Acceptance in all shapes, sizes

Behind body positivity tent in Martin Square

David Armour, Staff Writer

Body appreciation booth in Martin Square. (Via spu_counselinghealthandwellness instagram)

In between classes last week, students may have noticed a new exhibition replacing the elephant in Martin Square. This exhibit, led by the Student Counseling Center, was the most visible event in Seattle Pacific University’s Body Appreciation Week, which seeks to reassure students of all types that they matter and can be loved regardless of their appearance.

To event co-organizer and clinical therapist Crystal Pulido, this week is a chance to create a space for real societal and mental health improvement at the university.

“I think this is an opportunity to bring awareness to how we think about our bodies and how we treat them. We’re looking for a space to appreciate them in a way we don’t usually. I think that this event is a lot of fun to put on,” Pulido said. “As we’re going through, we’re realizing that there’s so many more opportunities and areas to reach different people. As the week goes on, we’re getting more information from our students and will tailor the event to fit the students here.”

First year communication studies major Marissa Crane found the event a net positive for the campus and well-timed with other events going on.

“I went to the tent yesterday and tried some of the interactive activities. It was pretty cool. It’s good that they set it to last for a week, and it was a nice touch for them to put it in the same week as denim day,” Crane said. “Body positivity and sexual assault are often related, so it’s nice that the school acknowledged it. More students should check out the tent.”

For event co-organizer and dietician Lauren Rice, the event represents a chance to get students interested in the movement and an opportunity to prepare for a bigger impact next year.

“It’s a chance to interact with many students at once, rather than meeting with them one at a time. It’s planting seeds for people to get them thinking and to get an idea of what body awareness is. This is a big task, and we’re trying to do it with a lot of different perspectives,” Rice said. “It feels like a big task to meet the needs of everyone. Our last event was in 2019, and we’ve gotten as much student involvement as we can get in our reboot.”

First year biochemistry major Madeline Crawford spoke positively about the movement and awareness campaign but didn’t have much opportunity to explore the event further.

“I’ve seen social media posts about body positivity week and have heard from a few event coordinators about something in Martin Square,” Crawford said. “I appreciate that they’re making an effort to raise awareness, especially somewhere as visible as Martin Square. I’m still not sure of their goal, though. I’ve seen the pictures and the boards, but I’m not sure about what they want to do with it.”

The event organizers are aware of the novelty that this display has for students, and hope to evolve their platform for the future.

“I think that I’ve gotten some feedback about people appreciating this spotlight about awareness, diets and weight stigma. Most people can relate to it, but we don’t often have a space to challenge these beliefs,” Pulido said. “If there are any students who haven’t had a chance to participate, this is an event we want to keep ongoing. If you want to help, reach out to one of us to aid us in our preparation for next year’s event.”

Not all reception to the event was positive, however. Fourth year Political Science major Alfredo Navarro was dissatisfied with the event’s relative focus on the obesity side of physical awareness. 

“I don’t know anything about the body positivity event other than the canopy with the signs. There’s almost never anyone there, and I haven’t had the chance to talk with anyone about it, but I don’t think that they’re doing it right,” Navarro said. “Body dysmorphia doesn’t only affect obese people, but the signs focus almost exclusively on that instead of addressing other issues such as anorexia. I think that the school has bigger issues to worry about though, so it’s not that big of a deal.”

While there were some negative reactions, the organizers of this event hope to make it an annual affair, and are looking for opportunities to improve themselves for future iterations of the event. 

“We’ve set up a survey for students to provide feedback on the event to help with planning for next year. There’s a lot of ingrained messaging within our society and system, as we covered in last night’s event about weight discrimination and the truth behind the obesity epidemic,” Rice said. “We want students to understand that we have to look at health holistically – The focus is often just on size or fitness or weight when health is so much more than that.”