Being #BodyPositive on Grounds
There are over 2 million images posted and stories shared on Instagram under “#bodypositive.” You can find articles on BuzzFeed like, “23 Body-Positive Tips That Aren’t Garbage” or “19 of the Most Totally Awesome Body-Shaming Clap Backs of 2015.” Celebrities and models like Ashley Graham or Iskra Lawrence grow more famous every day in popular culture for their celebration of body positivity and demand for greater body diversity in the media. Even Barbie has taken to the body positive movement, releasing versions of the classic toy with a more diverse range of body shapes and sizes.
It seems like we’re in a moment where the media, that for so long has perpetuated unhealthy beauty standards and expectations, is finally changing its tune. But this doesn’t necessarily mean that body positivity has “won.” At least not yet.
At the same time we’re seeing over 2 million images posted under both #bodypositive and #loveyourbody, there are over 11 million posts under #fitspiration, a trend with a complicated relationship to health and body image. And while the impact of seeing a greater diversity in Barbie’s image can be great for young kids, that’s only one step in creating a more body positive culture. There’s no clear marker of when we’ve finally reached a “true” body positive culture. But by continuing to provide safe spaces for dialogue about body image as it relates to gender, race, and sexuality, we can grow closer with each conversation.
“Body positivity is not a static achievement, but a constant evolution of our relationship with ourselves.”
via Huffington Post
Our Body Positive team here at the Women’s Center understands the need for that safe space and works each year to provide it for UVA students. Through annual events, initiatives, and interventions, our Body Positive program continues to facilitate dialogues about what it really means to be #bodypositive.
Check out some of the highlights from the 2016-2017 Body Positive team.
“As part of Celebrate Every Body Week, we partnered with the Coalition on Eating Disorders and Exercise Concerns to screen the film Embrace on grounds. Embrace follows body image activist Taryn Brumfitt’s crusade as she traverses the globe talking to experts, women on the street, and well-known personalities about the alarming rates of body image issues seen in people of all body types. Following the screening, Body Positive program directors and interns led a short discussion on body postivity and answered questions from the audience. Certain professors provided extra credit for students who were in attendance. Embrace is available for purchase online through Itunes and Amazon instant video.”
One of the most popular events of Celebrate Every Body Week, the Jeans Exchange, encouraged students to ditch their jeans that are too small in exchange for a Celebrate Every Body Week t-shirt. The aim of the event was to help students not only donate jeans, but take a step toward ridding themselves of the unattainable body standard that keeps us holding on to the clothes that no longer fit us. Over 160 people participated, including 34 student volunteers that staffed 58 tabling shifts. All of the jeans and other clothing pieces were donated to the Shelter for Help in Emergency.
The rest of the week was populated with free fitness classes, like Zumba and HIIT training, and an art event which resulted in a paper doll chain of all shapes and sizes in the name of body positivity. (Pictured above)
“I had the really cool opportunity to give a Hot Tub talk, put on by Hereford Residential College. They requested that the Body Positive team come talk to a small group of self-selected individuals, but in the hot tub in the AFC. It was a great way for the participants to relax and get over some nervousness about talking about body image. In attendance were 5 men and 2 women, a much more diverse group than I was used to speaking to. It was a bit awkward at first as I tried to come up with relatable examples and situations that would resonate with the young men. However, we still had a really productive conversation, and it was a lot of fun for everyone. And, talking about body positivity in your bathing suit is almost like a mini intervention for most people! This experience demonstrated the need to accelerate the diversification of our message and the training of the Body Positive interns, so that in the future, we can interact with men more easily and have more resources available for them. I would love to put on more Body Positive Hot Tub talks in the future!”
“On Saturday, February 11th, Program Director Amy Chesnutt and I gave a presentation to the Women’s Leadership Development Program (WLDP), a program for first and second year women demonstrating leadership on grounds. We presented on the particular body image concerns associated with women in positions of power, who often face criticism that goes beyond their leadership skills or executive decisions and unnecessarily extends into critiques on their physical appearance. As a result of this heightened criticism, millennial women in particular seem to be shying away from leadership positions. Given the continued inequality that exists between men and women in many industries, the fact that body image insecurities and negative body cultures are mitigating females’ desires to enter into these positions of power is increasingly problematic. In accordance with WLDP’s workshop on personal development, we discussed the consequences of this negative focus on female leaders’ looks rather than their abilities and the importance of body activism for female leaders. Engaging the WLDP participants, we led the group in brainstorming advocacy tactics that the participants could use in the future as they became leaders on grounds and after graduation.”