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Session 3: The 'Balloon Party' Part 1 - Beauty Standards

This 15-minute activity can be used alongside other activities on these pages, or on its own, to begin conversations around sexual expectations, body image, and harassment, particularly on women in a clubbing context.

Suitable for groups, in person or online.

- note-taking materials
- large paper
- post-it sticky notes (optional)
- whiteboard or other shareable writing material

Online materials
- A prepared padlet with the human figure outline on it, ready to be shared with participants.

This clip is from Vincent Dance Theatre's Virgin Territory, which, alongside Shut Down, was devised with young performers to examine identity, masculinity, femininity, sex and sexuality, and digital harassment. The pieces in these resources are clips from a longer multi-screen dance theatre film installation: this is to say that some parts tell a story, some ask you to think, and all pieces are designed to evoke emotional responses. Participants should be encouraged to engage with these dynamic pieces on a combination of these levels.

These resources come with a content note, particularly around sexual harassment. If anyone who engages with these materials needs support they can do so via Wellbeing Services here.

The intersectional nature of sexual and domestic abuse particularly in relation to women and girls of BIPOC heritage should be considered in connection with this activity (see
Group session:
  1. Watch the above video - participants should try to write down immediate responses: what was meaningful, evocative, interesting, exciting, and/or striking in the work just witnessed? (Remember that there is no right or wrong way to respond!). (Online - the session leader can share their screen to show the video).
  2. Check-in: The above video contains content that discusses sexual harassment; the session leader should signpost to wellbeing services during the session. Offer a short period to reflect and make sure participants are alright.
  3. Activity: The video showed scenes of dancing with balloons to exaggerate particularly the feminine body shape. Participants are invited to think about beauty standards - they should take 5 minutes to scroll through Instagram, Twitter, or a social media platform of their choice and see if posts, or even adverts on these websites, are promoting a certain type of body image. In pairs or as a group discuss how this might make us perceive our own bodies. Are there differences in everyone's feeds? Why? Does it depend on the platform and its purpose?
  4. Activity: Build on the annotated masculine human figure exercise from Session 2 to think about the differences between real life and social media.
    In-person - Session leader to draw an outline of a person on a large piece of paper or a whiteboard, perhaps around a volunteer. Participants then are invited to add words and phrases about how femininity is presented to the outside world (in conversations, particularly online) outside of the line drawing; participants are also invited to add words or phrases about how this might be different in private inside the line - who is a 'woman' inside? How might the women in the film clip actually feel in these scenarios? These ideas might be written on post-it notes or directly on the drawing depending on resources.
    Online - The session leader shares a padlet, or an online whiteboard with an outline of a person and replicates the above using the shared padlet resource. Session leaders may wish to use the outline image at the bottom of the page from Session 2. The activity commences as above.
  5. Feedback: Session leader reads and responds to some of the responses to the above task. What can you do to make inside and outside match up in yourself and others? How do these differences play into 'Active Bystander' issues? If you have also done the masculine figure outline session in Session 2, how do the two outlines compare? Gender is not binary, but how do these experiences of the world differ? How might they be similar? What kind of new understanding might we have for others now?
  6. Bonus: if you would like to see other responses to these kinds of exercises and VDT's 'Balloon Party' video, check out this flikr album.
Mon 24 Jan 2022, 14:20