Embracing Imprefection: Attempting to Challenge, Change the Way Women Identify Beauty

In many ways, today’s media standards for weight and beauty are impossible.

Meet McCall Dempsey. An Ole Miss graduate, author of the popular blog, Loving Imperfection, and founder of Southern Smash, a traveling nonprofit organization focused on raising awareness for eating disorders and recovery.

Dempsey preaches that if you be yourself its be(you)tiful. This sign was made for a Southern Smash photoshoot.
Dempsey preaches that if you be yourself its be(you)tiful. This sign was made for a Southern Smash photoshoot.

With her organization, Dempsey attempts to challenge and change the way women and girls identify true beauty and self worth. Southern Smash has made it its mission to question cultural norms of weight and negative body image and encourage and empower women to love themselves and appreciate the true beauty in people.

Dempsey founded Southern Smash in November 2012 during recovery after treatment for an eating disorder. While in treatment, she was introduced to the notion of scale smashing: taking a sledgehammer and smashing a scale into pieces.

Here, she found her inspiration and three years later she took the idea and expanded it into the new program.

“I [was] discharged from the Carolina House on March 2, 2011 and made a vow that day that I would make it my mission to pay it forward,” Dempsey said. “I had no idea how that mission would unfold, but I had faith that it eventually would and until then I would do everything in my power to stay on my path of recovery.”

Smashing a scale encourages girls to take the “perfect number” associated with their “perfect weight” or “perfect look” and smash is to smithereens. It is “instant therapy” and way of releasing media and social expectations of what women should look and feel like and accepting true self worth and appreciation.

“The most rewarding thing about Southern Smash has been the amazing and extraordinary people I’ve met. Everyone has a story and I love connecting
with people through the beauty of being vulnerable,” Dempsey said.

The non-profit travels around the South using scale smashing as a main event, along with panel discussions, support groups and “Smash Talk” speakers in order to speak out against eating disorders and negative body image.

In addition to Smash TALK panel discussions, Dempsey also shares her personal story with all different ages.
In addition to Smash TALK panel discussions, Dempsey also shares her personal story with all different ages.

By bringing attention to shocking statistics such as ‘eight out of ten women are unhappy with their appearance’ and ‘50 percent of teen girls use unhealthy ways to control their weight,’ Southern Smash helps women to destroy what society has deemed normal and healthy and empowers them to love their bodies and not let weight define their self-worth.

“What began as a crazy idea of mine has not only turned into my pay it forward mission but has blossomed into a national organization that I’m just trying to keep up with,” said Dempsey.

Dempsey, alongside leading body image and eating disorder experts, hold these discussions not only to increase awareness and provide a secure place to come to speak out, but to help ‘smashers’ find answers to questions they were once afraid to ask. They use “let it go” balloons to represent releasing a “perfect number” and dissolving weight and body standards that bring women down. Smashers write their perfect numbers or whatever holds them back on a balloon and then release those inhibitions, which float away to be forgotten.

Southern Smash also creates a wide atmosphere for people looking for more support and motivation. Those involved encourage followers and potential “smashers” to become more involved in the fight for positive body image. McCall Dempsey, founder of the national organization Southern Smash, attempts to challenge and change the way women and girls identify true beauty. Southern Smash also makes sure to provide information on support and help organizations and hotlines. The organization creates a safe and trustful place for victims and those affected to speak out and get help.

“I have heard so many inspiring stories. Whether it is a fierce Smash Ambassador who is in recovery or a young woman who just stopped by to check out what we were doing with sledgehammers, countless stories and people have touched my heart,” said Dempsey. “I have hundreds of stories, too many and some too sacred to share publicly, [but] I am honored and humbled with every story I hear.”

Along with owning the title of Chief Smasher, Dempsey writes an insightful and encouraging collection of posts about her personal struggle and success on her blog. Loving Imperfection, gives further insight into the mind and life of not only McCall Dempsey, but also an eating disorder survivor and advocate.

“I began the blog as a way to share my story as well as offer support for anyone going through what I had,” Dempsey said, “I wanted to speak out against eating disorders and help others who may be suffering in any way that I could.

From the beginning, Southern Smash has made a positive impact on the lives of many and brought awareness to eating disorders. In 2013 after one year of smashing, Southern Smash reported 106 scales smashed, 148 Smash ambassadors and 2496 social media followers and has only continued to grow since then.

Dempsey hopes to see continued growth and reach.

“We get emails everyday from new schools and organizations requesting SMASH to come to their university or town. Future plans include setting up Smash Communities at universities across the country, as well as support groups,” Dempsey said. Southern Smash has visited many southern high schools, middle schools, private groups and universities, including the SMASH event at Ole Miss on April 23, 2013.

The organization encourages involvement in many ways. Sponsorship options and Smash Kit information can be found on the organization website www.southernsmash.org.

Southern Smash is always looking for ambassadors and volunteers.

“The growth is truly endless,” Dempsey said.

Story by Quacker Hefner, Mississippi Observer magazine. Photos courtesy of McCall Dempsey.

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