‘A collective space for group healing’: Scripps Body Activism Club puts students’ experiences first

A person holds a pink heart in front of their chest. Around them are hearts of different sizes and colors.
(Bella Pettengill • The Student Life)

CW: Eating disorders

It’s club fair season across the 5Cs, and students have been excited to see both old and new faces at the fair. As students were wandering the tables and joining emailing lists, they noticed a new club on the roster: Body Activism Club.

In a first semester politics class last year, Kahtya Cherney SC ’25 and Casey Malone SC ’24 worked together on a project which asked them to create a hypothetical movement for the campuses.

“We were trying to talk back and forth about ideas, and we decided to cover body neutrality/positivity/activism,” Cherney said.

“This [group] needs to be a student-run organization because this is a very prevalent issue that […] admin has done next to nothing about.”

Kahtya Cherney SC ’25

This type of environment felt lacking in their experiences at the 5Cs in the last few years. Through research, they discovered that previously there was an Eating Disorder Alliance on campus, but due to COVID-19 and most of the members graduating in 2020, the momentum seemed to fizzle out. The project resulted in a victorious ‘A’ and a foundation to make their hypothetical project into a reality.

They spent the spring and summer of 2022 building off of their foundation with budget presentations and meetings with administration in preparation for opening their space to students. This time allowed Cherney and Malone to realize the lack of space and support on campus needed for people with eating disorders.

“This [group] needs to be a student-run organization because this is a very prevalent issue that […] admin has done next to nothing about,” Cherney said. “There is counseling available, but to get a counselor we are on week-long waitlists, and that is not the method of healing for every person, and so there are really limited resources for people available.”

Due to these discrepancies, Malone said she hopes to reach out to Monsour Counseling and Psychological Services, which services the 7Cs, and work with them on guided discussions to provide a professional experience for students. Working with administration yet still remaining a separate group can allow students to openly discuss their experiences. Cherney and Malone acknowledged that these types of discussions can be triggering and scary, but they want it to be a safe environment that caters to their members.

Additionally, by attending a workshop in nonviolent communications, Malone prepared for the types of conversations they would be having to ensure they are ready to properly facilitate each meeting so that, as Malone said, they can create “a collective space for group healing.”

Now, they are excitedly launching Body Activism Club to provide a space that had been previously lacking on campus, in a slightly reworked version of their original project. When initially presenting their project in the fall of 2021, Malone and Cherney titled their presentation Body Positivity, Neutrality and Activism but received constructive feedback on these well-known phrases.

Recently, “body positivity” has become an extremely co-opted phrase. It appears to be a good concept, but realistically, it is difficult to look at one’s body in a positive manner all the time. Instead, body neutrality signifies the importance of one’s body and of being comfortable in your body.

Having been coined by influencers and companies, these phrases have become tangible objects that people are trying to sell.

Malone said, “[these terms have] been poisoned by whiteness, consumerism, capitalism, […] and yet another thing to fix yourself with. We didn’t really want that to be our message.”

Thus, they settled on the name Body Activism — a form of healing, in which open conversations can change the way people view their bodies and lead to an empowering experience. Malone and Cherney want to give club members the opportunity to experience growth while being aware of the difficult conversations that can arise.

“We are trying to be as politically active as possible in creating change,” Cherney said. Using activism as a way to create this change can allow them to have the conversations necessary when breaking down the stigmas, triggers and fears surrounding these discussions.

Malone also said that “there are a lot of us that have been disproportionately influenced by [eating disorders], but specifically because Scripps is such a queer space, that is also a targeted community.”

Expressing that they are strongly advocating for Scripps to have a safe environment for these discussions, Malone continued to add that “surrounding colleges hopefully will get involved too,” in an attempt to bring awareness and support to students across all campuses.

Cherney and Malone have worked hard over the last year to open this space for students. As a welcoming environment to all identities, they are excited to build a community and generate support for it. Through active, open and safe discussions, they hope to create an atmosphere of change that allows students to talk about their experiences in a collaborative manner.

Attendance is not mandatory; Malone said, “you can show up if you really want to be active in it, [or] you can show up if you really need this space that day.” They are hoping to use this club as a space for healing, growth and support for all students that addresses difficult, but real, conversations.

To get involved with the club, look for signage throughout the campuses with a QR code to join the mailing list to see meeting times and events. 

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