“She’s got a fat booty.”
These are the words whispered not so quietly by the girl in the front row during a 22 minute video that, ironically, is on body image.
Over two thousand Carlmont students spent an hour and a half crammed into the gym to hear Stephanie Armstrong, a member of the Teen Truth organization, present the message of the body image assembly: “Love yourself, love others and be healthy.”
The Teen Truth organization has presented at Carlmont before, most recently two years ago to make students aware of the dangers of drugs and alcohol. This, however, was the first assembly Carlmont has ever watched that brought up such a taboo topic, a subject no one wants to talk about, a subject that makes most adolescents uncomfortable.
Kaela Ismael, a senior at Carlmont and a representative of the ASB assembly team, admits that the ASB class had some reservations when it came to booking the body image presentation. Prior to the start of the assembly she stated, “it could be negatively perceived, like we know it’s not a subject everybody is crazy about.”
Armstrong agreed that other subjects are less touchy, “bullying and drugs and alcohol are a lot easier [to talk about] because we can see it.”
Nevertheless, Armstrong confidently gave her presentation. She started off by stating that she “was not here to waste time,” but here for three reasons:
1. To give students a voice.
2. To challenge them to think differently on an issue that teens face every day.
3. To empower Carlmont students to make a difference.
With that, she played a video filmed by other teenagers that described the challenges everyone deals with when it comes to body image. It started with a teenage girl who said, “the world is so shallow that it has taught me that my body is who I am.” The video continued on highlighting other teenagers with different problems from eating disorders to use of steroids.
Armstrong tried to further connect with the students by telling her own personal story of how she overcame an eating disorder after 10 years. She reminded students of how all she wanted was for “someone to notice, someone to care enough to help”.
Her proposal for Carlmont students was to do exactly that, to care. To care for yourself, but also to smile at someone in the hallways, to not whisper behind someone’s back, to not judge people in the same way that the voice from the front row of the assembly did. This was her proposal and it is up to Carlmont students to take it on.
Carlmont student Danny Akkel came and stood next to Armstrong and was asked how he connected to the presentation. He admitted that he himself, ever since he was eight, has been called fat by his mom, his sister and people at school. He wisely told the school, “sticks and stones may break your bones, but words will fester and screw you up completely.”
As the assembly came to a close, a few girls came up to Armstrong crying, thanking her for her inspirational presentation. Others, however, were not so impressed and did not think things would change at Carlmont.
Kyla Puzon, a senior, stated “no one’s actually going to go out and announce they have an eating disorder because of an assembly.”
It is not that students did not find the presentation to be relevant to them. When Armstrong asked the whole school to stand up and then to sit down if you have ever been less than 100% completely comfortable with your body, only about eight people stayed standing.
Carlmont has been forced to look at the issue differently, crossing number one and two off the list, but number three has yet to come.