Body Project seeks to create ripple effect

A pebble in a river.

It’s how Andy Sykes, coordinator of health and fitness education with Campus Recreation, described the creation of the “Body Project,” a new body activism program at Wichita State that uses dissonance theory to bring awareness and to change the way women think about themselves and others.

“The idea is that it will expand out and it’ll hit more and more people as the program grows,” he said.

Like a ripple effect.

Sykes, along with Erin Lohman from the Counseling and Testing Center, look at dissonance — the image conflicts — and try to create feelings towards betterment in the way women think and feel about one another.

“We want to change the way females think about themselves, and others,” he said. “It’s this idea of facing this conflict within ourselves.”

Sykes described dissonance theory as how the perception of what is considered good doesn’t always coincide with how people act.

“We know we shouldn’t say bad things to ourselves and to each other, so when a girl walks into a room, we make judgments on her image,” he said. “We know we shouldn’t do that, but we automatically do it.”

He said that society has created the idea of a pretty girl as skinny and what exists is a list of things that women should look like in order to feel pretty or beautiful.

“It’s like pictures of girls on a cover of a magazine — they’ve been touched up, they aren’t real females anymore and it’s not achievable,” he said. “Why would we ever want to look like that, knowing that we can’t?”

Sykes and Lohman will oversee and train students, faculty and staff as resources and peer mentors so that, eventually, they can take a step back for students to spread the message.

“Erin and I are the first step, ” he said. “We will do trainings where our professional staff will become facilitators and students become peer-leaders. Hopefully it’s a student-run program, where it won’t need much help from us.”

And the program is just getting started.

Sykes said late last year the program sought ways to get people involved for executing the program. They had led a training two weeks ago and were able to gain the interest of four students.

“We are hoping that it will grow and those students can hopefully expand as it gets popular.”

If the program grows enough, Sykes hopes the Body Project will become a registered student organization (RSO) that receives funding from Student Government Association. As of right now funding is provided by the counseling center and Campus Recreation.