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Feminist Activism for the College Grrl
By Lisa Covington


Love Your Body Day

It’s that time of year again – October. As activists we are usually busy this month to recognize many things important to feminists – domestic violence awareness, breast cancer awareness, and the end of Hispanic Heritage Month. It is also the month that the National Organization for Women celebrates Love Your Body Day. This year it is October 18th but that doesn’t mean your activism has a deadline! On campus it is a great time to have programming throughout the month or a single event. But first a little history, since its inception in 1998, the priorities of the Love Your Body campaign were to “to raise awareness about women's health issues, protest harmful and offensive advertisements, and promote the importance of positive body images for women and girls”. With this theme in mind you can create a variety of events for your campus. Try tying in breast cancer awareness month into the event by having a health care professional give a workshop on how to do proper self exams. It can also be something as simple as having a roundtable about body image and its impact on college women. That discussion can generate ideas and actions; you would be surprised what actions you may come up with by talking with other students.

Last year at my alma mater, Clarion University, my organization planned Love Your Body week. It was a week-long celebration that allows us to recognize that women are not just body parts that need constant improvement. Our society puts a lot of pressure on women to be beautiful even though those standards are usually thin and blonde. It ranges from cosmetics and diet pills to plastic surgery and the fashion industry constantly push this. But NOW recognizes that all women are different, beautiful in their own way and should be valued. In addition to tabling during Love Your Body Week, different events took place including workshops that focused on reframing self-images, sex toy bingo, yoga, a variety of roundtables and showing movies such as “Real Women Have Curves” (another good film is “Searching for Debra Winger”). All of the events focused on how important it is to be happy with yourself and not constantly critique your body. One of my favorite ideas that NOW suggest include having a mock beauty pageant where contestants compete in tire-changing competitions, three legged races and other things that you would not find a traditional pageant such as winning an award for “Most Comfortable Clothes”. This event can take place outside, inside your student center or even in the local community. According to the National Eating Disorders Association, 10 million women are battling eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia. Try and have a rally against eating disorders and awareness around the issue of body image. Students can speak out against media images, advertisements and even their personal experience with body image and the disorders that can develop.

Your event can also include making a “Wall of Shame” where you and a group of friends go through magazines and cut out negative images of women you can accompany this with a letter writing campaign to the companies expressing how the advertisement made you feel and why it is important to display women in a positive light. Or you can do the opposite – “Wall of Fame” – where you can find positive images of women and write the companies of these advertisements praising them for appreciating women for who they are, not what they should look like. (Protesting/picketing restaurants such as “Hooters” is also a great way to be an activist!) One company that deserves praise is Dove for having their Campaign for Real Beauty. It allows for women to be different shapes, sizes and color and realistic.

Your events can be throughout your school or just a group of friends, the NOW website has a variety of ideas (loveyourbody.nowfoundation.org) that you can do on campus. Although this may take time and the support of a department or student organization, invite speakers to talk about body image issues such as Aimee Lu, author of Gaining: The Truth About Life After Eating Disorders or for a different approach invite comic Wendy Shanker, author of The Fat Girl’s Guide to Life (both can be found at soapboxinc.com). One popular event is having the I am Beautiful Project visit your campus. They have performed seminars about body image throughout the country and many audiences rave about the success and the impact they have on their personal body image. More information can be found at iambeautiful.com.

No matter how you decide to celebrate Love Your Body Day the ideas are endless! Remember that women are more than their parts and should be valued for who they are not what they look like. Love your body celebrations can take place year-round not just one day – women will value the work that you do that says my body is perfect the way it is! Let me know how you celebrate Love Your Body Day.

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Lisa Covington is a graduate from Clarion University where she studied Social Change and Women's Studies and founded the only feminist based student organization. She served on the American Association for University Women Student Board and was selected as a top leader for feminist activism by Ms. Magazine. Lisa looks forward to attending graduate school for Women's Studies and working in the healthy development of adolescent girls.


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