Ethyl made sure her socks matched her bright red lipstick when she got her picture taken. After all, the 73-year-old woman wasn’t wearing anything else.
She is a participant in the Century Project, a series of nude photos of women age zero to 100, which draw attention to such issues as body image, eating disorders and media presentations of women.
The free exhibit by photographer Frank Cordelle began at Cornell on Monday and will run through 9 p.m. today in the Wendy Purcell Lounge at the Robert Purcell Community Center (RPCC).
The Century Project is part of Love Your Body Day, “a day to speak out against negative and harmful media images of women, as well as advocate for healthier body attitudes and practices,” according to the National Organization for Women (NOW), which instituted the special day three years ago.
This is Cornell’s second year participating in the event. In contrast to last year’s one day celebration, Cornell and the Ithaca community have planned ten days of events leading up to Love Your Body Day next Wednesday.
Candace Rypisi, director of the Cornell Women’s Resource Center, said the message to the Cornell community is “to raise awareness that we come in all different shapes and sizes, and hopefully we can learn to be comfortable in our bodies and skin.”
Cordelle’s exhibit demonstrates many different body types from women of diverse backgrounds and experience.
The subjects of his photographs include women with breast cancer, anorexia and bulimia, and both sad and joyful life stories relating to their bodies.
Tissue boxes are strategically placed throughout the emotional exhibit.
“The overwhelming response is positive,” Cordelle said. “It’s almost universally popular, from the Ivy League to the Bible Belt.”
Cordelle tours the country, aiming to change the way Americans view their bodies and sexuality, and the way they “portray women in the media, in particular the way men treat women.”
“Nudity, in terms of what we are exposed to, carries certain negative connotations with it,” Cordelle said. “You have to get people past this four-letter word spelled N-U-D-E.”
“I think that by sharing these pictures I can get people to see things in a different light, from a different perspective,” he said. “My argument is a healthier perspective.”
“The Century Project reveals the humanity of the women – that’s where the true beauty comes from,” Copsey said. “Our bodies are just a small part of who we are.”
Cordelle has been working on his exhibit for 15 years, but began showing it publicly only eight years ago. He did not bring his entire collection to Cornell, due to limited space, but he plans to compile the photographs into a book and CD-ROM.
Suzanne Copsey, grad, an organizer of the events and a NOW member, said she hopes “to get people to expand their definition of the female body and to include themselves in that definition as an acceptable body.”
“Nobody tells you how to love your body. They tell you how to shape your body and how to firm your body,” Copsey said.
A two-woman theatrical presentation at 8 p.m. Monday will explore issues including how the media influence female body image, the dangers of eating disorders and the importance of positive self-esteem.
The two performers, both eating disorder survivors, will perform in the Noyes Community Center Multipurpose Room.
A “Love Your Body Film Festival” will show “Hairspray” at 8 p.m. and “Circle of Friends” at 9:30 p.m. Tuesday at RPCC.
On Wednesday documentarian and author Jean Kilbourne will speak at Kulp Auditorium at Ithaca High School at 7 p.m. She is recognized for her work on portrayals of women in advertising.
“She’s an internationally known figure,” said Rypisi. “Her work has been cutting edge over the past 25 years, so it would be great if people could venture off campus to see her.”
Kilbourne will sign copies of her latest book, “Deadly Persuasion: Why Women and Girls Must Fight the Addictive Power of Advertising,” before and after her speech.
Volunteers will roam the campus distributing “Love Your Body” stickers and drawing chalk body outlines on Wednesday. Three information tables, on Ho Plaza, in downtown Ithaca and at Ithaca College, will also hand out bookmarks and sell “Love Your Body” magnets and buttons.
The volunteers will also collect signatures on a petition backed by NOW demanding that alcohol and tobacco industries stop using images disrespectful and harmful to women, said Tyler Cornell, advisor to Cornell’s Panhellenic Health Advisory Team (PHAT).
Nothing But Treble, an all-female a capella group, will perform a free concert on Ho Plaza at 2:30 on Wednesday.
Love Your Body Day will end with a Body SLAM! poetry competition at 9 p.m. at the Firehouse Theater on W. State Street. Poets should bring three body-themed poems and a three dollar entry fee.
The poets will compete under a three-minute time constraint for cash prizes. Planned Parenthood of Tompkins County has contributed fifty dollars to the prize money.
People interested in volunteering on Love Your Body Day can email Tyler Cornell at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Archived article by Heather Schroeder