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Get a tissue. This is the very intimate, raw, and honest story about Taryn Brumfitt (39) and every woman who’s ever hated her body. That’s about 91% of us.
Taryn’s documentary “Embrace” cuts to the heart of women’s insecurities with thousands of heartbreaking confessions she received by email after posting a “Before And After” photo of herself on Facebook. Examples included:
“I have a four year-old daughter and I’ve never swum with her because I don’t want to wear a pair of bathers.”
“I’ve not been intimate with my husband for three years because I think I look disgusting. He tells me he loves me but I just can’t bring myself to be naked in front of him.”
“I was sexually abused as a child and never told anyone. I’ve eaten to numb the pain, but now I’m just fat. And no one knows my story and everyone judges me as if I’m a lazy pig and I’m not. I’m just trying to survive.”
Then there were the Haters, who posted things like:
“Sucks to be your husband. Bloke thought he was doing alright for himself but you became a fat overweight pig.”
“I’d bang her sober in the before pic. I’d need a few stiff drinks for the after.”
Later, when Taryn asked women on the street about their bodies, Taryn heard:
Taryn’s no stranger to hating her body. After giving birth to three babies, Taryn saw stretch marks, rolls, nipple and urinary leaks. She felt broken. Taryn considered surgery to “fix” her body but at the last minute she decided against it and turned to body building. With obsessive routines, she made it to a competition. Finally! The bikini body she had always wanted— but it came with a lot of sacrifice. Most shockingly, the “perfect 10” women backstage were complaining about changes they still needed to make with their bodies. Taryn had a revelation:
“This body of mine. It’s not an ornament. It’s a vehicle. So I want to fuel it well, and move it and be healthy, but I want to do it on my terms.” She describes the following days as the happiest she’s ever been.
But her journey was just beginning. Taryn decided to visit some of the women who had reached out to her in a nine-week world tour. It’s the inspiration for her documentary “Embrace” and the Body Image Movement. Her mission: find out why women dislike their bodies and change their attitudes.
From “plus size” models to anorexics to burn victims to magazine editors and celebrities. Taryn talks to them all. She also shows uncensored footage of a plastic surgeon critiquing her body and photos of women’s vulva to show that there is no such thing as “normal.” This prompted Australia’s Classification committee to give the film a M15+ rating, which implies that the nudity was unjustified in the film’s context.
Taryn spoke of her outrage in the press, telling news.com.au: “It puts my film in the same category as Fifty Shades of Grey.” And added, “These images are not crude. We don’t need to be ashamed of how our bodies look.”
More censorship occurred by way of Facebook not allowing her to pay for boosts to promote the film because the promo photo showed too much skin. For the record, nipples and genitalia are not visible.
So we at SheSpark are happy to give Taryn our own “boost” and appreciate that she took some time to answer a few questions for our readers:
Q: When you first embarked on changing your own body image, what was the “ah-ha!” moment that led you to take your idea to a global scale?
It all started with my daughter Mikaela, I was booked in with a surgeon to “fix” my broken body with a breast augmentation and tummy tuck. But I had an epiphany: How was I going to teach Mikaela to love her body if I couldn’t love mine? When I posted my non-traditional ‘before and after’ photo it caused an international media frenzy, receiving over 100 million views. Over 7000 emails fell into my inbox and I felt a level of responsibility to all these women who felt completely miserable in their body.
That’s when I realized that there was a global epidemic of body dissatisfaction and that I needed to make Embrace. I had a desperate need to connect with women across the world through film -providing inspiration to create global change.
Q: You used KickStarter to fund your documentary with a goal of $200,000. How much money did you raise and who donated?
We reached the KickStarter campaign target of $200,000 on day 12 of the 60-day campaign and then went on to raise a total of $331,000 – it was Australia’s most successful crowd-funded documentary in history. 8,909 angels from around the world contributed and the campaign had some incredible celebrity supporters including Ashton Kutcher, Rosie O’Donnell, Ricki Lake and Perez Hilton.
Q: How did Ricki Lake (48) get involved with the movement and documentary?
Ricki Lake and I connected on social media and she was so supportive of my mission and vision that she was open to being in the documentary. She is such a delight off camera and on camera. Her words in the film “I resent the fact that so many days and hours and time has been spent hating what I look like when I look in the mirror” is having such a profound impact on women. It is so relatable and then she says “I am still striving to get to a place where I’m completely 100% comfortable in my own skin and I’m almost there…I’m getting better, and I better hurry up cause I’m not getting any younger.” It’s just amazing to hear that even someone like Ricki Lake struggles with these same issues that so many women deal with every day.
Q: As we enter our 40s, age becomes a secondary (and sometimes primary) personal image problem. Actresses over 40 get fewer roles, employers pass older women over for younger candidates with less experience. Advertisers ignore us— even for anti-wrinkle products! How do we address that additional “attack” on our physical and emotional well-being?
Firstly I want to acknowledge the complete absurdity of ageism. I celebrate the lines on my face as they serve to remind me that life is short and my bucket list is long!
We need to take back the power, if we don’t want to be subjected to ageism, then let’s start voting with our wallets and stop buying into the notion that we must fight ‘the signs of aging’ at all costs. This is disempowering in itself and fuels the larger problem of advertisers that prey on women’s insecurities. We also need to own our space and be mindful of how we communicate. Only just yesterday I had a woman say to me in a clothing store “I’d love to wear that dress but I’m too old for it!” I’ve heard these comments thousands of times and it proves to me that there is still so much work to be done.
Q: According to studies, women have the *poorest* self-image at age 54. What advice can you give middle-aged women who have faced decades of body shaming and (now) ageism?
For middle-aged women who are still struggling with body image, I would ask them this: what will you be thinking about as you take your last breath on Earth? No one I’ve ever asked this question to has said their ‘wobbly thighs’ or ‘cellulite’. Why then do we waste so much time worrying about things that don’t matter? Think about all of the amazing things that your body has done and what it will do. Don’t spend the rest of your life at war with your body when you could be enjoying all that life has to offer.
Q: How can women get involved in the movement and spread the word?
If women want to get involved in the Body Image Movement, they can start by watching Embrace (available on iTunes, Google Play etc.). They can follow the Body Image Movement on social networks, share our good news stories and empowering photos and bring our mission into their own lives. This can be done through using positive language to describe their own bodies and those around them, and they should open their eyes to the media messages that surround them to think about the impact this may be having on their own (and others) self-esteem.**