Love yourself. You’re perfect just the way you are. Be comfortable in your own skin. Expressions like these send a positive and well-intentioned message, but internalizing them is easier said than done—particularly when it comes to body image. Regardless of individual identity, background, or experience, almost everyone struggles to navigate their relationship with their body in one way or another. Despite this commonality, it can be difficult to openly discuss the stigmatized topic of body image, particularly on a college campus.
The Women’s Center’s annual Love Your Body Week (LYBW) seeks to break these stigmas and initiate necessary conversations about body image at Boston College. This year’s Love Your Body Week took place this past week, and featured a series of lectures, student panels, group discussions, and activities that each presented a unique perspective on the topic.
These events helped students develop an appreciation for their own bodies as well as an understanding for the ways in which certain bodies can depicted, politicized, and othered. Conversations covered everything from the portrayal of LGBTQ+ and disabled individuals in the media to the cultural significance of head coverings and how to wear them. Later in the week, activities like yoga and painting allowed students of all abilities to practice self-care and engage with their bodies in a positive way.
Love Your Body Week’s programs explored self perception not only in the larger public realm, but on BC’s campus as well. On Wednesday night, four BC students were featured on a panel entitled Insta, Finsta, and Reality: A Look at BC’s Unwritten Social Rules. Each student discussed the unique ways in which they utilize social media outlets, particularly Instagram. They reflected on how social media connects to their own identities and to the culture at BC. Audience members were encouraged to share their questions, thoughts, and opinions throughout the night, allowing more voices to contribute to a conversation that undoubtedly continued outside of Higgins 300.
The diverse range of identities and experiences explored through this year’s events is indicative of an evolving mission for Love Your Body Week.
According to Maggie Haesler, LSOE ‘19 and staff member at the Women’s Center, “Over the course of the past several years, these conversations have just been extended to more than just talking about body image through a single lens, but rather an intersectional lens.”
With this revised mission in mind, staff members at the Women’s Center intentionally brought new voices into the conversation as they organized Love Your Body Week 2017. Collaboration with various groups and individuals on campus resulted in a program that embodied the identities of all students. In doing so, the Women’s Center aimed to move conversation beyond the Eurocentric and homogenous mindset that often dominates such discussions at BC and in society as a whole.
“[Organizers] are looking at it through a lens of how can we start to get voices in the conversation that we haven’t perhaps been amplifying in the past,” explains Haesler.
Love Your Body Week also intends to educate students on the methods they can use to change problematic attitudes and beliefs about body image. While it’s crucial for individuals to develop healthy relationships with their own bodies, they must also play an active role in fostering a more positive environment for everyone.
“We want people to leave events with more understanding of how to navigate their role in perpetuating these pressures and beliefs, and then how to step out of the role of perpetuating it and start confronting those issues and being an ally and an advocate, while still dealing with their own body image and ideas of their identity,” notes Haesler.
She also emphasizes the benefits of holding events that interactively engaged students, allowing them to participate in conversation, exchange thoughts, and learn from each other.
“Hearing ideas, questions, and experiences of people in an informal setting where they’re talking about these issues definitely helps people become more aware of themselves and more aware of problematic language they’re using or a viewpoint they hadn’t thought of before,” she explains.
Love Your Body Week culminated on Friday evening with a performance of The Good Body, a play written by Eve Ensler and directed by Haley Holmes, MCAS ‘19. The play’s characters—portrayed by 15 female BC students—present a series of monologues that reflect the diverse relationships women have with their bodies.
The performance illustrated the sense of shared insecurity that largely permeates today’s world, but emphasized self love as a healthy and necessary practice. “It is practically impossible to go through your life without noticing your body and having a moment of insecurity at least once,” explains Holmes. “This is a problem that people of all genders, sexes, abilities, races, ethnicities, religions, sexualities, etc. face.”
For Holmes, the uniqueness of one’s path to body acceptance is a key takeaway from Love Your Body Week, and The Good Body in particular. “No one person has the same process of learning what it means to have a ‘good body’ and what that idea means to them,” she emphasizes.
“We live in the good body,” the entire cast exclaimed with power and conviction at the end of the show. Their message reverberated through the crowd, perfectly speaking to the overall message of Love Your Body Week. The diverse group of women admirably joined together to acknowledge that, as one character points out, “there is no such thing as an ideal body.”
While Love Your Body Week sparked necessary dialogue on a variety of topics related to body image, both Haesler and Holmes emphasize that these conversations should not end once the week is over. By continuously addressing these issues, the BC community can work towards a campus environment that welcomes open and intersectional discussion on topics like body image.
Explains Holmes, “It’s important to have stimulating (and potentially awkward and uncomfortable) conversations with every person about body image and self-love.”
Haesler expresses a similar sentiment as she reflects on Love Your Body Week. She points to regular events at the Women’s Center—specifically current. and Dish–as concrete ways for students to engage in discussions like these throughout the year.
“It’s really great to have a week that brings really strong attention to these conversations, but we want it to be a continuing dialogue,” Haesler says. “How do we make BC a culture where people can more openly have conversations about these more personal and lifelong struggles?”