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Sorority disputes stereotypes

Jake Lacey/Arizona Daily Wildcat
From left: Psychology senior Erin Cohen, microbiology senior Danielle Abram and health education senior Gauri Pathak participate in an open-panel discussion on beauty in popular culture in the Education building yesterday.
By Danielle Rideau
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday, November 18, 2005
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Groups identify looks with culture, media

"Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder," said Gauri Pathak, Miss India Arizona 2005, as she and other panelists discussed how beauty is perceived differently for various races and cultures.

Theta Nu Xi, a multicultural sorority, hosted last night's forum, "Beauty in Popular Culture," to explore how the perception of beauty varies for women and men in different races, greek organizations, religions, backgrounds and lifestyles.

The panel comprised Pathak, the Panhellenic Council President Erin Cohen and the

treasurer of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, Danielle Abram, who answered questions about how beauty is perceived in the groups they belong to, and whether they agree with the stereotypes that result from such perceptions.

Each panelist discussed how beauty is defined and how those definitions can lead some women to have poor ideas of their self-image.

The stereotype of a "sorority woman," Cohen said, is someone who is "tall, tan, blonde and fit."

Cohen, a psychology senior, said she hopes people can look beyond that stereotype and see that most sorority women don't necessarily fit the mold.

Abram, a microbiology senior, said in her community black women are considered beautiful by other men if they are more "thick," or have "something to grab onto."

The women blamed the harsh stereotypes and standards of beauty on the competitiveness of women, who have the idea that they need to be and look better than everyone else to "fit in" and be welcomed into a group.

Theta Nu Xi President Amanda Droopad, who fielded questions to the panelists and audience, asked if they thought the new Dove skin care campaign showing average women in their underwear helped women feel better about themselves.

Cohen, who admitted she would buy the Dove products after seeing commercials of more natural-looking women, said others might still buy products like a Victoria's Secret bra because they think they might look like their models if they wear their products.

"I know that if I buy a Victoria's Secret Angel bra, I won't wake up and look like them in the morning," Cohen said. "But I feel like some people think they might."

Pathak, a public health senior, said she thinks the pressure is so strong to be considered beautiful and "perfect" that many women have plastic surgery to make themselves more beautiful, but that it should only be OK in special situations.

"Plastic surgery is only OK for a few reasons, and one of them is breast cancer," Pathak said.

The panel didn't come up with a solution to making women feel better about themselves in their own skin but suggested "if you love yourself, other people will love you," Cohen said.

Droopad, a management senior, asked what classifications of beauty overlap in all of the cultures and groups, and Abram said everyone agrees that "it's what's inside that makes you beautiful no matter what group you are in."

Francesca Fabozzi, an undeclared freshman, said she eventually grew out of thinking all women should look like Barbie dolls until she came to the UA.

"I grew up knowing women don't look like Barbie dolls, and then I moved from New York to Arizona, and everyone does look like Barbie dolls," Fabozzi said.

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