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The Dartmouth
April 16, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Saklad: Empowerment and Lingerie

Lingerie provides a welcoming and uplifting space for students.

Thanks to today’s media messages, people learn to feel ashamed of their bodies before they learn basic arithmetic. Disney films, magazine advertisements and sitcom television instill a false conception that self-worth is determined by appearance, particularly in females. Being lovable by mass media’s standards means flaunting a flat stomach, flawless skin and a million and one other supposedly ideal physical attributes.

Advertisements circulated on a daily basis seem to claim that people can look as impossibly beautiful as their airbrushed icons if only they invest in a couple of products, but real people do not just come in a standard model that deviates solely based on purchasing choices, diet or exercise routines. Real people come in any combination of sizes and shapes and colors. Some of their physical appearance is determined by their lifestyles but so much more of it is completely in the hands of genetics. People come with marks: Birthmarks, freckles, scars. People come with stubby fingers and big ears and crooked noses. People come imperfect. The “perfect” bodies that taunt from front covers are contrived using conventionally pretty people, makeup, staged lighting and Photoshop.

Most people know the difference between airbrushing and a real body, but here’s the issue: They still want to look like their media icons. Girls like me can ride up on our feminist high horses for miles, but at the end of the day we’ll still cringe when our thighs jiggle in spandex. It’s because we’ve seen what “perfect” bodies ought to look like, and hard as we may try to discard them as media magic, these images are as good as burned into the backs of our eyelids. How can we accept our imperfect bodies when every flaw is constantly, crudely made obvious to us? Maybe the key is not to ignore the pieces of us that we do not like and cannot change but to acknowledge them. By taking ownership of our imperfections, we can work to normalize — and even love — the image of real human bodies through the eyes of a culture hypnotized by media.

It’s this kind of body positivity that fuels Tabard coeducational fraternity’s termly open-campus event, Lingerie. Students gather on this night to celebrate the diverse identities, sexualities and bodies that call Dartmouth home by wearing lingerie and unabashedly putting themselves on display. Lingerie is an incredible event that celebrates what real bodies and real people look like — images that are often buried under the heaps of pop culture we consume daily. Performers revealed their beautiful bodies, their kinks, their most intimate appearance to a full audience. They overcame media’s toxic images, refused self-conscious inhibition and encouraged all spectators to do the same.

Sitting on Tabard’s floor watching performers groove and strip like nobody I’d seen before, I felt the spirit of their body positivity reverberating through the room. As the show progressed, some audience members discarded layers until the space was spotted with lace and naked skin, professing solidarity with the performers’ courageous displays.

Celebrating real bodies among peers was a breath of fresh air after a lifetime of inhaling pop culture toxicity. I realized that complaints about perfectly healthy weights or completely natural stretch marks had become so normal to me that I forgot how illogical it is to compare ourselves to airbrushed models. Watching two nearly naked men slathered in peanut butter and jelly “bro hug” each other was exactly the reminder I needed that the negative thoughts about body image floating through my mind are ultimately pointless.

We are stuck in the bodies we’re given, and beyond taking drastic surgical measures, there’s not a whole lot we can do to change the way we look. Trying to remedy unfixable flaws so that we can emulate unrealistic images in the media can only cause unhappiness and self-consciousness. It takes bravery to bare your body on stage, but it’s the people with the courage to do so that are helping others to accept that our bodies are perfect exactly as they are. Feeling beautiful doesn’t have to mean looking like a magazine centerfold. Instead, it can mean seeing your real body and loving it just the way it is.