FORTHEM Outreach: “Body Positivity – Against Body Shaming” project

Over the course of spring 2022, researchers and students from University of Opole (UO) and University of Valencia (UV) developed a series of posters, infographics, presentations, educational and informational materials including videos in English, Spanish and Polish to raise awareness of body shaming and to provide educators with attractive and research-based materials to promote body positivity.

Students have been involved in compiling the information and presenting it in ways that resonate with the teens and young adults, who tend to be the most vulnerable to body shaming. A video by UV’s associate Irene Serra questions media trends that call for undue attention to body esthetics understood in a very narrow way.  The video draws attention to the mechanisms of online comparisons and to the judgmental nature of social media that may lead to dieting and mental problems. It is available in various languages, as are the materials that were sent to schools in the FORTHEM regions and made available to multipliers in the FORTHEM Alliance.


The objective

As was planned in the application accepted for funding in FORTHEM Outreach Mission (WP6) in early 2022, the project involved developing and delivering four outputs. The first one was an Opole student’s thematic presentation on body positivity given in a local school on the occasion of a “mental well-being event” (UO). The second one envisioned compiling a collection of informational and promotional materials for in-service/pre-service teachers by students of Cultural Studies (UO). The third one was a video promoting body positivity, developed in various versions and made available for display, for example on the screens in faculty halls, or via online media and made available to educators. The fourth one included developing, a collection of posters and infographics made by students, and printing and exhibiting them on campus and at schools.


The team

The actions started even before the project was formally awarded funding with internal consultations, team-building and student recruitment. A mailing list and a project team was established and information, publications, and teaching aids were exchanged. The core project team consisted of academics who approach the theme of body representations from a variety of disciplinary perspectives – media and communication studies, cultural studies, psychology, education and teacher training.  It included Prof. Katarzyna Molek-Kozakowska (UO, Department of English), Dr. Mateusz Szubert (UO, Department of Cultural Studies), Prof. María Roncero (UV, Faculty of Psychology), Prof. Gemma García-Soriano Roncero (UV, Faculty of Psychology), Dr. Juan Carlos Casañ-Núñez (UV, Department of Language and Literature Education, Faculty of Teacher Education), as well as BA and MA students in a range of courses. The results of the project were reviewed and consulted by internal experts and subsequently made available to external partners by a group of multipliers and disseminators.



Specific actions

As of output one, Michalina Barczyk, a UO Master student of Liberal Arts, developed a presentation "Social media and unrealistic standards of beauty: Instagram celebrities and the shaping of the body images of adolescent women" based on her MA project (supervised by Katarzyna Molek-Kozakowska) and presented it in a local secondary public school that was organizing a "mental well-being event at that time." She concentrated on the ways that social media thrive on the focus on celebrities and entrench the feelings of adolescents’ alienation and inadequacy. During a week-long event at II LO in Opole, the school focused on supporting teenagers by overcoming social anxieties and peer pressures, and Michalina conducted five workshops for 16/17-year-olds (over 120 pupils) and engaged in Q&A.

As of output two, UO students (20 persons) of the elective course "Body and gender in culture,” held in the summer semester 2022 by Mateusz Szubert, were introduced to the cultural aspects of body shaming and body neutrality. They were given an open-ended task to develop an inventory of materials promoting body positivity and/or countering body shaming. The tasks included preparing infographics, posters or social campaigns (e.g., against fat-shaming and ageism). The products, together with short descriptions and instructional materials (in Polish) aimed at educators were distributed to several schools of the Opole and Silesian region (I LO im. A. Osuchowskiego in Cieszyn, and X LO im. I. Paderewskiego in Katowice). Some images were printed and displayed around Collegium Maius and Collegium Pedagogicum on UO campus. 

As of output three, a video that raises awareness of the mental costs of body shaming and advocating body positivity was comissioned by UV psychology professors María Roncero Sanchis and Gemma García-Soriano. It was scripted, filmed, reviewed and edited in two versions (long – approx. 5 minutes, and shortened – approx. 4 minutes). The video making was subcontracted to UV’s external expert Irene Sierra. The video was given a voiceover in English and Spanish and Polish-language subtitles were also developed by UO linguist Jędrzej Olejniczak. The video was shared with schools and institutions cooperating with UV Depertment of Psychology, as well as through social networks by the author Irene Sierra, and uploaded to departmental, UV, UO media platforms. Project results were disseminated by FORTHEM media.

As of output four, FORTHEM students of University of Valencia – future teachers –  benefited from discussing the topic of body neutrality, which is rarely addressed in pedagogy. About 30 students of the MA in Secondary Education Teacher Training at UV were inspired by Juan Carlos Casañ-Núñez to approach body representations from the perspective of teaching innovation and educational research. The students were first trained to design scientific posters and infographics with CANVA software. Then, using a selection of reading materials, webquests and self-reflection, they were encouraged to think how to promote body neutrality and avoid body shaming in the classroom. More than a dozen awareness-raising body positivity posters and infographics were developed to help prospective teachers to introduce the issue to teenagers. Subsequently selected posters were printed and displayed on campus in UV (9 posters) and Opole (5 posters). Their virtual versions were shared with schools and popularizers.


Useful links



Researchers’ personal profiles










Text by Katarzyna Molek-Kozakowska (UO) project coordinator



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