Challenging Beauty Ideals Over Brunch
Every year, parents are invited to Grounds for Family Weekend, offering them the chance to experience the daily life their child has built at the University. In celebration of Family Weekend, the Women's Center Body Positive intern team invites students and their visiting family members to join Women's Center staff and interns in an interactive conversation about what it means to create a body positive environment.
Formerly known as the "Body Positive Brunch" the annual "Body Positivi-tea" celebrated it's eighth year of programming last week at the new Corner staple, 1515. Through partnerships with organizations across Grounds, the Body Positive team at the Women's Center provides the resources necessary to create awareness of disordered eating and body image concerns with the hope of building a more body positive culture at UVA. The Body Positivi-tea aims to extend the conversation beyond Grounds by challenging students and their family members to think critically about the way they talk about their bodies and how that has an effect on each other.
Several frames were placed on each table, along with supplies the participants could use to embellish them. Before the program began, participants were encouraged to tape their frame to the large mirror in the room and write several things they liked about themselves on the frame. "This exercise," Amy Chesnutt, Body Positive Co-coordinator, noted, "really challenges you to change the way you interact with the mirror. Rather than using it to look for food in our teeth or look for flaws, you can start to associate it with positive things, the things you love about yourself."
Our Body Positive team continued to challenge their audience, asking them to think critically about beauty myths and the damaging consequences of continuing to believe in them. "Everyone is susceptible to disordered eating and body image concerns." Women's Center intern, Peaches Sanfilippo continued, "Anything that tries to claim that some people are less likely to be affected by body image is just false."
Participants were encouraged to conclude their time with the Women's Center team by writing down the self-care strategies they would practice in the coming weeks. Some promised to make an effort to stop looking in the mirror and other reflective objects (like car windows) as often. Some promised to practice better sleeping and eating habits. But ultimately, everyone in attendance promised to simply be more aware of the images and language around them, which Women's Center intern Felicity Martin noted can be the most important first step to practicing body positivity.
Wrapping up the program, one mother in attendance posed a simple question: What will it take for the tide to change? She found many of the body image concerns and pressures spoken of during the program were the same ones she had faced when she was in college. Hannah Trible commented that programming such as The Body Project which allows you to critique and confront the appearance ideal, is an important first step that isn't always readily available.
Our Body Positive team works all year on providing information, resources, and events that can help a more body positive culture grow on Grounds. Follow the Women's Center on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and stay tuned in to our calendar for more events hosted by this team.