Body Monologues highlight experiences with self-image

Tuesday, January 26, 2016 - 11:11pm

The Lydia Mendelssohn Theater was filled to capacity for the fifth annual Body Monologues Tuesday night, featuring spoken word narratives from 12 performers. Inspired by the Vagina Monologues, the event featured stories by students about their sexuality and body image.

The participants varied in age, gender identity, ethnicities and race, covering topics including lymphedema — a disease that causes blockage in the lymphatic system — and gender identity.

LSA senior Brittney Williams shared her experiences with online dating and how she was often exploited for her body. She received requests from men who would seek women fitting her height and build, she said, which made her feel uncomfortable.

“I think that it’s a story that’s not really shared as often, at least where fat bodies are concerned,” Williams said. “There’s this idea that we don’t get a lot of attention. So, I wanted to talk specifically about receiving that attention and how it can be fetishized and how that can get really frustrating at times.”

Williams said she decided to take a humorous route with her narrative to engage the audience with the familiar experience of online dating, even if they don’t relate to all the aspects of her story. She said her journey was reflective of other college students’ in experimenting with dating apps such as Tinder, a site that touts more than 9 billion matches  since its start in 2012.

“I think that resonated with a lot of people who use social media for dating purposes and have been really frustrated with the way they’ve been approached,” she said.

Kellie Carbone, a health educator at Wolverine Wellness and director of the event, said the evening’s theme was “surrender,” because everything that could have gone wrong, did go wrong, in each student’s story.

“That was half-joking,” she said. “But it does seem like each time the performer went to perform, their pieces constellated around some type of theme, some similarity that they can draw from each piece.”

Public Health graduate student Kristen Harden said she found the storytelling format of the event engaging and powerful.

“It’s a really awesome way to put out messages about things like positive body image and promoting health and wellness on campus,” Harden said. “I think this is really great and wanted to come and see that. It’s a really nice sign of solidarity and support.”

Harden said she thought the night’s theme resonated with her the most.

“Surrendering to self-love and to support and just being you is wonderful,” she said. “Just surrendering to being comfortable with yourself and loving who you are.

Public Health graduate student Kathleen Koviak said she learned not to be afraid of herself by listening to the monologues at the event.

“It’s all just to be yourself and love yourself for who you are and to share your story and what makes you, you,” she said.

It’s important students attend the event and experience the performer and their stories, Carbone said, because of what she described as a campus-wide obsession with attaining perfection.

“They’re used to being the best, the brightest,” she said. “A lot of the research we’ve done on campus shows that the student population as a whole is also really reluctant to ask for help or admit that anything is wrong.”

Carbone said the storytelling format has encouraged students to craft their own narratives and share them with an audience.

“What we have found when we started doing workshops and events like this, is that when you give people an opportunity to say what’s going on, the light bulb goes off for other people,” Carbone said. “Our goal is to challenge some of the stigmas that exist on our campus, especially around appearance and perfection and attractiveness and weight.”