickness.

“What struck me was that (women’s) quest for beauty seemed at least at times to overrule, to overwhelm every other goal or interest they had,” says Engeln. There is a saying that heightens women’s insecurity: “smart women know better.”

Engeln points out in her talk that it is true that all women and men know that the models in advertisements do not accurately represent them, and they know that no regular person looks like a model in real life. But it is not a failure in intelligence if women and men want to look like models — this is something called beauty sickness.

“Women are hurt when they are bombarded with these three messages. One, ‘beautiful is the most important, most powerful thing a girl or woman can be; two, women are pressured to look like models; and three, women cannot look like models.”

Engeln also explains that women live in a world where they are taught that their primary form of currency is their appearance. Over time, women become very conscious of their body and internalize the thought that their bodies are always on display.

She also addresses how beauty can be perceived as a power. “If women can get things — valuable things — from this culture by being beautiful shouldn’t we embrace that as a power unique to women? But what kind of power expires at 30?”

Engeln points out that wanting to be beautiful is not the problem, the problem is that all young girls and women want to be “so much more than hot.” She suggests that our culture can resolve this problem by investing in things that last and by thinking one’s body as a whole: the body is not meant for looking at but for doing things.

After the video talks, the volunteers separated the audience into groups to discuss the videos. They commented that their resolution to change the definition of beauty for men and women was to establish a balance in their lives where it is okay not noly to feel beautiful, but also appreciate the characteristics that outshine physical appearances.

The groups expressed that in order to promote successful businesswomen, businesses should form support groups. The power of speaking against typical beauty standards in media seemed to be the audience’s response on how beauty can be changed.

The last speaker was Karen Walrond, a journalist and TEDx speaker, who wrote a book called “The Beauty of Different.” Walrond was inspired to write her book because as a young girl she never saw herself in the media and wanted to change that.

Walrond’s talk led the last event of TEDx San Antonio, “Selfie SA.” Audience members were asked to write a manifesto — a letter to their past or future selves — tweet a selfie and record a message. The purpose of this last event was to build confidence and true beauty with the audience.

These pictures and videos will be revealed at the next TEDx San Antonio on March 18 at Say Sí from 6:30-9 p.m.

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