Just say thanks
The World of Yes
Huge bouquets of lush, multi-colored roses. An instructor dressed in a short black leather skirt and tall, strappy heels. A photo of a nude student on the screen.
What kind of women’s studies-slash-art class is this?
Welcome to “The World of Yes,” a place where the inclination toward self-denial gets put on hold. In a university classroom packed with students, parents and fans of “transforming perceptions and practices of beauty,” an online “beauty book” is unveiled.
A new message emerges: Love yourself. Love your body. Indulge.
“The World of Yes” is the brain baby of art professor Joanna Frueh, who wanted to do something different this year for her Beauty and the Body class.
It’s Frueh’s last year at the University of Nevada, Reno. In the summer, the 57-year-old will move to Tucson, Ariz.—her “spiritual home"—where she’ll continue to create and perform.
“Over the summer, the idea flew into my head, ‘We’re going to do a beauty book,'” Frueh says. “I didn’t know the enormous amount of work it would be.”
After a few late nights of editing and Web designing, the result is now online at www.theworldofyes.com. The book is a compilation of essays and art, with a rather upside-down take on self-image. While some women’s studies groups might approach the idea of “beauty” as if women were solely victims of twisted social constructions formed by unrealistic appearances of airbrushed supermodels, Frueh led students to reshape self-conceptions in a positive way.
“What about engaging with our bodies and the subject of beauty in ways that are so creative and so pleasureable that we reshape the material?” Frueh wrote in her class syllabus. “Let’s engage in a project of transformation.”
For the class, students read Caroline Knapp’s memoir, Appetites: Why Women Want. They discussed 18th-century aesthetic theory and feminist writings about beauty. Then, with a fresh perspective, students chose their own “beauty problems” to write about for the book.
Student Danella Hughes writes of the pressure to be “tan” and how she learned to love her pale skin and the associations that go along with looking “Goth.”
“My pale skin makes me look delicate, like a light pink flower,” Hughes writes. “I look youthful, and my skin glows. … Looking ‘Goth’ is not a problem for me.”
Claire Watkins’ contribution is a piece called “Dear Belly.” While trying to create an accompanying self-portrait, Watkins says she found herself conflicted.
“My project is about my belly and how I hate it,” she says. “It was difficult to be honest [for the self-portrait]. I found myself sucking in.”
One of five men in the class of 36, Cameron Carr writes about “Needles and Guns.”
“The body arts of tattooing and piercing are ultimate forms of self-expression because they customize an individual’s body, mind and soul,” he writes.
Students agreed the project gave them a fresh perspective on beauty. One girl says the work helped her through a serious depression as she realized that others face the same struggles regarding physical appearance.
Sandy Brown, who writes “My Body: The Nude,” says she’s experienced a “domino effect of transformation.”
“I’m constantly thinking about how I perceive myself and how I perceive others,” she says. “Awareness is the first step. I see myself changing the way I act.”