Halloween, Breast Cancer, & Love Your Body Day - What do they have in Common?

What do breast cancer awareness, Love Your Body Day, and Halloween have in common? Besides the fact that they are all centered around the month of October, they all also have a lot to do with women’s bodies. I think that raising awareness about what we think - personally and societally - about women's bodies is valuable for improving social consciousness.

Concern for breast cancer has spawned a huge movement around education, awareness, and fund raising. The concern over breast cancer is laudable, however the emphasis on women's breasts may bridge from concern to titillation. T-shirt slogans like "Save 2nd Base" or "Save the Tatas" attempt to bring levity to this disease by way of our cultural obsession with women's body parts.

Now moving to Halloween, which, as a costume-lover, is one of my favorite days of the year! It has exploded in the United States as a top adult holiday, with a heavy focus on sexy costumes for women. It seems that many girls and women use Halloween as an excuse to be blatantly sexual in appearance. I think it is fun and important that women feel permission and flexibility around their sexual expression. So often women are criticized if they "own" their sexuality, under their own terms. However, the Halloween emphasis on women presenting themselves as sexy objects generally isn't about sexual expression, but about appearing sexy to feel valuable.
Getting attention does feel good, but at what cost?

Does this concern and emphasis on women's bodies benefit women? Love Your Body Day was October 19, and is a national day to raise awareness around the depiction and representation of women's bodies in media. Love Your Body Day brings attention to the rate of eating disorders, the airbrushing that creates impossible standards in model images, and the fact that 80% of women are unhappy with their appearance when they look in the mirror. With so many media messages inform women that they should spend time and money purchasing products to be younger, prettier, thinner, or sexier, I'm surprised this percentage isn't higher.

So this October there is a lot to consider regarding women's bodies! Where do you stand regarding your appreciation and love for your own body? If you're looking for a boost in that area, check out one of my 
 recent blogs on body image that might help you out with your self lovin'.

~Dr. Jenn Gunsaullus, Sex Therapy, Marriage Counseling, College Sex Education Speaker -- San Diego, CA

Today (10/19) is National "Love Your Body" Day! Ok, so now what?

What exactly does it mean to love our bodies? In a few weeks I will speaking at San Diego State University about this topic. It's a tough one. How can we LOVE our bodies, amidst an onslaught of negative media messages about how we should be dissatisfied with them? Look around you - much of advertising to women is based on tearing down our self-esteem and body-image, so that we want to buy their products to feel better. It's insidious and disgusting.

There are lots of ways to approach this, so I'll mention two here. First, consume less advertising and mass media. That shit will eat you alive! I know it can be difficult to pull back, but just take small steps of removing a certain magazine from your home, or a certain reality show from your viewing.

My next suggestion is to take a "holistic" approach to reframing how you view your body. With a sheet of paper, walk yourself through these five categories: physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual. What are your strengths in each category? How does your body support you and help your thrive? Write down any examples you can think of, whether big or small, such as: physical - my legs are strong enough to get me out of bed this morning; physical - I have pretty eyes; mental - my brain is good at math; emotional - I feel love very strongly in my heart; social - I am good at dancing with others; spiritual - when I meditate my body feels like it blends into the universe. Now use this list to your advantage! Keep adding to it. Consult it when you feel down. Brainstorm with your female friends to assist each other.

In honor of this day, I am reposting one of my "classic" In the Den with Dr. Jenn videos, about loving our bodies. Take a look and see how it can help you!


If you'd like to read another commentary on Love Your Body Day, check out Feministing's blog.

~Dr. Jenn Gunsaullus -- Sex Therapy, Marriage Counseling, & University Sexuality Speaker in San Diego, CA

Love Your Body Day - Why Does this Matter for Women's Body Image?

I've been involved with several Love Your Body Day events in the past few years. Love Your Body Day was created by the NOW Foundation in 1998 to raise awareness about the depiction of women, women's bodies, and female sexuality in the media and popular culture. The NOW Foundation's Love Your Body website explains, "Hollywood and the fashion, cosmetics and diet industries work hard to make each of us believe that our bodies are unacceptable and need constant improvement."

Poor body-image is a topic that repeatedly surfaces with my female counseling clients and college students. It's an insidious weight that seems to follow women throughout their lives. And for many of us, the belief that a large part of our value, worth, and attention is derived from physical attractiveness, is ingrained from a young age. It impacts our ability for self-love, enjoyment of sexual activity, appreciation of our lives, and to know how to really honor ourselves.

What can we do about this? How can we improve body-image and help other women? I think it's a continual, daily process, of improving mindfulness. It's about noticing the negative thought patterns and reframing, finding and concentrating on what you have to grateful for, and creating your own version/vision of sexy.  When I guide women and students through this process, I use a holistic approach, meaning we delve into the physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual components. And then find a few small steps that can be taken every day to shift the tide.

Learning to love our bodies does not happen overnight, but is a gradual process of raising awareness, redefining, appreciating, and enjoying. This year's Love Your Body Day is on October 19, 2011. If your college, university, or women's organization is looking for a memorable and impactful speaker on this topic, please get in touch with me.