“MY BODY IS NOT AN ORNAMENT, IT IS THE VEHICLE TO MY DREAMS”- Taryn Brumfitt
Last week, I had the pleasure and life-transforming experience of attending a screening for Embrace, the documentary. Embrace is Taryn Brumfitt’s exploration of her own issues of body image. She tackled this personal issue on film as a way of helping herself come to terms with the mismatch between “real bodies” and the bodies as seen on the covers of magazines and in the media. Her catalyst for doing this film? She was getting ready to have plastic surgery as a result of being unhappy with her “post-baby” body and then thought about the message this was sending to her own daughter. Taryn then set out to examine body image and discovered it is a global epidemic that is influenced by our fashion and media-driven society.
Taryn’s journey began when she posted 2 photos of herself on the Internet. One was of herself on stage during a body-building competition. She had embarked on a 15-week regimen of diet and a work-out routine that she considered unsustainable as a wife and mother of 3 children. The other photo was taken several weeks after the competition, after she had decided to continue to work out to be healthy, but to relax her time table so she could be fully present with her kids and family. She had gained some weight.
She received thousands of emails from this post. Some included people who were “body shaming” her and telling her to get her ass to the gym. Others were women reaching out and telling their own stories of their relationships with their bodies. Taryn began to see that her personal journey was actually one shared by thousands of other women and decided to address it as a global problem. She took on a 9-month, multi-national trip and traveled to see some of the people who had reached out to her.
Taryn takes us along on her globe-trotting adventure as she interviews people like journalist Mia Freedman, body-image researcher Professor Marika Tiggeman, UK talk show host Amanda de Cadenet, body-image blogger Jess Baker, motivational speaker Turia Pitt (a burn victim), a woman suffering with anorexia, a woman with a neurological disorder that has disfigured her face, famous fashion magazine photographers, models and women on the street whose stories reveal how ubiquitous body loathing and shaming have become in every corner of the world. I lead women in body image exercises on retreats and during my online programs. In spite of my own knowledge about how pervasive this problem is, I was shocked and deeply saddened at how many women used the word “disgusting” to describe their own bodies.
One particularly revealing segment of the film leads us to a visit with a Hollywood plastic surgeon who does a consult for Taryn. He handles her breasts, belly, and body as if it’s all just plastic to be molded, cut, and shaped to a specific image that culture demands. It’s remarkable that this man does this on film without any idea of how he is coming across. Taryn endures it with humor and patience so that we, the viewers get to experience what it’s like to be told that every woman’s thighs should have space between them. Every vulva should look the same (yes that is also shown). Every nipple line should be at a certain position on the body. A nip here, a tuck there, and you now have a closer approximation to what women “should” look like. Except we find out that most women do not look like this. The curtain is pulled back on the Photoshop fest that happens after photo shoots for fashion magazines. We discover that the thinnest of models are Photoshopped. We find out that runway models brag about eating cotton balls dipped in Gatorade in order to maintain their unnatural thinness. We also hear the stories of these same models passing out backstage.
This film is not a complete or exhaustive expose of the cultural story of women and their bodies. I am in hopes that this beautiful documentary will begin the conversations that must be had on a world stage for women to take their own bodies and power back. Taryn shows women that this is an individual and very personal journey that each woman must embark on herself. Interestingly, the film is being released at the same time as footage of Donald Trump talking proudly about how he engages with women, including that he can “grab them by the pussy” and that he can sometimes “just starts kissing them.” Combating this kind of attitude requires each and every woman to set her own boundaries and hold herself as deserving of respect. This means respecting herself first. This must be taught to each and every girl by all of us.
As Taryn says to her daughter, “Darling girl, don’t waste a single day of your life being at war with your body — just embrace it.”
Would you like to get involved with helping women make friends with their bodies? Is this an issue for you? Check out Taryn’s beautiful website, replete with articles and ideas that you can begin to implement in your life and in your community: https://bodyimagemovement.com/
Love to each and every one of you precious women and girls,