This past Thursday, April 6 at 5:30 p.m. in Alumni Hall there was a showing of “Embrace: A Woman’s Journey to Inspire everyBODY,” a film about a woman’s path to find body acceptance. The screening was followed by a discussion with students and Assistant Director of Counseling and Psychological Services Niki Keating about body image at Colgate. Keating and juniors Sara Roelke and Elizabeth (Liz) Arenare worked hard to coordinate the logistics of the event before the screening.
Following the film, viewers were invited to participate in a discussion led by Arenare. Four student volunteers and Keating responded to Arenare’s questions about their body positivity journeys, the impact of social media on their body image and how the environment at Colgate affects their body positivity. Participants on the panel shared their experiences with vulnerability. Although no one’s battle with body image is exactly the same, the forum demonstrated how showing support does not require complete understanding. Taking a moment to listen empathetically is essential to changing a culture where negative body image is the norm.
“I think just loving yourself where you’re at was a common theme throughout the video and what people were saying, and that’s easier said than done, especially for people whose bodies are valued less than others. I think that goes beyond beauty and hits on issues of race and where your body feels safe and where it doesn’t. I don’t experience a lot of that, and I think I have a lot of privilege, having not struggled with my body image my whole life – too much. This is a beginning step in loving your body and acknowledging the ways that it’s harder for other people to love their bodies. It’s a two-fold battle of learning to love yourself and learning to dismantle the systems that make people not love themselves,” senior Mara Imms said.
The film project served as a catalyst for conversations about body image. In 2013, Taryn Brumfitt posted a “before and after” photo on Facebook that upset society’s standards of beauty. In the first photo she’s posing at a bodybuilding competition, and the “after” photo captures Taryn a few years later after her body has returned to it’s natural weight and figure. In response to the crazed worldwide reaction to her photo, Brumfitt decided to travel around the world learning from, interviewing and collaborating with people to better understand the toxic obsession with body image that plagues so many lives.
“I had seen a trailer of ‘Embrace’ last year, and it reminded me of seeing the before and after picture that went viral in 2013. My clinical interests in eating disorders and body image, and with teaching the Colgate Body Image, made me think it would be really nice to bring something to campus that would provide a forum for us to have those conversations,” Keating said.
Although Brumfitt’s film premiered in 2016, the process of changing societal standards of beauty is just beginning.