Volume 95, Issue 22

Thursday, October 11, 2001
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Editorial Board 2001-2002

Stigma and stereotype

Editorial Cartoon

Stigma and stereotype

Women's issues are constantly brought to the centre of the political and social agendas on our campus.

Any discussion of such concerns brings forth the obligation to consider issues surrounding the most distinctive barrier separating men and women – the body and one's image of their physical appearance.

Western students need to understand the reason our school is plagued by a barrage of body image issues, many of which go unaddressed outside of feminist texts or classroom atmospheres.

It is an unspoken truth that women – and to a lesser extent, men – feel pressured to look a certain way at this university.

This pressure might arise from the search to find a mate before students become absorbed in work-related commitments or before their social life loses its varsity momentum.

It may be about conforming to a stereotype or a reputation. It could be because of a self-fulfilling prophecy – students live up to the stereotypical ideals of Western and thereby perpetuate these myths.

Perhaps it is a confidence issue or a power thing. Perhaps people feel they should appear the same as they perceive others on this campus do.

Whatever it is, body image is not only about looking good, but feeling good too. At Western, it can be hard for some to feel good when everyone around looks like they have stepped out of the pages of Vogue and somehow, you missed the bus.

Most agree other universities are different: they have different cultures, different priorities, different people, different backgrounds. Consider Western's setting in the city of London. This school's history can be traced back to days where it was viewed as a traditional, elitist institution and the school continues to retain traces of that image.

On the other hand, Western has gained a distinctive stigma as an illustrious, beautiful, affluent society full of urbanites, many of whom are destined to make it to the pages of People magazine's most beautiful people issue.

That could be an exaggeration, but there has to be some of you who wonder if the girl sporting her Ridout gear for an 8 a.m. calculus class in the dead of winter woke up looking that way or is just plain nuts.

Beauty is a powerful thing and a quality many Western students aspire to.

However, do Western students really want to be valued first and foremost for something so superficial?

The display of "beauty" at Western is divisive and exclusive and while many of us pay the price to look the part, others pay a different price when they decide not to conform.

The holistic Western student who can stand up and proclaim him or herself to epitomize the ideal "Western" socialite, while at the same time sit atop an academic pedestal is a rare bird. The general feeling here is, if you belong to one camp, membership to the other is simply not an option.

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