Indiana University East School of Humanities and Social Sciences Lecturer of Psychology Eevett Loshek and Assistant Professor of Anthropology Katherine Miller worked with a group at Girls Inc. of Wayne County through teaching a class on cross-cultural, historical, and psychological concepts of beauty and female development.
Katherine Miller, assistant professor of anthropology, helps a Girls Inc. member with an East African dress as part of “Perspectives of Beauty: What is normal is what you are.”
The course, “Perspectives of Beauty: What is normal is what you are,” brought girls ages 10-13 together for lectures on different aspects of beauty and hands-on activities during three sessions on February 6, February 13 and February 27.
Loshek and Miller are both in their second semester of teaching at IU East; they joined the university in fall 2014. They said the program began after attending the Girls Inc. fundraising gala in October 2014. They were at a table discussing their background and research interests with other guests, including Yates, who later contacted them about organizing a program to work with the girls.
“Katie and I had cohesive ideas on what we wanted to do with the girls. We talked to Laura Retherford and explained our areas of research and what our options might be to provide a program for the girls,” Loshek said. Retherford is co-executive director of Girls Inc.
They developed the course on three different perspectives of women and beauty: historical, cross-cultural and psychological. Historical demonstrates that beauty is relative, and that over time has changed how society regards women. Cross-Cultural relates to different world-wide cultures and what they consider beautiful. Miller and Loshek presented on the cultures of Japan, Padaung/Kayan, Kazakhstan, Maya, Maasai (East Africa), and India.
Campus Library Director Frances Yates, KT Lowe, coordinator of library instruction and service-learning, and IU East students Alexandra Estes and Madelynn Murphy assisted with the program for the class.
Yates, who also serves as the faculty liaison for service-learning, noted the value of collaborations between IU East faculty and community partners.
“We have an abundance and variety of talent and expertise among our faculty and staff. Drs. Miller and Loshek shared their knowledge in a fun, interactive way that really engaged the Girls Inc. participants. They are positive role models that help the girls recognize the many careers that are possible with higher education,” Yates said.
Hands-on activities included applying make-up, to help the girls understand what women went through in the past, and cultural dress to demonstrate how women in different parts of the world dress. The girls were able to try on an outfit including a traditional special-occasion dress from Kazakhstan, a sari in India’s Maharashtra style, or a kimono from Japan. The girls put on an impromptu fashion show for the younger participants at Girls Inc., bringing a lot of fun and laughter as well as education to the afternoon as they modeled the cultural dress.
“I like how we talked about how beauty can be in anyone,” said Girls Inc. member and 8th grade student Olivia.
“They are basically teaching us that beauty is not what’s on the outside, it is what is on the inside,” said Payton, a 6th grader and member of Girls Inc.
Loshek said the girls are attentive and interested in the material, and have brought up several questions throughout the lectures and activities.
Miller said many of the dress and jewelry items were provided by the Library as well as faculty, staff and community members. She said the girls have been excited to learn throughout the program.
“They interact a lot. They’re really funny girls, they are smart and have a good sense of humor,” Miller said. “The biggest thing that I want them to take away from this program is that they are beautiful how they are and to see beauty in other women in a positive way.”