From left: Dr. Dahlia Hylton, Gehar Bitar, '20, and Lisa Do, '20, play jeopardy at the Love Your Body event on Oct. 24 in the University Center. The event was hosted by the Center for Gender Equality. (Marlee Deutsch/ B&W Staff).

Lehigh celebrates Love Your Body Day, It’s On Us week of action


The Center for Gender Equity hosted Love Your Body Day in the University Center on Oct. 24 to promote self-love, positivity and empowerment, especially for college students.

Cristiana Villani, ’19, organized the event as part of her internship in the Center for Gender Equity. She said Rita Jones, the center’s director, encouraged her to get involved.

“The campaign that I’m doing this year for Love Your Body is not focusing on women’s bodies in particular,” Villani said. “It’s more about embracing your identity as a whole — so your gender, your race, your age, your class, your social status, the organization you’re in. It’s a lot more about loving yourself than just body positivity.”

Villani said the National Organization for Women celebrated Love Your Body Day nationally on Oct. 18, but Lehigh’s event was delayed until after pacing break. 

Like previous years, the event included a whiteboard campaign, where students wrote reasons for why they love their bodies and received a free t-shirt if they got their pictures taken.

New components were added to the event, including a jeans donation drive, Jeopardy game and an opportunity for those who did not want their pictures taken to write about their inner strength instead of just their body image.

“Jeopardy was definitely a really big thing because we wanted to make it not only a fun event but also educational,” Villani said. “We definitely have a lot more prizes and advertisement, and made (the event) a lot more gender neutral (than past years).”

Villani said students from the Panhellenic Council and other organizations expressed a desire for more engagement and interactivity, rather than a guest speaker talking to them.

Sydney O’Tapi, ’18, the Panhellenic vice president of campus relations, volunteered at Love Your Body Day because she believes positivity is necessary to live a happier life.

“I think it’s important to promote self-love because we’re all different,” O’Tapi said.

The Center for Gender Equity is planning a Post-It positivity campaign to deliver positive affirmations to students and staff. The goal is to empower the Lehigh community by encouraging its members to focus less on body image.

“It’s important to be able to embrace yourself and embrace everyone,” volunteer Ellie Pinchbeck, ’20, said. “It promotes positivity.”

The Love Your Body Day event was held a day before Kamilah Willingham, a feminist writer and speaker, spoke in Neville Hall. Willingham is dedicated to social justice and equality and spoke about her experience with sexual assault as a student at Harvard Law.

“I just kept thinking, ‘This can’t be happening. I must be misunderstanding something,’” Willingham said.

Willingham said her perpetrator was her closest male friend of two years and that coming forward to report the incident disrupted their lives.

“I felt like I was betraying some sort of social conduct,” Willingham said.

She said there was a lack of empathy and support from others, even those she believed were her friends.

Willingham was brought to Lehigh as part of the national It’s On Us week of action.

“It’s On Us is a federal campaign designed to help students take responsibility for these topics on their own campuses,” said Brooke DeSipio, the assistant dean and director of the Office of Gender Violence Education and Support.

The talk was not intentionally planned a day after Love Your Body Day, DeSipio said, but the events hosted by the Office of Gender Violence Education and Support and the Center for Gender Equity were connected.

DeSipio said Willingham was invited to Lehigh because she was a survivor of gender-based violence, and she could address the severity of this issue for the students. The purpose of the talk was to increase awareness of gender violence and educate both men and women on how to be more supportive to victims.

“It’s really important that (Willingham) talks about a topic so prolific on college campuses because not many people talk about it,” Hannah Leskow, ’18, said.

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  1. I’m not sure this is the best way to go about creating a healthy sense of body image. Now, yes, obviously focusing on one’s weight or appearance to the point it creates unhealthy behaviors is detrimental, but an environment where it’s considered completely OK to engage in other unhealthy behaviors (i.e. bad diet/no exercise in the name of ‘body positivity’) isn’t a better alternative. When you’re 35 and your cardiologist informs you that your left anterior descending coronary artery is 90% occluded and that platelets are getting stuck in there like La Forge in a Jefferies tube, don’t say I didn’t warn you. You don’t want to go through that, trust me.

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