Women tend to form friendships through the intimacy of their conversations. Stef Streb, a body-positive photographer, and Julie Ohlemacher, an intuitive eating health coach realized they were having the same conversations about body image with their respective clients, and wanted to bring their voices together.
“We wanted to make that discussion bigger,” said Streb. “So we started Girls Night, our event series where we host an open discussion with about 30 women about what it really means to be body positive, and how to navigate a society that promotes the idea that there’s only one ‘right’ body to have, which most of us don’t.”
That conversation next led to “Sun’s Out, Tums Out!,” a body-positive pool party celebrating the beautiful reality that women come in all shapes and sizes. The event will also host a charity raffle to benefit ROX, a Columbus-based organization that creates programs to build confidence in girls and young women. (614) sat down with Ohlemacher to find out more.
(614): What has been the response to your events?
JO: Our Girls Night events have been incredible. … [Our] goal is simply to open up the conversation. It’s not about us lecturing. It’s about us creating and holding space for all women who come to have the opportunity to share their story, to ask a question, to be a part of this larger conversation of body image struggles and the devastating impact of living in a culture that praises one body size over another. For so long, body image struggles were our shameful little secrets. I always felt like I was the only one who had this struggle. I told no one, and of course, the more I kept it in, [the more] this shame expanded. Turns out, unfortunately, that many women feel this same shame, that many women struggle in their bodies. So by creating a space for us all to share and be open and to fight back against the cultural standards that hurt all of us, to illuminate the almost $70-billion diet industry that literally profits off of us feeling not good enough, it allows women to release that shame because they realize they’re not alone, and it’s not their fault they’ve felt the way they do. Woman after woman has come up to Stef and me thanking us for creating this space.
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Women often measure their appearance against other women. So why do you think that all-female participation in an event like this makes a di erence in self-acceptance?
This entire event is about creating space to fight back against our fatphobic culture that hurts us all, that forces us to make these damaging comparisons. This event is about celebrating all body shapes and sizes, and when we do that, comparison falls by the wayside because when there is no ideal, there’s no standard to compare yourself against. This event is about seeing the beauty, the value, the worth in all bodies of all sizes. It’s about saying, “Hey, your body is good simply because it’s your body and she allows you to experience life, and who we are as human beings is way more important than how we look.” I mean, as women we’re told the most important thing about us is our looks. This event fights against that. It says, “Hey, we’re all beautiful, but we all have much more to o er this world than our appearance.” This event creates a space for women to celebrate themselves and each other, to support and uplift each other, to bring us all together.
How do you want women to feel as they walk away from this experience?
Empowered and celebrated. My goal is for the women who come to have an experience in their bodies that maybe they’ve never had before… an experience of true acceptance, respect, love and celebration for their body and for all bodies of all shapes and sizes. But even more than that, I hope women walk away from the event feeling more grounded in their bodies so that they can be rooted in the truth that who they are as human beings is always much more important than how she looks.
Is this event going to expand in the future?
We’ll see! I could easily see this becoming an annual event. And of course, our Girls Nights will absolutely continue quarterly!
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