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The Carletonian

After funds crisis, Body +++ aims to “keep people talking”

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For the past five weeks, a new student-run discussion series has been introduced as a venue for discussion about body positivity. Body Talk, or Body+++, is organized by six upperclassmen connected to different parts of campus including the GSC and SWA program and will include six total discussions about a range of topics.

Junior Izii Carter, who initiated the planning for this discussion space, said that “the goal is to expand the paradigm of thought on this issue…to try to provide new inroads to the conversation.”

Many students on campus have noticed and taken action around the issue of body positivity. Kyle Schiller ‘17, editor of the body-positive nude magazine Skin Deep and erotic fiction publication Thrust, described body positivity as “basically about making the really basic acknowledgement that not having what is traditionally viewed as a ‘beautiful body’ does not at all change your value as a human being.”

“Body positivity is kind of a no-brainer for Carleton because we’ve made social progress in other areas,” he said. “And because we’ve built up this culture that just allows it to seep into you, specifically having discussions isn’t so important.”

Carter and the other organizers agreed that body positivity is important on campus, but decided that there needed to be another space to actively discuss it. Carter noted that there is “this illusion of Carleton as a place that doesn’t care about appearances, and that can be dangerous because it kills conversation. People here subordinate their bodies to their minds.” She saw people receiving messages about their bodies all of the time, but not discussing it deeply, even in the few spaces dedicated to it, like the GSC.

Michelle Irukera ’16, another student on the organizing committee for the series, said, “I wanted to provide a place not just to share and validate experiences, which is important, but to be a dialogue and conversation. It’s not just about being body positive, but questioning what does ‘body positive’ mean for different people in relation to identities like race and religion.”

With this type of discussion in mind, Carter reached out to other students like Irukera with an interest in the topic and connections to different organizations on campus like the SWA program and the GSC.

The format of the six discussions around specific but interrelated topics was deliberate. Irukera explained, “we have speakers and people who are going to present a lot of ideas so that people absorb it and then place themselves on a spectrum of whether they agree or not. We’re all so used to being in class and having ideas and being able to challenge ideas and paradigms,” and this format allows for this critical discussion around bodies and norms.

“We were excited for this format, because people feel committed and excited to come, but they are also not tied down to it,” Irukera said.

Planning the discussions was not without its difficulties, though. Marielle Foster ’16, Vice President of CSA and Chair of Budget Committee, said that “they initially asked for funding for every single dinner that they were going to do, which is a lot of funding.” The discussions are all from 6-8pm, and so providing food was important for the organizers.

Foster said, “in the CSA bylaws, it says that we prefer not to fund recurring dinners and that food has to be central to the purposes of the dinner. Initially, they made an argument that sounded a lot more like they were using it as an advertisement to try and get people to attend.”

When the committee was denied funding, Carter wrote an article for the CLAP, which Irukera described as “incredible.” “Izzi’s CLAP article was about how any motion against having a space like this on campus is essentially an attack on the idea of body positivity.”

Foster did not agree. “The CLAP article was not so great… I highly recommend people don’t write CLAP articles trashing the CSA without actually talking to us. CSA is charged with fiscal responsibility, not advocating for certain issues.”

Zoey Gold ’15, another of the organizers, then met with Foster to work to clarify what they were asking for. Irukera said, “we had to structure our request around the idea that food is central not just to making a community whose people feel like they can talk and socialize, but it’s also central to the idea of body positivity. Just eating food and talking about eating disorders is challenging to a lot of people.”

With this restructured request, the group received funding, but only for one dinner, that on Manipulation and Control, which related to body image. The group had already reached out to other offices, and the El Triunfo dinners are now all fully funded by offices like the Rec, OIIL, SHAC, and the Chapel.

Food was the main necessity for funding, as “other than the Smitten Kitten people [from the Twin Cities,] all of the speakers have been a part of the Carleton community. They all donated their time,” according to Irukera. This has allowed for the discussions to be Carleton-centric and to be critical of Carleton as a space for body positivity.

The discussions themselves have consistently comprised of 30-40 “people who want to invest two hours of their time,” Carter said.

Irukera noted that “we didn’t realize so many people would show up, the degree to which people on campus were craving a space like this.”

Students who have attended have responded positively. Freshman Raelynne Benjamin attended the second meeting, and has returned for each since then regardless of the specific topic. “It was a very welcoming and safe environment, so I immediately felt able to discuss anything with the other participants. In the bigger group, I just listen a lot—there are so many personal stories and connections to body positivity that I haven’t thought about before. It is very comfortable and reflective.”

Benjamin noted that where she comes from, body positivity and acceptance are not a focus, and so she appreciates these dedicated spaces as well as the other student groups that have their own goals but still an emphasis on “appreciating your born identities.”

This specific space will convene one more time this term. Thinking about the future, Irukera said that “all of us want to see this happen again, but right now we’re focusing on realizing these ones, not planning for what’s next. I want it to be that there will be another series of workshops next year.” Other students have reached out hoping for a club that they can be a part of, as well.

Carter said, “I don’t want this to just happen and then go away.” She, the committee, and the students and other community members who have attended the meetings want critical discussions and dialogues about body positivity to occur on campus. For now, this series is creating that space.

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