Alumna Michelle Moran cries during a workshop on reconnecting with your body against the pressures of society to fit a certain standard at the eighth annual Women’s Center Conferenceon March 9, 2019. (Shaylyn Martos/ Golden Gate Xpress)
Laughter filled the room and Beyoncé blasted through the speakers of Jack Adams Hall as women from all walks of life gathered for the eighth annual SF State women’s conference.
The conference, titled “I am Me,” this year took place March 11 at 9 a.m., and it featured giveaways, workshops and guest speakers like activists Ericka Hart and Sonya Renee Taylor.
It hosted by the Associated Students Women’s Center, a campus organization dedicated to empowering, informing and providing a safe space for women. The event educated attendees on issues women face and how they vary among cultures, classes and communities.
Each year, the conference centers on a different issue. Alyssa Ha, student intern for the Women’s Center, came up with this year’s conference theme: body positivity and worthiness. She drew inspiration from today’s social media-obsessed world.
“We wanted it to be relevant to today and so I thought of how everyone is always caring about what they look like on Instagram,” Ha said.
She said she hoped to spread the message of female empowerment and appreciation, through the event rather than female comparisons over social media.
Conference Director Myha Castro, sought to give women tools to both understand and work on their relationships with themselves.
“We want our participants to understand a little more about your body […] but also to understand you are worthy within yourself,” Castro said. “People have the tools already to do that, but it’s about guiding them in that direction.”
The event featured educational workshops on topics like eating disorders, menstruation and being queer, to offer attendees a new perspective on their bodies and the ways social expectations can be damaging.
Bay Area eating disorder recovery center the Lotus Collaborative presented a workshop run by Santa Cruz clinical director Joy Linn. She broke down different ways women are taught to think about their bodies, and how that can lead to eating disorders. Linn offered tips for intuitive eating like respecting hunger, discovering satisfaction for eating and not aiming for perfection.
Guest speakers at the conference also moderated discussions on race and its effects on traditional standards of beauty.
Hart, an activist, sexuality educator and breast cancer survivor, spoke about breaking the conventional molds of beauty and accepting all bodies as beautiful. She also addressed the discrepancy associated with the way society only asks women who are considered less beautiful about body positivity and how they are able to be so brave and confident in their own skin.
“My thoughts on body positivity is that whenever there is a body that is deemed as ugly or disabled or outside of the conventional pretty, then that body is supposed to be positive,” Hart said. “But whenever that body is conventionally pretty or skinny or able-bodied, then they don’t have to work through that.”
Hart also noted the systematic destruction of positive body relationships in women of color.
“All bodies are impacted by systems of oppression, especially in a country that’s founded on stolen land and founded on the subjugation of black people,” Hart said.
Taylor, a social-justice activist, performance poet and author of “The Body is Not an Apology: The Power of Radical Self-Love,” traveled from New Zealand to speak at the conference. She talked about finding self-worthiness without seeking it from others.
According to Taylor, women are often trained to take care of others before they take care of themselves, and this contributes to the lack of self-worthiness. She wishes to take apart that notion and redefine it with radical self-love.
“Radical self-love has you put the oxygen mask on yourself first,” Taylor said. Attendees appreciated the educational lessons and encouraging aura of the conference. SF State junior Kelly Hernandez said she felt connected to other empowered women and enjoyed learning about
“In the workshops, I was educated about improving my diet and the importance of removing toxic chemicals from my body,” Hernandez said. “I also learned about other women’s health issues and the importance of legislation around these issues. The Women’s Center did an amazing job at putting this event together. I can’t wait for next year.”