Tagged: body image

A transformative year…from caterpillar to butterfly – a blog post by Kate Nash

Caterpillar to butterfly graphic

Photo credit: Miki Pereanu

Often the effects of a program like Pass It On are not ones you can easily quantify or even see. Yes, there are responses to surveys or the positive comments the girls shout out on the last day about missing the program or loving the time spent there. Truly, the effects of Pass It On are more cumulative, more subtle and more gradual. Even after spending a year with peers outside their usual friend group, learning to share and support one another, the girls may not necessarily see the results of their work immediately.

The experiences in Pass it On grow on the participants; the girls mature and open themselves up to others’ feelings and insecurities. They recognize the vulnerabilities that exist in each of us and as a result they develop confidence in who they are and how they can care for others.

Living in a small community means that I am often running into young women from the program around town. This means I get anecdotal progress reports. I also get to see the effects that the program has had on them over time. Sometimes it is demonstrated in the fact that a mentor still spends time with their younger buddy, years after their formal relationship in the program has passed. Other times I witness past participants at work and see some capacity of caregiving in the role they hold; often it is measured in their level of self-confidence and the care and integrity they offer those around them. When we do have a chance to chat, the girls always speak of their love of the Pass It On program and how it helped them grow as a person, gave them confidence and an acceptance of self and a feeling of belonging in our world, even in the most simple of ways.

Once in a while the stories that come back to me are more significant or the results of the program are very tangible. A few years back I had a participant in the program who had struggled with an eating disorder in her early teens, a common problem for many of the young women who come through the program. At the time she said there was no issue – it was something she had overcome. I took her at her word. Every year we have many discussions that involve body image and confidence. This person was able to tell her story in a circle of love and care. At the time I knew we were doing good work and that speaking about it was good for her but I believed that indeed, it was an issue from her past and had been put behind her.

Recently I ran into her and we sat down for tea to catch up. She told me that at the time she was in Pass It On, the eating disorder in fact had been an issue and that it was a very negative part of her life at that time. She admitted she had been in denial about it and had pushed away all her supports under the guise of being cured. Being in Pass It On was a transformative year for her. Listening to other young women share their stories about body weight and insecurities around being too heavy and too thin helped her realize she was not alone in her own issues. Helping the other members through their own difficulties helped her to see others’ needs instead of just looking at her own. The funny thing was, she said that the thing that changed her perspective the most was sharing the snacks every week at the beginning of the meetings.

Watching the other girls eat whole‐heartedly and without concern, rather with an appetite made her realize that food was just that: food. It was not something to battle with or struggle against. It was just something to eat, or not, and in the end she chose to eat.

I looked over my tea at that beautiful, vibrant, healthy young woman and thought how each of us struggle internally with that dialogue between what’s right and wrong and how all too often that negative voice – in its persistence – often comes out on top. Here was a case where that voice was put to bed. I felt so grateful that I get to facilitate a program based in simplicity: conversations in circle, mentorship through friendship and that simple acts of connecting and sharing are the impetus to extinguish those negative voices. And, that merely showing others who we are, safely exposing our vulnerabilities, we can all become more confident vibrant people.

We Reflect the Beauty of the People we Love by Kate Nash

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Winter seems to be a time of great change and learning for me. My mother passed away this year on January 1st. For anyone who has lost a parent, the mixed emotions and loss will be familiar. When a parent dies we flounder between our adult selves and the child inside and the grief plays games with both. I understood the experience would not be easy. I did not expect the challenge of supporting my children through their grief.

I have three children. Kai is ten, Kumi, my daughter is eight and Kobe is my youngest at six. My children were quite close with my mom as she lived here on salt spring as they grew. We lost my mom to cancer so the prospect of her death was one we knew, especially in the last months. My husband and I struggled with this concept and how to prepare our children for such a loss. In the end we decided as a family to shave our heads. This was an act of camaraderie with my mother and all the physical changes she was going through and for ourselves to have the physical experience of loss. Many of us hold great attachment to our hair. It defines who we are and symbolizes our character and our style. The loss of our hair to each of us in our family was unique and formative.

My daughter and I both had quite long hair. Kumi at the age of eight was becoming quite attached to her hair, she brushed it daily and was quite proud of its colour and length. To say that this experience was upsetting would be an understatement. It was jarring and heart breaking and completely shattering to her self-image. Kumi wore a toque any time she went out for 2 months after we shaved her head. She didn’t want anyone she didn’t feel completely safe with to see her without her hair. Kumi struggled with her self-confidence outside of the home before we shaved her head so this divergence from the norm broke her thin shield of self-‐confidence.

The day after we shaved our heads, to cheer her up and instill in her a sense of confidence with females, I told her I would take her to the Christmas Pass it On meeting. This meeting is filled with almost 40 young women from grade 8 ‐ 12. Kumi looks forward to attending these meeting one day with great excitement, she looks up to all these young women. I figured the opportunity to unveil our new hair do’s in front of a group of young women I knew and trusted to be sympathetic and supportive would be a good first step for Kumi. The idea of going roused her spirits, but when we were there and it was time to show what we had done, Kumi could not, would not unveil anything. As I looked around the room I understood more than ever how much hair could mean to a person and identify them. The entire room was filled with young women with hair and lots of it. How was my daughter to find confidence in the sympathetic eyes of 40 teenage girls who all reveled and identified in their hair, young women whose own confidence and femininity was defined by their hairstyles.

Letting go is a very hard thing to do. Patience, for me is even harder. I wanted so bad to give Kumi the confidence she’d lost. Better yet I wanted to give her more confidence, something from inside herself that had nothing to do with her hair or her look. We can give our children many things but this is not one of them. When my mother passed away, it was another blow to Kumi. Despite the sacrifice of our hair, Nana had still died. How do you explain to an eight year old that sacrifice does not always reap reward, but often just pairs up with the loss, compounding the grief.

Our bodies are amazing ecosystems that regulate and moderate what we have and what we need. After my mom’s passing, our bodies were compromised by grief. My children got sick, especially Kumi and we had to spend a lot of time at home, drinking tea, reading books and sleeping. Worry and impatience toyed with my mind. What had I done to my daughter? When would she get better? When would she realize that her hair had nothing to do with who she was? We can hold a person and feed a person and love a person but we cannot take away ones grief.

Last week when I went to pick my kids up from school and parked on the road I had a clear view of the schoolyard. Looking in I saw Kumi run down a path to the other side of the yard. She was smiling and she had no hat on, no hood. I watched as she caught up to friends laughing and talking. I began to cry. Kumi had found herself again all on her own. Sometimes all it takes is time. We all must find our own way back to ourselves.

Kumi, at the age of eight has realized that she is everything she knows herself to be no matter how she looks. Without her locks she is still loved and liked and fun and free and she knows this now intrinsically. How many of us know or trust that even without our hair or body shape or make up we would still be deemed beautiful? How much do we truly believe the saying “it’s who we are inside that truly matters”? A young woman in Pass it On last week was mentioning that she took the mirror out of her room and that since doing so her confidence has gone up. Instead of being disappointed by what she sees she trusts her inner eye to tell her how she feels and she lets the people around her be her mirror. We reflect the beauty of the people we love and emulate the love they have for us. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

I cannot bring back my mother. Nor can I make my hair grow faster. But I can have the patience to see the process through. I can trust those I love to see me as I am.

 

Kate Nash – Pass It On Facilitator

“Less Guilt, More Joy!” – Valdi – By Kate Maurice

 

Pass It On Meeting

Pass It On Meeting

Working as a mentor supervisor I enjoy a position with the unique perspective of 28 young women ranging in age from 13-18 years old. I see many sides of these young women as we grow to know each other. Where often their insecurity is what drives their character, soon, with time and trust their true selves shine through. Putting words to their insecurities in a safe environment with belief and support for their emerging selves. Needless to say I care deeply about fostering true and positive growth into self and often find myself searching for the qualities which encourage confidence and those which take it away. The last two weekends were an amazingly clear example of the conflicting messages from our society and the hypocrisy in which our young women live.

I was empowered, engaged, and impressed by the women in my community at the celebrations for International Women’s Day that SWOVA and IWAV organized that took place on March 7th and 8th. A fundraiser for Pass it On, Sparkfest showcased amazing female talent and began the weekend events, followed by inspiring changemaker workshops held during the following day, concluding with an award dinner for community-nominated female changemakers from the Southern Gulf Islands. So many people came to support and celebrate women and their achievements. The young women who participated were engaged and positive. Emulating confidence and hope, surrounded by role models of achievement, insight, openness and the diverse reality of what it is to be a woman.

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Spark Fest 2014

On this positive note I went to visit my sister in Vancouver. It was lovely to be with her and reconnect. Unfortunately or interestingly, I ended up watching some television with her which is incredibly uncommon in my life on Salt Spring. Although I have watched a lot of T.V. in my past (I last regularly watched 10 odd years ago) I was unprepared for the bombardment of commercials. They ran after only 5-7 minutes of programming and contained at least 60% of ads for hair and make up, 15% for cleaning products, 20% food ads and 5% random sales. The hair, makeup and cleaning ads all contained women. The hair and makeup were a barrage of pulsing images of women’s manicured and enhanced eyes, lips, skin, slight frames and glossy hair. The cleaning ads were of thin attractive “moms” who were stressed about dirt and satiated with sparkles. When I commented, my sister said she didn’t pay any attention to the ads. I agreed that logically and literally she probably knew they were nonsense and ignored them. I wonder though, how completely can we ignore something we are staring right at? How critical can our minds be of what we are subconsciously absorbing? Are we better off when we are young and impressionable? Or are we better at discerning as adults? Do we ever lose our impressionability? And does time wear down our judgments or strengthen them?

I believe humans are easily influenced, especially as teens. We learn from our families and peers and from those things we see and do the most. We are creatures of habit easily falling into patterns or judgments based on what we see and experience. It can be incredibly hard to go against what we are told we are and how we should look and act. Television is only one piece of the social media that all of us are up against. The Internet, billboards, radio, music and movies all actively promote these stereotypes of women young and old. How do we protect one another from these obsessive and constant messages we are all absorbing about how we should look and feel. How do the effects of a weekend with approximately 200 hundred people combat hour by hour pulses of messages that none of us are enough and none of us are the norm?

By Kate Maurice, Coordinator of SWOVA’s Pass It On program

 

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Weekend of Entertainment, Workshops, Recognition and Celebration

International Women’s Day March 8, 2014

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For over one hundred years, International Women’s Day (IWD) has been a day of celebration and recognition to mark exceptional achievements of women and to build on inequities still to be addressed.  This year SWOVA, IWAV, Victim Services – with the generous support of the Harbour House Hotel – have teamed up to present a weekend of exciting events for all members of our community in honour of the exceptional contributions women make to life in the Southern Gulf Islands.

Weekend activities kick off Friday evening with the annual Sparkfest Evening of Entertainment.  Saturday will include a full day of Inspiring and Energizing Workshops and skill training sessions.  Saturday evening will culminate with a fabulous dinner and recognition ceremony hosted by Elizabeth May.

Members of the public have nominated over twenty women from the Southern Gulf Islands for their ‘change making’ contributions to our communities.  We will honour these women’s achievements from all aspects of community life including; environmental, political, social, science, the arts, education and economic.  Elizabeth May will present awards for these “Community Change Makers” at “An Evening of Celebration & Inspiration” at the Harbour House Hotel and Organic Farm on 8th March.

Friday 7th March, 7:30pm –   SparkFest   ($20 or $25 at the door)
Saturday 8th March, 9am -5pm  –  Workshops  ($10 for the whole day, $5 for youth)
Saturday 8th March, 5:00 pm –  Social & Cash Bar
6:30 pm    –    Dinner    ($35 or $250 for a table of 8, youth, $30.00)

Tickets are available from:  SWOVA, 344 Lower Ganges Road, Salt Spring Island. BC, V8K 2V3

For more information please contact SWOVA    e-mail: info@swova.org   Phone: 250-537-1336

 

All events will take place at the Harbour House Hotel and Organic Farm,

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121 Upper Ganges Road, Salt Spring Island,
who have made the event possible through their generosity.

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The Fat Body Visible – by Megan Manning

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The SWOVA library recently added a film to its collection.  “Fat Body (In) Visible,” is a short film by Margitte Kristjansson and a fascinating insight into the lives of two fat activist women, Jessica and Keena.  The norm in our society is to believe that fat is bad, but there are many fat acceptance (FA) activists who are challenging that belief and who value and enjoy their bodies.

According to the women in the film, fat style is one of the best ways to be political as a fat woman.  People see them walking down the street, wearing clothes that show off rather than hide their shape, and this challenges stereotypes and makes some people uncomfortable.  It has garnered some negative reactions, including being called a ‘fat piggy bitch’.  Jessica and Keena won’t change themselves to make others comfortable and have developed a love and appreciation for their bodies.

 

“If I could say one thing to young fat people dealing with bullying and their body image … It’s not about you.  It’s about the bully.  It’s about their own issues, about what people are telling them they should feel.  Just don’t let anyone police your body.” Jessica, fat activist.

 

The idea of fat acceptance (FA) is that every body is a good body.  There is a strong supportive social media community out there for people to share ideas, express their feelings and network.

This film made me think about my own conditioning to judge and/or feel sorry for ‘fat’ women.   A few months ago, I saw a young woman wearing a crop-top which showed her belly, and tight, cut off shorts over large legs covered with fishnet tights.  I thought “oh, girl you are not doing yourself any favours.” After watching this film, I think, perhaps that young woman was not trying to hide her ‘fat’ bits.  Perhaps she was celebrating them.  Our conditioning to hide our lumps and bumps at all costs is pervasive.  Those of us who are not a size 10 or under must stick to dark colours and try to stay invisible.  I’m not saying that I’m going to rush out in a mini skirt and tube top, but I will look on those lumps and bumps (mine and other’s) in a different light.

This film encourages feeling good about your body no matter what size, shape or colour you are and for this reason, it’s a must see for anyone – especially teenage girls – who is struggling with their body image.  You don’t have to be ‘fat’ to appreciate this film.  Even if you don’t value everything these women say, their points are interesting and insightful and will give you some empathy for plus size people.

Social media resources:

http://afatfashionista.blogspot.ca/

http://www.therotund.com/

http://www.fatbodyinvisible.com/

http://tangledupinlace.tumblr.com/

http://buttahlove.tumblr.com/

SWOVA’s library is free and open to the public, Monday – Thursday 9am to 5pm.  If you would like to rent a film or a book, please come to our office at 344 Lower Ganges Road, (between the Golden Island Chinese restaurant and Dagwoods).  For more information please call: 250-537-1336