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Women’s Issues Club Dinner on Body Image Features Alumni Panelists

Among the panelists was Dr. Jennifer Garfein Ashton '87, an ob-gyn and the author of The Body Scoop for Girls. Dr. Ashton, who specializes in adolescent care, is also a medical correspondent for CBS News, and is often seen and heard discussing health issues on TV and radio. Panelists also included Dr. Daniel Rothstein '77, a psychologist in the HM Upper Division and a clinical psychologist in private practice, with a specialty in adolescent and child psychotherapy; Rika Burnham, who heads the Education Department at the Frick Museum in New York City, and former Associate Museum Educator at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Burnham lectures at art museums and colleges across the country. With Elliott Kai-Kee she is co-author of The Art of Teaching in the Museum and Museum Education and the Project of Interpretation in the Twenty-First Century; Lisa Schweitzer '94 is a writer, editor, author, chef and mom. She has been an editor at Seventeen and Parenting and has written and consulted for Aol Stylelist, Aol Slashfood, Sephora, L'Oréal, Houston Modern Luxury, Travel + Leisure and more. She is also a graduate of the French Culinary Institute's Culinary Arts program and has worked at Union Square Cafe, Aquavit and YumYum Chefs. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in art history from University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; and Woody Howard, Director of Theater at Horace Mann, who advises the Men's Issues Club.

Discussion at the dinner focused on the importance of finding a balance between the extremes in body image portrayed by media, history, and health at its annual dinner on Wednesday. Self-esteem starts with feeling good in one's body, and recapturing the freedom and confidence that children feel in their bodies becomes the challenge when one grows older, said Dr. Rothstein.

Dr. Ashton said her experience as an athlete in high school shaped her vision of beauty as healthy and athletic. She encouraged audience members to "strive for the middle of the bell curve" when dealing with one's health and body image. "Too thin is equally bad as morbidly obese. Similarly, having no care for body image is equally bad as obsessing over one's body image," Dr. Ashton said.

Lisa Schweitzer described the beauty and fashion industry as a "double-edged sword that undeniably involves a person’s self-esteem." She advised the audience not to take the media images too seriously but enjoy the entertainment value.

Through a slide show of paintings Burnham used feminist art theory to explore whether art styles and subjects are inherently gendered. She explained that the recognition that art has been painted by and created for the "male gaze" changed the way art historians interpreted paintings of women. Asking audience member to identify the gender of the painter of a series of paintings Burnham showed that men and women do not necessarily paint with a gendered sensibility. Howard concluded the presentations, noting that men also struggle with extremes of body image in either slimming down or bulking up with steroids or extreme work-outs. Exuding images of power, which he said people associate with not being gay, becomes a pressure for men. "There is a lot of common ground for men and women on this issue," he said.  

The evening drew an enthusiastic audience of Upper and Middle Division students, faculty members, and many HM parents. In recent years the Horace Mann School Alumni Council has partnered with the Women's Issues Club, which brought group of alumni to the dinner. The program this year also included a film made by eighth-graders, and a skit based on "The Female Body," an essay by Margaret Atwood and performed by Jessica Chi '11 and Tucker Caploe '11, Dorothy Ruan '15, Sophia Warzawski '17 and Chase Kauder '17. Zoe Kestan '11, Danielle Marcano '11, and Daphne Taranto '11 exhibited their art work.


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