The Penn Association for Gender Equity’s recent Body Love campaign was not your average body positivity campaign.
On Monday and Tuesday, the campaign sought to challenge mainstream body positivity movements. The multi-day event ended on Tuesday evening with a workshop given by Sonalee Rashatwar, a social worker who specializes in body image, racial justice and sexuality issues.
“We wanted to do something new and do something that really isn’t talked about on Penn’s campus,” PAGE member and Wharton senior Ashna Bhatia said in an interview.
PAGE chair and College and Wharton senior Megan Yan echoed this sentiment, alluding to the shortcomings of blanket statements like “body positivity is for everyone.” Yan, who was also the former business manager at The Daily Pennsylvanian, pointed out that body positivity movements often fail to bring marginalized bodies — like disabled persons — into the center of conversation. She said the effects of racism, ableism and colorism should be focused on more in conversations about body positivity.
Yan also spoke of the importance of speaking about body positivity in concrete ways: “It’s about making things tangible.” Yan added that talking specifically about the elements of bodies that bring people shame is necessary to move body positivity forward.
Examining radical notions of body positivity was not the only goal of this year’s Body Love campaign.
PAGE also worked to destigmatize menstruation and educate students on non-mainstream options for menstrual care.
On Monday and Tuesday on the area of Locust Walk in front of the Penn Women’s Center, PAGE members handed out free menstruation products at their table. Group members said it would be great to see Penn provide free menstruation care products to its students in locations beyond Student Health Services, where these products are already provided for free.
PAGE members said they were aware of the success Brown University students had in a similar pursuit: The Undergraduate Council of Students at Brown now facilitate the stocking of all bathrooms in academic buildings across campus with menstrual products.
PAGE has been in contact with Penn’s administration about making menstruation products more accessible and group members are pleased so far with the administration’s willingness to listen to them, members said.
“We’re working with administration to see what is feasible and what the best course of action to take would be,” PAGE member and College senior Brianna Krejci said.
Though this is the first year that PAGE has conducted a Body Love campaign with such specific goals, PAGE members are hopeful about the achievement of the objectives of the campaign in the future.
Or, as Bhatia said, “The conversation just started.”