“Be a rebel—love your body!”
Twice a year, that’s the motto of Winona State University’s Fighting for Our Rights and Gender Equality club as they hold their bi-annual Re-Belly-On, an event when FORGE members encourage women to love themselves by painting strong messages on their stomachs and posting flyers around campus.
The Re-Belly-On started with Amanda Palmer, a musician signed on at Roadrunner Records, said Kat Heiar, FORGE facilitator. Palmer’s record reprimanded her for what they said were ‘unflattering’ shots of her stomach in a music video, and when Palmer’s fans found out, they posted hundreds of pictures of their stomachs with encouraging messages on them.
“When we took that idea and ran with it last February, it was National Eating Disorder Awareness week,” said Heiar, “and we wanted to provide a positive side of body image because we were focusing so much on negative issues.”
Kara Eggers, a 20-year-old sophomore at WSU, hopped up onto a window ledge and wrote “Be a rebel, [heart] your body” both forward and backward on the window so that people inside and out could read it while the other FORGE members started gathering paints and markers for body decoration.
A popular theme was to add things in marker or paint onto tattoos that the FORGE members already had. Heiar wrote “Love Yourself” around a tattoo of a flower on her forearm and Christine Kirt, a 20-year-old FORGE member, turned her tattoo of the word ‘believe’ written inside a heart into “I believe in me!”
Paintbrushes were dipped into green, pink and purple as FORGE members painted hearts and words of encouragement on stomachs and backs of all shapes and sizes while Olsen took pictures of the activities to be used later in positive flyers about body image and self-love to be posted around the WSU campus.
Eggers said being a part of FORGE and the Re-Belly-On was important for her because of the struggle one of her friends went through as a child.
Eggers said that her friend’s mother had locks on the cabinets and refrigerators while she was growing up to discourage overeating. In the summer of her friend’s seventh grade year, the mother trapped her friend in a small hallway consisting of her bedroom and a bathroom for two weeks by putting many layers of plastic wrap over the doorway, because she thought her daughter was too fat.
“I was tiny enough that I could get under the Saran wrap,” said Eggers, “so I visited her whenever I could. Her mother only let her out once she started hurting herself.”
Eulla Allen, an 18-year-old freshman at WSU, said she was born three months premature and had cardio pulmonary surgery when she was two days old. She also said she loves the scar looping from her back to her torso because her mother told her what it was from right away, but the scar that the doctors left on her face with tape used to bother her when she was younger.
“The one on my face reminds me of all the stories my mom, my father, my godfather and my pastor would tell people,” said Allen, “and that story is the story of my birth.”
The doctors at first thought she was supposed to be stillborn; through her 64-day stay at the hospital after her premature birth, they still didn’t think she would survive, said Allen. When she did, they were still pessimistic—they said she would be highly dependant.
“After that’s said...,” said Allen, “I usually get pitied or stared at. I didn’t like that.”
Despite the stories and their effect on people’s opinions of her, she isn’t ashamed of the scar on her face—in her freshman year of high school, she decided that it wasn’t important what other people said and that she loved herself and was survivor.
Other participants may not have had such personal ties to the movement, but joined in to support friends and family.
“This is my first time doing the Re-Belly-On, but I’ve never had body issues,” said Abby Olsen, a 20-year-old WSU sophomore. “Ever since I was little, I’ve had a chubby tummy, and I like that about me.”
Olsen also said that many of her friends diet and that a few have even been anorexic. While she doesn’t understand why they feel that way about themselves, she hopes that she can help them love their bodies more.
As Eggers stood with her hands on her hips, Olsen painted “I [heart] Me” on her bare stomach in green and pink, and Heiar painted “Be A Rebel” on Allen’s back in yellow—all this in preparation of a photo shoot for new Re-Belly-On flyers to be posted around campus with such mottos as “Be A Rebel, Love Your Body” and “Belly Love.”
“Being part of the Re-Belly-On really will encourage other girls to have confidence too,” said Allen as Heiar painted a second coat on her back.
This is FORGE’s third Re-Belly-On and they plan to continue hosting the event bi-annually, along with their other fundraising efforts such as Rock For Choice, which is a pro-choice benefit concert. All the proceeds are donated to Semcac.
FORGE also helps with the Vagina Monologues, a play about women’s experiences with their bodies. This year, the Vagina Monologues raised almost $3,500 dollars for the Women’s Resource Center of Winona, said Heiar, $700 of which was through FORGE T-shirt and button sales.
Each production of the Vagina Monologues must donate 10 percent of their proceeds to the V-Day movement, which is, according to their mission statement, “a global movement to stop violence against women and girls.” Each year, the V-Day efforts vary; this year, V-Day is focused on stopping violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo, said Heiar.
The Re-Belly-On this semester was closely tied with the Vagina Monologues and Women’s History Month, said Heiar, and FORGE members said they were proud to be associated with such positive self-esteem movements.
For more information about upcoming FORGE events, email KHeiar06@winona.edu.