Sunday, October 19, 2014

Awareness and Advocacy Events at UVa

Next week (October 20-26), there are multiple awareness and advocacy events occurring on Grounds that you should know about! Two of the most prominent ones are Fat Talk Free Week and the #HoosGotYourBack Pledge Day/Find Your Voice event. The UVa community has been shaken this semester, but these events are good, necessary reminders that we may be shaken, but we can always heal again with the support of our peers.
Fat Talk Free Week is an international awareness campaign aiming to draw attention to body image issues and the damaging impact of the “thin ideal” on women in society. The sorority Delta Delta Delta, which hosts this campaign nationwide, sponsors the event here at UVa, along with the CIO called HOPE (Hoos Open to Preventing Eating Disorders), which hosts their own events on Grounds throughout the week. The main objective of the campaign is to encourage college students to “End Fat Talk.” You may have never heard of fat talk, but I am confident you have heard it being used—it refers to any comment that reinforces the thin-ideal standard of beauty and contributes to body dissatisfaction. Fat talk can be a friend saying, “I need to lose ten pounds before I wear that,” or asking, “Do I look fat in this?” It is common to hear these things and not give them a second thought, so the campaign works to raise awareness of how students use fat talk and aims to get students to pledge to end it and reframe their self-talk positively. One of the many events happening during the week is called “Operation Beautiful,” and consists of students leaving anonymous, positive notes around Grounds to make others feel loved and appreciated (and beautiful, as the name of the event suggests)!
Another incredible event that is happening next week is an extension of the Office of the Dean of Students’ Not On Our Grounds initiative to end sexual violence at UVa. A few powerful things are happening through this initiative; first, Thursday is #HoosGotYourBack Pledge Day. If you are unfamiliar with the #HoosGotYourBack campaign, it was designed during the summer of 2014 and made its debut this semester. The focus is on bystander intervention, awareness, and educating students to become informed and effective bystanders in the face of sexual violence. On Thursday, October 23, students will gather on the lawn to share bystander stories and to sign the “Not On Our Grounds” pledge to be an ally in putting an end to sexual violence at UVa.
Although signing the pledge is important, students recognize the need to continue the dialogue on sexual assault and the new campaign here at UVa. As a result, on Sunday, October 26, a new student-run performance organization called “Find Your Voice UVa” will be putting on a show with the #HoosGotYourBack campaign as the theme.  It will feature real stories and experiences of students regarding sexual assault and misconduct, and will be presented in a beautiful, healing, emotional performance. The goal of “Find Your Voice UVa,” as is sure to be exemplified in their first performance on Sunday, is to shed light on prevalent issues in the UVa community and to give students a place to share their experiences in a meaningful, empowering and healthy way.

In the face of extreme adversity, such as the terrifying and unsolved disappearance of one of our own in September, the UVa community continues to push on and do incredible things to help each other heal and become more educated about important issues. The events of Fat Talk Free Week and the #HoosGotYourBack campaign are crucial examples of the resilience and determination that defines the community at the University of Virginia.

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