WIN Wyoming and WIN the Rockies
Beauty as a Relative Concept
The Larry Kirkwood body cast exhibit recently concluded on the
campus of the University of Wyoming. My gratitude is extended to
Sonya Meyer (Associate Professor in Textiles and Merchandising,
Department of Family and Consumer Sciences) for her leadership with this inspirational project.
Meeting and talking with Larry was a milestone in my journey toward
self-acceptance of my body. Where are you on your journey? For this
monthís thought bullets, I share some of the insights I gained
from Larryís presentation and art.
- Larryís work is dedicated to recapturing the appreciation of
the aesthetic value of the human form. In a neutral,
non-pornographic setting, every human body can be viewed as uniquely
beautiful. Larry states the human form just "IS" - we
place value on it. Larry asked the following questions to challenge
our ideas about the importance of the size and shape of the human
form - "Was I a better person 20 pounds ago? Was I a better
person 20 years ago?"
- The accomplishments of human beings are so much more, and so
much more important than the trappings of our outer bodies. Every
human being must be seen as unique and valuable. With this is mind,
we must realize that a prejudicial comment or belief about anyone is
harmful to us all. Itís not just a female problem, or a race
problem, or a weight problem. We donít know who among us might
find a cure for cancer or a breakthrough in another field. Wouldnít
it be tragic if people destined for greatness fell short of their
potential due to prejudices that blocked their paths?
- When it comes to human bodies, we all have the same
"stuff" - its just put on each of us differently. This is
what makes each of us unique. Basic logic insists that one part does
not define the whole, and yet when it comes to the human form, we
often let sexuality define the value of the entire person.
- Larry makes a strong argument that society places too much
emphasis on gender differences. He sees more similarities than
differences between the genders. To quote Larry, "I donít
usually divide people into males and females. I tend to separate
humans into people that are fun to be around, and people that are a
pain to be around. I also divide people into reliable individuals
and unreliable individuals. I find there are males and females in
all of these categories."
- Anxiety is the basis of the beauty industry, and encouraging
body hatred is a very lucrative business. Marketing "sells the
sizzle," not the steak. Most advertisements suggest a personís
self-worth is tied to a narrowly defined beauty standard. Marketing
campaigns try to convince us we are what we buy. The goal of the
beauty industry is not the well-being of our bodies, but the taking
of our money. Before we condemn the beauty industry we must stop and
remember that companies stay in business only if we buy their
products. We must take a more active role in deciding which products
sell, and which ones donít.
- Men wear a size of clothing. Women are a size of clothing. For
example, a man might say "I wear a 34-inch waist in
pants." A woman might say, "Iím a size 12."
Source: Larry Kirkwood lecture, Beauty as a relative concept,
University of Wyoming campus, American Heritage Center, February 8,
2002. Note: For more information about Larry Kirkwood
and his work, go to
Compiled by Betty Holmes, MS, RD
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