Ophira Edut, editor of "Body Outlaws" and founding publisher of Hues, an award-winning national magazine for multicultural young women, spoke to a diverse group of students at University of Illinois Chicago (UIC) about images of women in the media. Her talk was followed by a more intimate conversation with Edut about body image with Jewish students from campuses around Chicago over a women's Shabbat dinner at UIC's Levine Hillel Center.
"To me being Jewish has always been aligned with women's empowerment and multiculturalism," Edut said. "As the daughter of an Israeli landscaper dad and an American rabbi mom, I grew up believing that cultures could coexist, and women could be whatever we wanted."
However, in the relaxed setting of the Shabbat dinner, Edut and students spoke candidly about cultural influences on their body image. Body size and shape, hairiness, Semitic features were all grist for discussion even as participants downed salmon and chocolate mousse.
"She was a very moving speaker and an incredibly nice woman. I had no idea that 60 percent of women are size 14. The media sure doesn't show you that!" said Yelena Litvinsky, a first-year student at UIC.
Supported by a grant from the Jewish Women's Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago, Love Your Body Week programs were sponsored across the Hillels of Illinois campuses for a first time ever during the week of November 7-11. Other Hillel events for Love Your Body Week ranged from Torah yoga (GAP) and spa give-aways at Northwestern and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to discussions about "The History of the Obsession with Body Image" (University of Chicago) and "A Woman's Right, Whose Choice?: A Discussion about the Changes in the U.S. Supreme Court" (UIC).
Spearheaded at UIC at by Hillel's Jewish Campus Service Corps Fellow Andrea Leverant, Hillel partnered with Student Development Services, the Wellness Center, the Gender and Women's Studies Program, the Center for Excellence in Women's Health, Feminists United and other organizations to ensure the widest possible audience and range of events throughout Love Your Body Week at UIC.
A first time effort both for UIC and the Hillels of Illinois, all agree that Love Your Body Week will now be an annual event.