REbeLling against the norm

REbeL AU is a campus solution to educating students about body positivity

REbeLling against the norm

I recently spoke with Serena Nangia, founder of AU’s chapter of the body positivity group REbeL. She articulated something I never consciously realized before.

“It’s ingrained in our society to talk badly about ourselves,” she said.

It’s such a simple statement, yet I found myself slightly dumbfounded upon hearing it. I know that I am guilty of hating on myself, but I never thought we could be prone to self-hatred. Sometimes, we are our own worst critics. This can cause them to disproportionately talk about why they hate themselves over why they love themselves. With that natural level of negativity infecting our minds, we often find ourselves placing strict, societal parameters on what is and is not beautiful. Once standards are in place, they are hard to break, but AU has recently made progress toward redefining beauty with the help of REbeL, which is a supportive community for students to talk about body image and eating disorders without having to go immediately to professionals.

Body image, or the way people perceive their appearances, is often forgotten amid other issues due to its deeply personalized and invisible quality. Life and news both move fast here, and, in all honesty, it is hard to actively care about everything and work at solving all issues at the same time. It is easy to get caught up in the most present problems, yet we cannot forget to continue the conversation on body image because, in the words of Nangia, “it is a continuous journey.”

In an email exchange with the Wellness Center Director, Mickey Irizarry, she said that while they do deal with body image related concerns, they often do not receive requests for it. This is not because our collective understanding of body image at AU is perfect. Rather, it’s because a conversation about self-love is elusive.

Not everyone is comfortable or at the stage of their journey to talk about their personal body image problems or eating disorders with places like the Wellness Center or Counseling Center. By providing a platform like REbeL, it gives people a choice to start small. It can be reassuring to go to a group like REbeL because it can show people who are currently struggling with body image that they are never alone in the process towards body acceptance.

The conversation can also be avoided because people do not have the necessary language to express and understand their experience with body acceptance. REbeL aims to educate people on body image and related topics which can break stigmas around societal constructs of beauty. Should a person require professional help, REbeL hopes to provide resources.

On Nov. 4, REbeL hosted a body positive photoshoot in Katzen Arts Center. When someone is not comfortable in their own skin, it can be difficult to take self-portraits and love the product. The purpose of the photoshoot was to provide a comfortable setting for anyone to come and embrace their physical appearances and personalities. When I attended the photoshoot, I could feel the passion of the group. Nangia and the other members were invested in providing a welcoming atmosphere where anyone could come and be accepted without judgment.

We should not talk badly about ourselves. As students, we have a host of things to be proud of. Without a doubt, our bodies should and can be one of them. With REbeL in its grassroots stage right now, it needs our help to market it on campus. The continuous journey toward body acceptance is a difficult road, but it doesn’t need to be traveled alone. I encourage everyone to consider joining REbeL as one step forward toward cultivating a campus of community, accessibility, and inclusion.

REbeL meets twice a month, alternating between Wednesday and Thursday evening meetings. More information about the organization can be found on Facebook. In the interest of transparency, REbeL is not a confidential organization and members are required to report any concerning statements to the University.

Stephanie Mirah is a freshman in the School of Communications and a columnist for The Eagle. This article originally appeared in December 2017 print edition of The Eagle.

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