What is body positivity exactly and why is it important? As a part of Love Your Body Week, Boston College Students for Sexual Health organized an event precisely to answer these questions. Members of BCSSH led a discussion revolving around individual body positivity, as well as body positivity in the media. Students and members of the club met in Fulton for an hour on Thursday night to view clips and discuss the role of body imagery in today’s society both on campus and off.
The question “what is body positivity?” sparked an interesting conversation that examined how individual body positivity is not the same as general body positivity. Students discussed the difference between having a healthy self-image and having general body positivity.
As a further conversation prompt, the group watched a clip of the song "Q.U.E.E.N." by Janelle Monáe featuring Erykah Badu, which led to a discussion of the inversion of the roles of men and women in music videos. Erykah Badu is completely clothed, and dressed in a suit jacket, while the men are wearing nothing but body paint and underwear.
In this video, body positivity serves as an “activist statement.” One student argued that “body positivity is not typical” and if artists have songs dedicated to a healthy self image, it tends to stick out from their other songs. Other musical artists also display body positivity as an activist statement, but they are deviant from the norm.
Members of BCSSH discussed how they struggled to find good examples of body positivity in music videos because of how often they would be body positive in some ways, and negative in others. One student explained how our society has “dug [itself] into a deep hole where [a video like "Q.U.E.E.N."] shouldn’t be radical, but it is.”
Following the Monáe and Badu conversation, the group watched a video clip showing Donna, a character from Parks and Recreation, on NBC. In the video, Donna flaunts her sexuality, accidentally, on the Parks and Rec twitter account, leading to political backlash for her boss.
After watching the clip, the discussion focused more on the portrayal of both larger women and African-American women in the media. Thought-provoking questions were raised, such as whether it is better for women to address their size in a self-deprecating manner, or if it is better to be funny without addressing it.
In television shows such as “Mike and Molly” starring Melissa McCarthy, or “Super Fun Night” with Rebel Wilson, many students felt that “fat is the punchline” is the show's focus, rather than on the comedic talents of their leading ladies.
Body positivity is an issue that affects individuals, as well as our society at large. The environment at Boston College itself plays a large role in the way we view ourselves and others. A few comments about exercising and staying healthy sparked a new tangent on body image on campus and in the plex.
Students discussed how some people view Boston College as a body negative environment, with the understanding that this perception comes from the student culture on campus and not from the administration. Students agreed that, we, as a community, should strive to establish a more body positive environment.Featured image via shinesforyou/Flickr.