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Never Did I Think I Would Be Standing on the Street Half-Naked: A recap of About-Face’s most recent and gutsiest action yet

A shout-out to all of the lovely volunteers who helped make this action possible: Tovae, Fallon, me (co-organizer), Vera (co-organizer), Jennifer Berger (About-Face’s Executive Director), Virgie Tovar, Kendra, Julie, Chelsea (co-organizer), and Glen. Not pictured: Marilyn Wann.

On Saturday, June 15th, 2013, I was with About-Face and supporters as we stood scantily clad in front of Victoria’s Secret on Powell in San Francisco for our latest action, called Operation Real Bodies Real Love.

Wearing only our bras and underwear, we were making a statement about what real bodies look like (and how much we love them) in the face of the violently unrealistic, Photoshopped images we see in the media every day – Victoria’s Secret models included. These images can be extremely harmful to young and old minds alike, causing issues such as negative body image, low self-esteem, lowered or negative moods, dieting, and eating disorders.

We wanted to represent the public and fight for more accurate representations of bodies in the media, so we were hoping for people of all shapes, sizes, ethnicities, abilities, genders, and gender expressions to join us.

From the outset, the action received a lot of positive attention as passers-by cheered and shouted comments such as, “YES! This is so great!” and “I’m so glad that you’re doing this!” The Powell Street Cable Car even stopped so that the conductor and passengers could give us cheers of encouragement and praise! Then, of course, there were lots and lots of pictures taken, as people wanted to pose with us as we held up signs with statements like “I Pledge to Love My Body” and “Fat and Fabulous!”

Our main goal was to bring light to the fact that all bodies are beautiful (yes, and also the thin ones!) and ask people to sign a Body Acceptance Pledge (you can take it online here!) that read:

  • I pledge to love my body, inside and out, with every dimple, scar, freckle, lump, roll and curve I have.
  • I pledge to try to start loving my body however I am feeling, however I look, and wherever I am.
  • I pledge to stop negative self-talk and to fight back against those negative thoughts with new, positive ones.
  • I pledge to resist the messages of the media telling me that I must change my body to be happier.
  • I pledge to keep my body healthy by feeding it when it’s hungry and refrain from hurting my body by committing violence against it and not taking care of it.
  • I pledge to appreciate what makes my body different from anyone else’s.
  • I pledge to remember that my self-worth is not determined by my appearance.
  • I pledge to accept the changes my body goes through.
  • I pledge to accept and love the skin I’m in.

Once signed, they were given a reminder of the pledge they took and tips on how to follow through with their pledge:

  • Give myself confirmations about how great I am to myself in the mirror.
  • Concentrate on the things that I do well.
  • Remind myself that bodies are always changing and that every body is different.
  • Voice my opinion on the practices of advertisers, media outlets, the fashion industry, and diet companies.

By the end of the action, we had received 66 signed body pledges, and many people talked of how they were going to pass the tips along to others! Even so, we were surprised at how many people didn’t sign the pledge, making comments such as, “I already love my body!” You can take the pledge online by clicking here.

After they signed the pledge, we asked people if they had any demands for companies such as Victoria’s Secret, known for their stick-thin (but somehow buxom), unrealistically Photoshopped models, and Abercrombie & Fitch, which has refused to make clothing for larger bodies.

We received statements such as:

  1. “Hire real people to show your products and act in your movies.”
  2. “Stop Photoshopping everything and let us see what real beauty is.”
  3. “Stop the negative and self-hating articles and start writing about people who are doing good things in the world – no matter how small as that is what really changes the world.”
  4. “I want to see more people of color in advertisements/fashion.”

Once a large list has been compiled, we will be sending this list of demands to various advertisers.

Tasha and Vanessa were here visiting from Florida and were two of our most enthusiastic fans – they were so excited to happen upon our action.

Since the day of the event, About-Face as a whole has received an overwhelming response from people who are happy, shocked, proud, and amazed at our bravery to stand half-naked in public as a sort of protest to companies who refuse to show or accommodate real bodies. We have also made appearances on Jezebel, The Huffington Post, ABC 7/KGO-TV, KRON 4 News, and various other sites. Success!

Participating in this event was a huge moment of empowerment and confidence for me and others who were with me or have seen the event. We at About-Face want you to know that we love your bodies just as they are, and you should too.

Operation Real Bodies Real Love: Complete.

Annika Branson is an undergraduate student at University of California, Berkeley majoring in Sociology and Media Studies. An advocate for media and eating disorder awareness for more than seven years, she is currently an intern at About-Face.