There’s nothing new about TV and fashion magazines giving girls unhealthy ideas about how thin they need to be in order to be considered beautiful. What is surprising is the method psychologists at the University of Texas have come up with to keep girls from developing eating disorders. Their main weapon against superskinny (role) models: a brand of civil disobedience dubbed “body activism.” Since 2001, more than 1,000 high school and college students have participated in the Body Project, which works by getting girls to understand how they have been buying into the notion that you have to be thin to be happy or successful. After critiquing the so-called thin ideal by writing essays and role-playing with their peers, participants are directed to come up with and execute small, nonviolent acts. They include slipping notes saying “Love your body the way it is” into dieting books at stores like Borders and writing letters to Mattel, makers of the impossibly proportioned Barbie doll.
Taking on the Thin Ideal