Okanagan College students that use the women’s bathroom in the Centre for Learning building closed stall doors to find a surprise.
The GSWS 295 class, that studies Current Topics in Women’s Studies and has a focus in fat feminism, installed poster boards into the doors of the bathrooms to conduct an anonymous survey amongst students, as well as several other installations, to disrupt diet culture on campus.
Emma Lind, instructor of the class, challenged her students to install art installations through the campus to show women that all bodies are welcome in society.
“This is about expanding a lens that is traditionally underrepresented when it comes to body size,” said Lind.
“I told my students to think about the different spaces on campus where a student could experience fatphobia and then put the art installation there to disrupt that.”
Hand mirrors were installed with positive messages written on them, a thumb print poster that tells students that their bodies are just as unique as their fingerprints, a poster with photos of women of every size and colour to combat the slim bodies regularly showcased on Instagram, a scale with the numbers replaced by kind messages, a covered mirror in tinfoil with quotes written about how fat bodies are treated in society, were all installed around the college.
“How often is a mirror a sense of inspiration,” said Lind. “It brings a broader awareness to our community about the hatred and oppression of fat people. It’s something everyone is familiar with but these conversations lurk in private spaces or thoughts, and we are rarely allowed to make it a public conversation.”
“We are trying to externalize the conversation to point to the body shame and stigma that is happening all around us.”
One installation, a survey in bathrooms asked that students took a moment to flush “negative thoughts about body size, weight, fat shaming, discrimination and sexism,” and asked that they not flush “confidence, self love, strength, fearlessness, inner beauty and courage because you are beautiful.”
Students used stickers to answer the poll.
Jodie Miner, a fourth-year business administration student said it was refreshing to see a unique anonymous survey at the college.
“I like the way that they worked in flushing to reinforce flushing out negative ideas that people have about their bodies,” said Miner.
“Students are under a lot of pressure and some students feel pushed even further to have a bikini body in time for summer.”
The GSWS 295 students have been studying how the fear and hatred of fat bodies reinforces related systems of oppression like sexism, ableism, colonialism and homophobia, according to a statement posted in the bathroom.
“We invite you to take a moment and consider how this exhibit disrupts popular beliefs about beauty, health, idealized bodies and society,” reads the poster.
Second-year marketing student, Paulina Rojas said she enjoyed how anonymous the survey was and that she was able to see other people’s honest answers who had used the stickers.
“I think that it’s a really unique way that you can survey people that really don’t want to talk about certain topics,” said Rojas.
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