By JAMIE VERWYS
Unjust ideals of beauty have been projected onto women all throughout history. Every day we are exposed to the idea that we must look a certain way to be beautiful or just accepted.
Until we all move forward and put the emphasis on positive body image, this dangerous projection of what beauty is will continue to imprison us in self-doubt.
The Body Love Conference is challenging social norms and encouraging women to love themselves, no matter their shape or size.
The event is the first of its kind, offering a full day of workshops, classes and activities to foster acceptance of all body types.
The event was founded by Tucson blogger and plus-size model Jes Baker. On her blog, “The Militant Baker,” she writes on positive body image and strives to help women break through society’s misguided standards of perfection.
Baker welcomed guests into the Grand Ballroom at the University of Arizona on April 5. Each attendee was handed a blank name tag with a line to fill in what they loved about themselves.
“That’s a hard topic,” said Amy Kuchard, who travelled from San Diego for the event. “Obviously we are talking about it today. I think I’m beautiful because I’m independent and self-sufficient. About my body, tough, I love my tattoos.”
Within the ballroom, participants mingled with one another in an environment cultivating safety.
Local organizations advocating equal rights, body love and sexual abuse treatment set up information tables. Planned Parenthood and The Southern Arizona Center Against Sexual Assault were among the groups, and gave away free condoms.
Throughout the day, 35 speakers from all over the nation held a variety of presentations and classes.
The activities ranged from light-hearted to serious topics, mirroring the ups and downs along the path to empowerment.
Local dancer Ida Tapper of Don’t Blink Burlesque taught some sexy tips of the trade in a beginner’s burlesque class. She challenged her students to accentuate both their favorite and least favorite features with confidence.
Keynote speaker Tess Munster received a standing ovation after sharing her personal story of perseverance. Munster is a plus-size model, makeup artist, body image activist and blogger from L.A.
As a teen, she was subjected to bullying and continued to face hardships as she began to pursue her dream of modeling.
“I had been told my entire life I was too big, even at a much smaller size then you see in front of you today,” Munster said. “The tentative attempts I had made perusing modeling had all been met with the same response; ‘Too big and too short.’”
Munster has since been featured in many international publications and was named one of the Top Plus Models by Huffington Post and Vogue Italia.
“It’s your body, don’t let anyone tell you it isn’t worthy of being loved by you and by others, and don’t let anyone tell you how much of it you can show,” she said.
Plans are already in motion to continue the Body Love Conference in the future.
“I think it turned out really well. I wasn’t expecting around 500 people to go,” volunteer Emily Carlisle said.
“It’s really exciting to see that amount of people since it’s our first time,” she said. “Hopefully next year we will have more international people coming.”
Body Love is an event that has planted seeds of change, and if we learn to love ourselves for who we are we can lead a happier life. Let’s focus on keeping our bodies healthy, rather than obsessing over pounds and clothes sizes.
For additional information, visit bodyloveconference.com.