DECATUR – Heidi Zapp, a senior majoring in sociology at Millikin University, has already published in an academic journal and presented at conference.
She said her weight takes nothing away from those accomplishments.
“I've done some pretty great things, and I was 180 pounds when I did it,” Zapp said. “The first thing we need to do is internalize the message that we are more than our image.”
The Woodstock native was among about 80 students who participated in a Women's History Month activity this week that revolved around the 2011 documentary, “Miss Representation.”
The film explores how mainstream news media have contributed to the under-representation of women in positions of power in the United States, and discussion leader Nancy Curtin, associate professor of communication, asked afterward for reaction and ideas for change.
John Pollock, a senior from Decatur, got a laugh before sharing his viewpoint by saying his body type wasn't good enough to stand up in front of the group.
“So it's our job as men to re-educate our sons not to objectify women when women objectify men just as much?” Pollock asked. “I think maybe there needs to be a re-education across the board.”
Courtney Burress, a sophomore from Marseilles, said women are are often harder on other women than men are.
“We judge ourselves (according to the media's) criteria, so we judge other women by that criteria,” Burress said. “We're guilty of saying sexist things like, 'I'm really emotional, but I'm a girl, so what am I going to do?'”
Curtin said she never likes to leave her students without an action plan so she asked everyone to remember three A's:
n Awareness. Think about why men and women are being portrayed the way they are.
n Ask. Question others to get them to think deeper about media messages.
n Act. “Gandhi said it best, 'Be the change you want to see in the world.'”
Samantha Franks, a freshman from Decatur, suggested that people look for ways to build confidence in others by complimenting them on qualities other than their appearance.
Grant Sparenberg, a junior from Kankakee, said it's important to be aware of what ideas you're taking in because the best way to teach others is by example. Zachary Saenz, a senior music major from Rochelle, said the late Latin singer Selena was the role model who inspired him to become a musician.
“I try to live every day as the best person I can be, someone who stands up for people who don't have a voice,” Saenz said. “Just be the best individual you can.”