#WorldAIDSDay

Across the globe, people observed and celebrated the World AIDS Day on December 1 to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS, decrease stigma of being HIV-positive or living with AIDS, and to encourage testing.

Rihanna and Prince Harry were both HIV tested on camera during a visit to her birth island Barbados. Seeing the RED episode of Jimmy Kimmel or seeing a completely RED iTunes might have prompted one to investigate into this moniker. RED is defined as a licensed conglomeration of brands that “seeks to engage the private sector in raising awareness and funds to help eliminate HIV/AIDS in Africa.”

Raising funds and awareness has encouraged progress in HIV/AIDS research in 2016 which Huffington Post noted as “a banner year for HIV/AIDS Research.” Highlights include the exoneration of “Patient Zero, a National Institute of Health (NIH) discovery that could lead to an HIV vaccine, and a drug on the market for unrelated diseases may work as an HIV suppressant.

Hollywood also sought to emphasize that there needs to be stories that speak to the continuing epidemic of HIV/AIDS that disproportionately affect African-Americans today. When people living with HIV or AIDS tell their stories, the disease and the virus become less stigmatized. Aljazeera posted an article entitled “Living with HIV: ‘There is nothing to fear” and Upworthy posted a poignant comic with 10 people explaining what it is like to live with HIV.

In Georgia Tech’s backyard, Atlanta has infection rates that rival developing countries who struggle to control HIV/AIDS epidemics with Emory University Center for AIDS Research co-director Dr. Carlos del Rio stating that Downtown Atlanta is as bad as Zimbabwe or Harare or Durban. For more information about Atlanta statistics regarding HIV/AIDS, visit AIDSVu.

For more information on receiving HIV testing, please visit www.aidatlanta.org. There are free rapid HIV tests offered on site. Georgia Tech also offers free rapid testing every semester.

-Kristin Liu

There is no way to “CLAP” back

Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) that can infect people of all genders. It can cause infections in the genitals, rectum, throat as well as other mucous membranes. It can also increase a person’s chance of contracting other STI’s and increase the risk of contracting HIV/AIDS. Gonorrhea has many names such as: ‘the clap’ and ‘the drip,’ due to the discharge from the genitals, and ‘the dose,’ because people can be cured with a single dose of antibiotics.

Symptoms may include:

  • Pain in the lower abdomen, pelvis, testicles, or vagina.
  • Vaginal discharge
  • Anal itching or bleeding
  • Painful bowel movements

But, what if you couldn’t just “clap back” and be cured of the infection? In other words, what if the infection built a resistance to the antibiotics used to treat Gonorrhea? The If there becomes a resistance to the drug, this will complicate the ability for providers to treat gonorrhea. Since there are only a few antibiotic options left, there may be a chance that the infection can become resistant to those antibiotics as well. According to the CDC, 350,000 cases of gonorrhea were reported in 2014.

This drug resistance can cause some concerns for sexually active individuals, so it is important to make sure that you and your sexual partner(s) get tested.. The article “, states individuals under the age of 25 make up half of the new STI’s infection rate.This age group consists of young adults primarily in high school or college who are engaging in unprotected sexual activity. There are many ways to prevent the spread of gonorrhea. You can find all of these prevention methods at healthpromotion.gatech.edu/get-yourself-protected. It is important to engage your partners in conversations about STI’s and safer sex practices to help reduce the spread of gonorrhea or similar STI’s.

Georgia Tech Health Promotion G.Y.P. (Get Yourself Protected) was created to empower students to practice safer sex and make healthy decisions if they decide to be sexually active.  G.Y.P. provides free condoms and safer sex supplies available for students in Health Promotion, on the second floor of Stamps Health Services. Visit the Health Promotion G.Y.P. website to find information on requesting condoms, sexual health resources, and condom locations around campus.

So remember, get yourself tested, and stay protected!

-Ryan Wilkerson

Challenging conventional beauty standards one music video at a time

This summer, “Cake by the Ocean” by DNCE was inescapable. You know the “Ai yah yah yah, I keep on hoping we’ll eat cake by the ocean” song? If you did some digging into what the lyrics really meant or watched the video, you may have noticed that it was a Jonas Brother fronting the band. Other than that, the video plays into the usual music video tropes including hypersexualization of the women’s body parts with lingering shots of their breasts, butts, and bodies.

DNCE’s next video “Toothbrush” created headlines but not for the usual reasons of misogyny or male gaze, but rather, due to the leading lady, Ashley Graham. Graham is an up-and-coming model who has appeared on the cover of the “Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue” and in the pages of “Vogue,” “Glamour,” and “Elle.”

But the most surprising thing is that she is a plus-size model.

Yes, a Jonas Brothers-fronted band made a video normalizing a relationship with a man and woman who is a size 14/16. Pop culture will never stop being surprising.

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Graham’s leading role in the video allowed her a platform to talk about her experience as a plus-size model and challenging “conventional” beauty norms. She is quoted in “Billboard, “[The typical video girl] doesn’t accurately portray what our world looks like, especially because the average size woman is a size 14.”

In addition to Graham speaking out, bloggers and journalists used this as an opportunity to write their own thoughts. On MTV News, a writer noted, “Because romantic, sensual images of plus-size women in this form of pop culture are rare, Graham’s low-key performance sends an even stronger message: Full-figured women exist, and there is no reason to hide or for the public to shame them.”

Showing female body types that are not tall, thin, and white send an overt and subconscious message to the viewer that beauty is not limited to one type of body. Hopefully, this stirs up an internal and external debate with the viewer on what is attractive and normal and healthy. What a great message to send to the 48 million viewers who have already seen this video.

#ImNoAngel

April 20,2015

There’s another body image campaign going around! This time it’s Lane Bryant’s #ImNoAngel campaign. The plus-size clothing company recently released the video below promoting their Cacique bra/lingerie line. The video shows plus size women of different races (yay!) essentially giving the message that all women are sexy and that they are “no angel.”

Now it’s obvious that this campaign is taking a little jab at Victoria Secret, whose models are referred to as “angels.” Victoria’s Secret is also known for having thin models and being an “icon” of sorts when it comes to lingerie modeling. Of course, Lane Bryant is intending to promote positive body image and self-talk by celebrating all women. And I think that’s awesome! However, are they really celebrating ALL women by seeming to pit Lane Bryant against Victoria’s Secret? At least it seems like they’re pitting them against each other to me. Here’s an interesting article about one woman’s similar critique of the campaign.

I really hate pointing out issues with campaigns that have such positive intentions, but this kind of critique and dialogue is necessary. I want to see a campaign that doesn’t make a space that seems like it has to be one group of women versus another group. I love that Lane Bryant is challenging conventional beauty standards, but do they have to use the #ImNoAngel rhetoric, which is clearly referring to Victoria’s Secret, to do that? What do you think?

I’d like to read your thoughts on all of this, in general! Do you agree or disagree with my opinions on it? Sound off in the comments below!

-Leandra Lacy

Average or Beautiful?

April 13,2015
I was scrolling through Facebook one evening when a headline from Refinery29 caught my eye.  “What Too-Tight Clothes Really Do To Your Body” sounded like a fun read – maybe some science or random fun facts I could share with friends.  Instead, I was quickly presented with images of skin.  Humans with marks, abrasions, and indentations all from too-tight clothes.  As I read on, I learned of a photographer named Justin Bartels who was inspired to create a photo series that spoke to beauty, society, and the ways in which we bind our bodies to impress others.
The photos are a powerful representation of the impact, literally, that our clothing can have on us.  We see so many images of perfect female bodies that are smooth and proportioned just right.  We are presented with flawless silhouettes to emulate and strive for.  We often forget the struggle those bodies, and people, are going through to provide that perfect look.  Even separate from what the “ideal” body is, I connect with these images when I think of the number associated with the clothes I wear.  There’s shame associate with certain sizes of clothing.  Jumping a number higher to be more comfortable seems like an easy choice, but there’s judgement and stereotype connected to those numbers.  Sometimes, it’s easier to handle being a little uncomfortable to maintain that perfect size.
When I saw these pictures, I realized how thankful I was for a body willing to take this kind of stress and discomfort, just so I can feel more comfortable.  I imagine we could all think of that pair of jeans, those high heels, or that high waisted, tummy taming pair of pantyhose that causes us grief, but we wear them anyway.  How might you dress if you thought about the impact on your body, instead of the impact on others?
How might you start a thank you note to your body for the strength and patience it has?
SS

Too Tight Clothes

April 2, 2015
I was scrolling through Facebook one evening when a headline from Refinery29 caught my eye.  “What Too-Tight Clothes Really Do To Your Body” sounded like a fun read – maybe some science or random fun facts I could share with friends.  Instead, I was quickly presented with images of skin.  Humans with marks, abrasions, and indentations all from too-tight clothes.  As I read on, I learned of a photographer named Justin Bartels who was inspired to create a photo series that spoke to beauty, society, and the ways in which we bind our bodies to impress others.
The photos are a powerful representation of the impact, literally, that our clothing can have on us.  We see so many images of perfect female bodies that are smooth and proportioned just right.  We are presented with flawless silhouettes to emulate and strive for.  We often forget the struggle those bodies, and people, are going through to provide that perfect look.  Even separate from what the “ideal” body is, I connect with these images when I think of the number associated with the clothes I wear.  There’s shame associate with certain sizes of clothing.  Jumping a number higher to be more comfortable seems like an easy choice, but there’s judgement and stereotype connected to those numbers.  Sometimes, it’s easier to handle being a little uncomfortable to maintain that perfect size.
When I saw these pictures, I realized how thankful I was for a body willing to take this kind of stress and discomfort, just so I can feel more comfortable.  I imagine we could all think of that pair of jeans, those high heels, or that high waisted, tummy taming pair of pantyhose that causes us grief, but we wear them anyway.  How might you dress if you thought about the impact on your body, instead of the impact on others?
How might you start a thank you note to your body for the strength and patience it has?
SS

Supporting Those with Eating Disorders

March 20,2015picI recently came across this article entitled, “7 Things You Shouldn’t Say to Someone Who’s Had an Eating Disorder.” I had no idea that 30 million Americans will suffer from an eating disorder during their lifetime. Therefore, chances are pretty high that I actually know someone who has had an eating disorder at some point, though I’m not aware of it.

On the 4th page, which includes the statement, “You don’t look that skinny,” it is suggested that we “throw out the antiquated idea that a ‘typical’ eating disorder patient is an emaciated young woman.” I will admit that this is the picture I have in my head when I think of eating disorders. However, I now understand the importance of knowing that people of various sizes and shapes can have an eating disorder. There is not one “usual” picture.

“Let’s grab dinner” on the 7th page is also a statement that caught my attention. It makes sense to avoid suggesting dinner as a space to catch up with a friend who has struggled with an eating disorder. The article then recommends that, if you do share a meal with that friend, avoid talking about their emotions too much. My first thought would be to ask how my friend is feeling if I see them struggling during a meal, so that they can talk through their emotions. However, I understand the significance of the article’s suggestion- ask the friend what they need from you. Being a source of support can be very important, and if they want to open up to you, then they will.

I think there should be more articles like this about specific eating disorders that manifest differently than the assumed eating disorder, in addition to articles about mental health in general. For example, symptoms of Binge Eating Disorder (BED) include eating large amounts of food frequently, eating when not hungry, and eating to the point of discomfort. Those with BED usually do not avoid weight gain with self-induced vomiting, for example. However, BED is commonly confused with Bulimia Nervosa, in which people do accompany their behavior with actions to prevent weight gain, like self-induced vomiting.

What are ways that people can expand their own understanding of mental health issues? How can public health organizations facilitate this understanding? Leave your comments below!

-Leandra

100 Years of Body Image

March 13, 2015

I found this pin on Pinterest recently, highlighting the past 100 years of body image for women in the US.  It’s an incredible progression of the definition of beautiful, from skinny waists to no curves to big breasts to long legs.  Every decade has a signature look that is most idealized. While many of us (myself included!) would like to believe we take an independent approach to defining beauty, it is hard to argue against the impact that society has on this definition.  Through models, music, movies, and magazines, media has a strong hold on letting us know what is or is not acceptable when it comes to positive body image.  It’s engrained into most everything we interact with.

What I notice as I look through the 100 year review is a pendulum pattern.  Decades where curves are beautiful are soon followed by a period in which petite and delicate figures are the ones to strive for.  Interestingly, it seems these patterns are based on characteristics that are not in an individuals control to achieve, or at least not easily.  Broad shoulders will be broad shoulders no matter what I do.  Should perception of my own beauty be placed so heavily on things I have limited control over? The ideal answer is no, but so much pressure is placed on having these ever changing body types, that it is hard not to feel defeated at times.

I hope to see a decade soon where the “ideal” body type isn’t just one, but is a variety of shapes, sizes, and features.  Where body image isn’t tied to a look, but is promoted as a mindset of appreciating the body you’ve been given instead of striving for someone else’s.  This will require work on each of our parts to recognize our biases, our points of vulnerability, and our willingness to let our concept of beauty be defined by ourselves instead of others.  I think it’s possible and hope you can join in this important shift in thought!

Do you have a part of your body you need to learn to love instead of strive to change? How can you promote positive body thought for yourself and those around you?

We look forward to hearing your thoughts!

SS

The Issue with “Love Your Curls”

You may have seen the video above floating around on your social media newsfeeds. It’s a part of one of Dove’s newest campaigns called, “Love Your Curls.” The campaign seeks to inspire curly-haired women and girls to embrace their hair texture and to encourage other curly-haired women and girls to love their hair texture too. In the video, young girls from ages 5 to 11 talk about why they don’t like their hair texture and some mention wanting straight hair. Family members of the girls come together at the end to sing “Love Your Curls” as a way to encourage the girls to love their hair.

I think this campaign is great because it is a small step in breaking down the Western beauty standard of straight, blonde hair. However, the ad falls short for me. It would’ve been nice to see more young girls with kinkier hair textures. There are White girls in the video who have what I, and most Black women I know, would consider “wavy” textures, not curly. Some of the girls of color in the video also have a looser curl pattern that is considered more “acceptable” to beauty standards. I am not saying that some girls with these hair textures do not have personal issues with their hair. It’s just that girls with these textures do not face the degree of discrimination that kinky-textured girls historically face. Kinky hair is often viewed as dirty and unkempt. Women with kinky curls are also more likely to be told that their hair is unprofessional for the workplace.

In recent years, the natural hair movement has been making strides to show that kinkier textures are beautiful too. Women, including myself, have decided to stop receiving chemical relaxers to straighten their hair and have chosen to rock their hair just the way it is. It seems that Dove is riding the coattails of this movement without actually including girls and women who this movement is mainly targeted toward. What are your thoughts about the connections between beauty standards and hair texture for women of color? Have you seen efforts by other companies to expand what is beautiful, regarding hair texture?

We’re All Human, Right?

February 23, 2015

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a huge Beyoncé fan. That’s right…I’m a proud member of the Bey Hive. However, my feelings toward some recently leaked photos of the Queen were quite different than that of some other members of the Bey Hive. A fan site called Beyoncé World posted the un-retouched photos below from a 2013 L’Oreal makeup ad, and some fans weren’t too happy about it since the pictures show that Beyoncé’s skin isn’t so ***flawless (see what I did there?). Beyoncé World eventually took the photos down due to the backlash, but not before other sites got a hold of them of course. Honestly, I think my fellow Bey Hive members should be acknowledging that Beyoncé is beautiful, regardless of her flaws. Yes, she sings about being flawless and being a confident woman, but it’s all a state of mind. She knows that she’s not perfect. This is what Beyoncé World was trying to recognize in the first place. She’s human just like the rest of us!

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Similar photos of Cindy Crawford from a 2013 Marie Claire Mexico and Latin America shoot have also been leaked recently. Her pictures, along with Beyoncé’s, have really gotten the public thinking about how the media and Photoshopped pictures influence body image. I mean, c’mon! Cindy Crawford is 48 years old. I hope to look as fabulous as her at that age. She looks amazing! We all should be celebrating her (and all people, really) and not airbrushing them to the point where they look like a completely different person. What are your thoughts about these photos? How do you think Photoshopping in ads, especially of celebrities, affects the way that people views themselves and others?

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-Leandra Lacy