Bunches of lavender balloons floated through Radcliffe Yard Saturday morning, kicking off Health Fair '88, a Radcliffe Alumni Association-sponsored gathering to educate women about health issues and the campus resources available to help them.
Attended by more than 100 women, Saturday's fair was the first of what organizers hope will become an annual event. Radcliffe College funded the fair to "fulfill a need of undergraduate women," said Jane R. Opel '50, director of the alumni association.
The fair was a "success in that Radcliffe has never done anything like this before," said Karen C. Van Winkle '90, chairman of the undergraduate relations committee of the alumni association. But she added that "despite the advertising and publicity, the turnout [of 150 people] was much less than hoped for."
Hour-long panels of speakers on women's health issues in politics, women and self-esteem, body images, and weight management continued throughout Saturday afternoon. Harvard peer counseling groups and stores specializing in fitness accessories set up booths in the Radcliffe Dance Studio.
The co-author of "The New Our Bodies, Ourselves", Judy L. Norsigian '70, gave the keynote address, entitled "The Politics of Women and Health in the 1980s and Beyond."
Norsigian argued that male politicians should not control legislation on issues of vital importance to women, such as advertising by tobacco companies, expensive medical technology, health coverage, childbirth, funding breast cancer research, and contraception.
Linda Sanford, co-author of "Women and Self-Esteem", spoke on the ways in which men and women view themselves. She said men are taught to build their identities around things they do well, while women are taught to "gain redemption by struggling and striving to be perfect," she said.
Sanford cited a study of male and female undergraduate's responses to exams. Men who had done well tended to say things like, " 'See, I'm really smart. I knew it all along. This is just proof,'" Sanford said. Men who had done poorly tended to say, " 'The questions were trick questions. The professor's out to get me.'" On the other hand, women who had done well responded, " 'I got lucky,'" while those who did not attributed it to laziness, she said.
Women need to replace negative self-images "with more positive, more compassionate, more up-to-date, and more enpowering [ones]," Sanford said.
In a presentation entitled "Gorgeous, Ugly or Misunderstood? Struggling with Female Body Images and Our Sexual Self," Ellen Porter Honnet, assistant dean for co-education and special projects, asked the audience to take an "inner journey" to explore how they saw their bodies and why. Honnet then discussed hang-ups women have about their bodies, the trauma of puberty, and the different reactions of men and women to the loss of virginity.
Susan Luke, who works for Sports-medicine, Boston, spoke about "Sensible Weight Management the High Energy Way." She emphasized the danger of crash diets, which wreak havoc on the human metabolism, and said that the correct way to diet is to eat low-fat foods.