Beauty Mark creates a language for dialogue
Diane Israel didn't set out to be a filmmaker.
A psychotherapist with a private practice in Boulder, Colo., and a professor of transparent psychology at Naropa University, Israel asked a group of women two questions: "What would help change the world? What do you want to work on?"
Their answer surprised Israel.
"They said, 'We want to work onto getting into a smaller-sized jean ... we also want to work on how our daughters and sons won't have eating disorders, but we hate our own bodies," she said.
It was not an answer she took in stride.
"I was so disturbed," she said. "I just couldn't' sleep ... I just thought, what is going on? How much energy do women and men and girls put into finding the perfect body, and what would happen if that energy was freed up? The world would be a different place."
In looking for a way to start a dialogue, she came across Michael Moore documentaries, and her plan was set. She, too, would make a documentary. The journey, however, took on a turn she couldn't have expected. It's a turn she shared with students through a screening Oct. 12 of her film, Beauty Mark, and through a discussion Oct. 13 in the Belk Library.
Beauty Mark isn't just facts. It's about defining true beauty and examining the relationship between self loathing and our own bodies.
"I define true beauty from the inside, and I define true beauty as people who love their life," she said. "Let's face it. Beauty is also beauty. We love to be attracted to beautiful symmetry of people ... beauty is diversity. All shapes, all sizes, all colors, all forms. That's the beauty of nature. The beauty of human beings has gotten caught up with a cultural image that if you're not [that image], you're not beautiful."
To change the image, Israel couldn't avoid taking an introspective look at her own life.
"I was trying to deny and avoid myself in making this movie," she said. "You're so busy talking to everybody else in America, you're not facing yourself."
Israel is an anorexia survivor. It's that reality that forced her into her own work and pushed the film in a directly personal level.
"I had to face my own demons," she said. "And I had to face my own pain and my own struggles and, in making this movie, I more and more healed myself ... Breaking the shame is really healing and being exposed. We think it's going to make us feel worse, but it's actually really healing."
Despite her recovery, she realized the media continued to affect her own body image, just as it does for thousands of young girls nationwide.
"When I'm feeling crappy and I look at people on television ... if I'm feeling really low ... and really crappy about myself, I really compare myself to other people," she said. "When I'm feeling good about myself ... I'm not as influenced by the media, and that's why it's so important that we set a foundation for our youth around helping them feel beautiful as human beings in who they are."
It's about pushing girls and women on paths of self discovery, "that journey of finding out who you really are and not who people want you to be," she said.
And, since its release in 2008, Beauty Mark has done more that promote discussion. It has directly helped people communicate their own feelings.
"I've had people say, 'I haven't had a language for what I've been suffering from,'" she said.
The movie translates what's going on, so that it's easier for sufferers and friends to express.
"If you want to understand what it is to be human and struggling with issues that so many of us struggle with, body issues, health issues and well being and how to live a healthy life through the struggles, how to really find help through the honest struggles of life, then this movie is for you," she said. "If you have any friends of family struggling with self esteem and body issues, this movie can help you have a language with that."
Society, she said, has a long way to go.
"The media makes exercising and nutrition, like, the biggest burden of our lives," she said. "How do we reframe nutrition and health so that we can be like little kids, excited about exercising and eating well rather than being shamed by it?"
Diane Israel's visit coincides with "A Month to Celebrate You" at Appalachian State University.
Breast Cancer Awareness
Also part of the month-long discussion? Breast cancer awareness.
In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month and in conjunction with "A Month to Celebrate You," The ASU Women's Center will be selling "Bows for Breasts," hair bows to promote cancer causes like the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer and Kathie Billing's Pilates/Yoga for Survivors.
It's a program that, since her grant was not renewed, can be costly to survivors. Funds from this year's event would allow her to help more women. A survivor herself, Billing maintains the breathing techniques learned during the sessions along with the social interaction with other survivors help the healing process.
"I really believe in momentum through the journey of healing," she said.
A registered nurse, Billing wanted to share what she did during her own process of healing.
"Movement, any type of movement for anyone is great," she said. "It sort of wakes the body and the mind and the spirit up. The breathing work that we learn and we incorporate in Pilates and yoga is also involved in waking us up, helping us get in touch with more of that deep deeper self."
The Pilates-style training also promotes a full-body awareness, vital in taking stock of your own body and realizing when something is wrong. The realization that something wasn't right may have saved her life.
"I had normal mammograms for a couple of years and, on my follow-up mammogram, I went back and said something just doesn't feel right," she said.
It was her insistence that led to a biopsy and a positive diagnosis of cancer. While she stresses to anyone who will listen the importance of getting mammograms, she said it's also vital to listen to what your body is telling you and communicate that to your doctor.
Breast Fest happens all next week in the Plemmons Student Union in conjunction with October's designation as Breast Cancer Awareness month.
Here's a quick list of some of the other activities happening at ASU in conjunction with the "Month to Celebrate You."
Oct. 14, Pink It Out Day: The ASU Women's Center will be selling "Bows for Breasts" in the Student Union all week and wearing pink to support and promote Breast Cancer causes. The community is encouraged to wear pink Thursday to promote awareness.
Oct. 16, ASU vs. Citadel, 6 p.m., Kidd Brewer Stadium: The band plans to wear pink ribbons to promote Breast Cancer Awareness.
Oct. 18, Body Project - Interactive Empowerment: Sponsored by ASU Counseling and Psychological Services, this event happens all day in the Table Rock Room of the Student Union.
Oct. 26, Coffee Talk, 7 p.m.: A panel discussion about eating disorders and how to help a friend happens in the Attic Room of the Student Union, complete with an eating disorder survivor, parents of an eating disorder survivor and a clinical director from a local treatment facility.
Oct. 30, Southern Conference Cross Country Championships at the State Farm Fields, 10 a.m.: Attendees are asked to come and be inspired by men and women pushing themselves to the limit as ASU competes for the title against the 12 schools in the division.