Arming ourselves with body positivity

Last weekend Hip Circle Empowerment Center hosted its third annual body positivity photoshoot.  This year’s focus was arms, with a dress code of sleeveless tops and dresses.

Having just made two sleeveless dresses, it didn’t occur to me that some women are self-conscious about their arms. Then on July 14 going sleeveless even became a political issue in congress with women striving to change the dress code that doesn’t allow for sleeveless dresses in the Capitol’s House of Representatives lobby.  

I like my arms, especially now that they are toned from wire bending and Moxie Boxing. We had a blast striking various poses in front of the new Main Street Station Mural (more will pop up on Hip Circle’s web site). The fabulous Zinta Jauntirāns-Vogel took all our photos.

I knew I would bump into friends and was pleased to meet new power-women. Some are studio regulars, and others just found out about the shoot and decided to join in. We even tried to get passers-by in sleeveless outfits to take pictures with us (they declined).

Unlike the bikini shoot that sparked this annual event, I had no jitters during the day. It was more about deciding which dress to wear! One person had bought a top especially for the occasion.

A little girl who had been made self-conscious of a farmers tan refused to join. She later wanted to be part of some photos, but the rule was that she had to remove her cardigan. As the shoot progressed and we asked her about Wonder Woman’s power poses, she warmed up to the ladies present. Just as the group session wrapped she decided to join in after all. Now she is happy to leave the cardigan at home on hot days.

Here’s to the next empowering activity. I missed the shorts photoshoot last year, which also has fabulous messages.  Check out the various classes, workshops and events Hip Circle Empowerment Center organizes and see if one or more of them resonate with you.

Photos copyright Zinta Jauntirāns-Vogel

Hip Circle Empowerment Center just turned non-profit. Their mission: “Through dance, fitness, and community we empower ALL women to believe they are strong, beautiful, and worthy of attention.

Vision: The Hip Circle Empowerment Center is a safe space for women of all ages, backgrounds, and economic status. It brings together women from across societal boundaries for shared experiences. Through dance and fitness, women are empowered to joyfully inhabit their bodies. Through personal and professional development, women are empowered to courageously accomplish their goals. Through involvement in the studio community, women are empowered to confidently make their voices heard.”

A body positivity photo shoot

It seems that body advocacy has become more prevalent over the past few years, or maybe I just follow like-minded people who agree that photoshopped imagery in magazines is an impossible standard to uphold. But instead of sharing and liking these links on social media, I was called to do something more substantial about it in June.

PaisleyBikini

Inspired by this blog post about normal-size women posing as Victoria’s Secret swimsuit models, Malik of Hip Circle Studio posted the following invitation:

Instigator

Within the week, she had scheduled a formal event invite that called us to wear our favorite bathing suit and show up at the beach.

CalendarInvite

I tried on a few the night before and realized that it had been a while that I’d been bathing suit shopping. Comfortable me gravitated toward the tankinis, but I decided to do the scary thing and put on the two-piece that fit. At the beach, I saw photographer Kerry Ben-Joseph checking the light.

KerramelStudioPohtographer

Soon my friends from Bellydance and Moxie Boxing classes appeared. A few new-to-me ladies also  came to the shoot. We were asked to line up and strike poses.

Kerramel Studios

photo by Kerramel Studios

The power pose:

Kerramel Studios

photo by Kerramel Studios

The jumping pose:

Kerramel Studios

photo by Kerramel Studios

The chatting pose:

Kerramel Studios

photo by Kerramel Studios

We were also asked to pose individually. Initially I wasn’t going to, but then it seemed everyone was game, so I played along. The hardest part was not contracting my belly the whole time. I feel like I could have posed better, but the photo is posted on Malik’s insightful recap blog post so you can see it there.

Kerramel Studios

photo by Kerramel Studios

I didn’t see ‘models’ like me in the media growing up, so if this shoot is enabling one teenage girl to accept herself as she is, rather than looking at air-brushed and ‘skinnified’ images of women she will never look like, then the mission of this shoot is accomplished.

MagicalEve

Malik hopes to make this at least an annual event, and I am all for it. We need more initiatives like this to showcase that everyone is beautiful just as nature created you. It was fun in spite of the initial awkwardness!

Kerramel Studios

photo by Kerramel Studios