Photo credit: Melissa Henrie
On March 8 the world celebrated International Women’s Day—a day for celebrating mothers, wives, sisters, aunts, grandmothers, friends, family and women in general.
In honor of the holiday, UVU’s Women’s Success Center held an official Women’s Day conference on Friday, March 7, inviting all women that roam the halls of UVU and from the community to be made aware that they are more than just beautiful and how they play an important role in the world today.
In the first session of the event, held at Centre Stage at 1 p.m., women were given the message that leadership in our world today is calling for an integrated individual that comes from the heart and soul.
The invitation for women to seek education, to grow, to succeed and to find their role in the community is what celebrating yourself as a woman as well as an individual is all about. Aspiring women from all over the world are expressing the need for a feminine role in leadership, that women can rise and leave an impact in the world is the hope for the future.
The Women’s Success Center is designed to motivate and help women gain knowledge, find opportunities and build confidence so that they might improve their lives and the lives of their families.
From this session, women were told that they have the power to not only improve their lives but to go beyond that and leave a lasting impression on the world.
One woman in particular who is doing just that right here in Utah Valley is Michelle Taylor, vice president of Student Affairs, who was awarded the Rain Maker award for being an inspirational mentor to students and people in the community, both male and female.
“She is a great voice for the students and women,” expressed President Holland, who attended this session. “She is not just helping women in trouble, but giving all women affirmation.”
Taylor talked about her life and how she came to be the woman she is today, and she explained how her father always told her ‘you’re going to college.’ Her father believed that one goes to college to learn how to learn. Taylor declared how much education matters and to always be a lifelong learner.
Next to address those in attendance were keynote speakers, Lexie and Lindsay Kite, twin sisters with Ph.D.s in the study of media and body image from the University of Utah. These sisters have started a foundation called Beauty Redefined, a non-profit organization with the goal to help women and girls be made aware of the harmful messages about what beauty is from the media.
Lexie and Lindsay discussed how it’s not just about feeling beautiful but actually getting to the core of beauty. The idea that women need to be told that they are more than just beautiful is often why there is never any resolution of the low self-image most women suffer from.
Although women might not all look alike and have the same body types, flawless skin, perfect noses or whatever it may be, they can’t simply be told they are beautiful just the way they are and leave it at that. Women need to find within themselves the empowerment to be more than just an outward beauty, but an all-encompassing beauty.
Lexie and Lindsay Kite shared images from the media that are often seen telling women that their bodies need fixing. Phrases like, “Shed that belly fat before summer is here,” “Diets that work!” or “How you can lose 42 lbs in just 2 weeks,” are too-often all that women see on social media and standing in line at the grocery store.
Women are constantly reminded to lose weight and make their bodies sexy. There is so much pressure for women to change their bodies to “normal” when the women on the covers of magazines and advertisements are airbrushed and photo shopped to unrealistic measures anyway.
The media screams that women are parts to be judged. Over 10 million women in the U.S. are anorexic or bulimic or suffer from some form of eating disability, and cosmetic surgery has gone up 446% in the past ten years.
As women in Utah it is interesting to note that Forbes Magazine ranked Salt Lake City as the vainest city in the nation. Marketing and business ultimately control the way many women here think. Signs that say “Don’t be dumpy! Be beautiful! All natural inexpensive plastic surgery” are feeding thoughts subconsciously.
In a survey recently taken, most women are severely dissatisfied with their bodies, and are generally just dissatisfied with themselves. Most women hold back from certain activities, even exercising, because they consider themselves “too fat.” Lexie and Lindsay urged everyone to go on a “media fast” for at least two days and then see how they feel about themselves.
The Kite sisters have dedicated their lives to this cause to share the message that women need to use their bodies as instruments instead of objects. They declare: “Women are more than just bodies. See more. Be more…You are capable of much more than looking hot.”
In the second session of the conference, which was held in the Grande Ballroom at 6 p.m., speakers such as 2013’s Miss Africa Utah and some of UVU’s international women students shared what beauty means to them.
Miss Somalia, Jawahir Ahmed, described what it is like being Islamic in a western culture’s realm of beauty.
“Your heart radiates beauty more than your looks ever could,” Ahmed said.
Paola Rondon, an international student from Venezuela, said that it is common for women in Venezuela to be really pretty and how Venezuela has won many Miss Universe pageants.
Rondon said it is very common for women in Venezuela to get plastic surgery, but believes that “When you love yourself, you are beautiful.”
In most countries, women don’t have to work on International Women’s Day and they still get paid for it. Men honor and give flowers to girls and women. According to Miss Mali, Marie Pouliougou, in Africa, March 8 is a very big day for women.
Along with many inspirational speakers, as well as a more in-depth message from Lexie and Lindsay Kite, there was food, music and dance shared in the evening session.
Dancers from UVU’s Cultural Envoy dance group performed beautiful styles of dance from all over the world, portraying how unique beauty is around the globe. Beauty can be seen in lots of different ways; it’s in the development of one’s talents and growth as an individual—a soul can be a reflection of beauty.
“It helped you become more in love with yourself,” said Constanza Painecura, a student at UVU.
Rebeca Vianna, another student, agreed. “All we care about is appearance,” she said, “but we need to make our true inner beauty be seen.”
Anne Wairepo, Director of the Women’s Success Center, promotes the idea of a more “integrated, collaborative society.” Although this day was dedicated to women, there was the notion that if men and women work together they can create a beautiful whole in society.
It’s not about being better than the other. And if people focused more on the character of an individual rather than just the outward appearance, it’s possible to empower one another with the result of a more unified and happy society.