Welfare and Diversity Officers are helping students build confidence in themselves.
When Dan ran for Welfare Officer, he spoke to his friends about issues they face and the key issue noted was the media’s skewed portrayal of “perfect”. For Dan, this became a primary goal to tackle; to help students understand that they are more than a body shape or a weight. Inspired by Jameela Jamil’s ‘I Weigh’ campaign, which fights against the number shown on a weighing scale summarising a person’s identity, Embody Positivity builds confidence in people in both their physical and mental state.
It’s more than your body, it’s actually how do you feel about yourself generally in terms of who you are and what you do.
During the summer, Dan and Nozomi discussed the priorities and Embody Positivity made the Top 5. When the Officers’ timeline was created, this section began with Nozomi’s Free Periods campaign then moved to Dan’s Mental Health Awareness campaign, and the concept of combining these into Embody Positivity after flowed well with the topics being addressed. The pair found they were working on a lot of campaigns together because of the crossover of their remits.
Their first event, Arts Day, was held on Monday 25th March in 3sixty. Two key features of this event were a Hall of Mirrors and Pebbling Painting. The Hall of Mirrors was a row of full body length mirrors, with glass bent at different angles to distort the reflection. Dan and Nozomi wanted to show that what is in a mirror is not an accurate representation of the viewer. The Pebble Painting gave participants the chance to sit down for some therapeutic painting and were asked to write empowering messages on the pebbles which would later be hidden around campus for passers-by to find.
On the same day, Natalie Byrne, illustrator and author of the book ‘Period’, spoke about how periods affect how people feel about their bodies, how this part of life is never spoken about, and how more discussion is needed – providing a clear link to Nozomi’s Free Periods campaign.
For the second event on Tuesday 26th March, Catherine, Women’s Part-Time Officer, ran a Compliments Corner March in RUSU. Passers by were asked if they would like to have a polaroid photograph of themselves taken and added to the display table. Afterwards, those who had their photo taken were asked to leave two post-it notes, one with positive message about themselves and one with a positive message about someone else who had their photo taken. This event aimed to counteract the negativity often experienced on social media.
At the end of the day, even if you can empower one person to feel differently about themselves, I think you’ve been successful. It’s not about mass. Change comes in steps. One person is like a ripple and eventually that’ll expand to more people.
Dan and Nozomi also ran an Instagram #IAM campaign where students would upload a photograph of themselves, edited with written characteristics they valued about themselves unrelated to their physical appear and #IAM. These were shared through RUSU’s official Instagram account.
Reflecting on Embody Positivity, Dan would like to give the following advice to Gemma and Zeid (Welfare and Diversity Officers 2019/20):
Timing of the campaign was probably the key. Originally Embody Positivity was supposed to be held earlier in the term, so if you can hold the campaign then, you’ll get more people involved. Plan your speakers six months in advance, get them in earlier because they don’t want to do anything last minute.