The parameters of the discussion around body image have become frighteningly thin and Taryn Brumfitt is doing some serious resizing.
Ms Brumfitt is the writer and director of Embrace, the most successfully crowd-funded documentary in Australian history.
She shot to virtual stardom in 2013 when she posted a ‘before’ picture of herself as a body builder alongside a happier, more natural ‘after’ picture with a softer physique when she stopped training.
Millions of people responded to the images, positively and negatively. And whilst Embrace is an empowering film offering new ways of seeing ourselves, it also paints an alarming picture of body image issues around the world today.
Shocking revelations like: “45 per cent of women in the healthy weight range believe they’re overweight”, “Australians spend around 1 million dollars a day on fad diets” and “86.3 per cent of all cosmetic procedures in the world are performed on women”.
Life in the 21st century seems to be getting closer and closer to a B-grade slasher movie.
Ironically, Australian censors have given Embrace an MA15+ rating, which Brumfitt argues reinforces body shame, reduces a younger audience’s access to the film and implies their vaginas are inappropriate viewing material.
“Even just hearing that classification and what they wrote: ‘protruding labia’. I mean, they wrote that in the notes! That was the problem!” the Adelaide-based mother-of-three tells The New Daily.
“Oh, ok, so if a woman’s labia hadn’t been protruding, would that have been ok with you?’ The hypocrisy!”
The MA15+ sequence in question involves the word ‘Labiaplasty’ appearing on the computer screen of Dr Fardad Forouzanpor, a cosmetic surgeon in Beverly Hills.
As he speaks, we are shown images of a woman’s vagina before and after the procedure. This is followed by a discussion with sexual health consultant Jane Langton, who notes how women rarely get to see and understand their own bodies.
She says: “Once we get past our vulnerability, once we have the courage to share, it’s like, ‘Wow! Your vulva is different from mine and mine’s different from yours and it’s not what we see in pornography … it’s life and we’re all so beautiful and so different.”
Therein – like a buried treasure – lies the message of Brumfitt’s film: we are so much more than the sum of our parts. Yet our bodies have become the measure of how we assess ourselves, and each other.
“When I say, ‘Changing the currency of how we value other people’, that’s what I’m talking about,” Brumfitt explains. “We’ve got it so wrong if we think someone is valuable because they’re ‘hot’ or ‘skinny’ or they have a ‘tight arse’.”
This is not a cesarean scar, it is the shape of my tummy…and I LOVE it! We all have access to love and cherish every inch of our bodies, it's just a shame that so many people are looking for positive change in the form of a lotion and potion. My advice, look within, it's there, truly it is, perhaps start with hope and eventually it will become a reality. Loving your body unconditionally at every age at every stage brings so much joy and happiness. This is your life, your rules…just do it, EMBRACE! #ihaveembraced #bodyimage #bodyimagemovement #embracethedocumentary #bimgap #selflove #selfesteem #globalchange #diversity #healthateverysize #proudsouthaussie #radelaide #unstoppable #theunstoppableprogram #oprahwinfrey #oprah
A photo posted by Body Image Movement (@bodyimagemovement) on
Throughout the film, Brumfitt shares her own experiences along with interviews she conducted with doctors, psychologists, women on the street and public figures, including actor and talk show host Ricki Lake, author and speaker Turia Pitt, CEO of ‘The Conversation’ Amanda de Cadenet and more.
Ultimately, the film is hinged on a moving message for Brumfitt’s daughter, Mikaela, when she’s old enough to receive it: “The purpose of your life is not to be an ornament to be looked at but, rather, to do, to feel and to accomplish and contribute.”
Embrace is essential viewing for every man, woman and child, because it’s a reminder that in order to reclaim our power, we must turn the focus away from the body and toward what truly matters.
“We’ve been so disempowered,” Brumfitt says. “But if we can come back to the here and now while we’re capable, able, living and breathing and tap into a new perspective, what a rich and abundant life we all have access to. Imagine what we can actually do.”
Watch the trailer for Embrace below: