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Students desire an outlet for body positivity

As the student body recently showed a strong to desire for a platform to promote and share information on healthy body image and self love, first-year Kendall Anderson founded Mills College’s Body Positivity Group as a reaction to Mills’ current lack of resources and support offered for students with body image issues and disorders.

“I noticed a lot of negative ‘self-talk‘ and body shaming, dieting, and food calorie talk around campus,” Anderson said. “College students are so susceptible to these issues, and especially with the high standards of achievement at Mills and the diverse student body, we need to put something in place to start combating and fighting against negative body talk.”

As a group, they plan to try to make the Mills campus more aware of  body image issues such as eating disorders, body dysmorphia, self-esteem, gender identity, and offering support for people who have different needs.

“The group will be a safe place for people to talk about eating disorders, gender identity, body image, and other related issues,” Anderson said. “We will offer resources to various support groups, treatment providers, and ways to spread our message across the greater community.”

Taylor Lim and Kendall Anderson at the first meeting. (Kai’ja Flolo)
Taylor Lim and Kendall Anderson at the first meeting. (Kai’ja Flolo)

A few days after the group’s creation, students began providing each other with encouragement and ideas to begin making Mills a more body positive and aware campus. The number of members in the group quickly flourished to over 70.

“I am so surprised that this group and movement has grown so quickly,” Anderson said. “I made a Facebook group on Sunday night thinking that maybe five or seven people would join, and it has clearly grown well past that!”

Interest in the Body Positivity Group was so overwhelming, Anderson needed to hold three separate introductory meetings, held last Wednesday and Sunday with participants ranging from first to fourth year students, providing a great space to unite Mills students and build a community around such an important topic. Anderson has hopes that this group will extend itself outside Mills’ walls.

“We have plans to start spreading our message and raising awareness of the importance of positive body image to high schools in the area,” Anderson said. “Maybe this will even turn into something that spreads to other colleges!”

While those hopes high, the Body Positivity Group’s message has spread rapidly on campus with art projects stemming from the group’s purpose to unite people through a body positive mindset.

Shortly after the creation of the group, freshman Charley Breyer took it upon himself to initiate a Body Positivity Shoot to promote diverse, real body positivity. This project was inspired by another student providing an outside link to another “body positive shoot.”

“It  depicted ‘body positive images’ of women who were white, had long hair, and, to be frank, weren’t really anything other than the standard beauty norm,” Breyer said.

The details of the photo shoot are still in the works, but Breyer plans to create a photo shoot featuring the Mills community that creates a more realistic and diverse set of images that promote body positivity and self-love.

As it is too late in the semester for the group to apply to become an official club, they are facing challenges in reserving spaces to set up meetings, and are doing whatever they can to keep word of their group flowing.

“We asked the staff at Founders if we could display posters or create an art project about positive body image, but they don’t allow posters or group affiliated stuff,” Anderson said. “This was disappointing because a large amount of people have complained of Founders being triggering or feeling like their peers are judging their food choices.”

Several members of the group have opened up about previous eating disorders and their feelings about how the Mills College community responds to it.

“I know that this campus is really bad for those trying to recover,” Breyer said. “Really bad. So this group is a good idea.”

While other students have different personal attachments to this group, each member feels support is necessary to maintain a positive, healthy mindset.

“This is a great opportunity to raise awareness and to help myself and others become more happy and confident with themselves,” Anderson said.

The members of the Body Positivity Group are beginning to meet regularly and are happy to have new people. The group is still  working out the details of who they are and what exactly they want to do in order to accomplish creating a more body positive and aware campus, but they do know that we are all united under the same mission to create a body positive campus.

“Although I would like to see the overall climate at Mills change to a more body positive one,” Breyer said, “the possibilities for the future are endless.”

Read Mills Body Positivity Group founder Kendall Anderson’s first blog post of her new online column for The Campanil.