Last night I had the amazing opportunity to attend a screening of Embrace thanks to a Gathr screening in partnership with Ophelia’s Place.
The irony is not lost on me that I attended this event in a pair of pants that was too tight in the waist because I thought they were more flattering than the previous, more comfortable, pair I had been wearing.
As I sat down at my desk last night, trying to process my riot of feelings, I was also rubbing at red stripes crisscrossing my stomach, visible proof of my unkindness to my body.
I spent my entire drive home from the screening crying, while asking myself, why? Why are you crying? The answer was a complicated blend of feeling drained after watching something so poignant for 90 minutes, feeling despair that the majority of women on this planet are living inside a constant war with their body, and the joy that came from people who had truly found a way to love their bodies just as they are.
What helped this movie transcend the general rhetoric of the body positive movement was that while much of the examination of body shaming started with a look at fat shaming, it also included a look at women who experienced shaming for having to deal with the after effects of a body that has dealt with cancer, with surgery, a woman who has proudly grown out her beard, a woman who survived serious burns across her entire body. When we talk abut there being no wrong way to have a body, we have to include the people who are seen as “other” in more ways than weight.
In interviewing women in the street all over the world, asking them to describe their body, it is tragic to hear so many of them use the word “disgusting”. They called their bodies disgusting, fat, not good, shifting a squirming and even giggling under the uncomfortable weight of sharing these thoughts. And while you watch you feel sorry for these women while thinking, that’s me.
Taryn Brumfitt’s exploration of how we can each come to not accept our bodies, to not tolerate them, but to truly love them is not an easy journey. And in my personal experience, it’s one without a finish line. Some days it’s more work than others to insist that you will no longer engage in the media’s current portrayal’s of female beauty standards, that you will actively seek out media that depicts women of all shapes, sizes, cultures, and abilities. Because just like our constant exposure to content that makes us think we should try to look like these physically unobtainable women, the constant exposure to women of all sizes will help us find our own beauty.
In the film Taryn participates in a nude swim in Sydney. This not a sexualized nude swim, but one open to everyone to experience something joyful while realizing that you shouldn’t have to waste time agonizing over your appearance. While on the beach after the swim she happened to be standing next to a woman who suddenly shouted, “That woman has one boob like me!” and then proceeded to run over to the woman to talk to her.
The man who started the swim wanted to offer people the chance to accept the bodies as already awesome without having to engage in the typical life-affirming/ life-changing events of death of a loved one or personal health issues. This definitely struck a chord with me as I had to reevaluate my relationship with my body after being diagnosed with and then beating cancer. But it shouldn’t take cancer for me to want to seek a greater peace with my body.
So often we think we are alone in what we perceive to be our differences. We focus on the scars we think make us ugly, the flaws we think will keep us from being beautiful, but they are the things that actually have the power to unite us with other women experiencing the same thing, or to show us that our individual-ness is not “other” but rather what makes us uniquely beautiful.
Near the end of the film, one of the women interviewed, a German actress, said of her body, “It’s my soul’s mate.” I don’t know if it was a mistake, a slight hiccup in another language, but it was a powerful idea for me. Too often I treat my mind, my values, my loves as a separate thing from my body, and while it some ways it may be separate, it doesn’t mean that they aren’t linked, and full of the potential to live as one whole and beautiful thing.
Going forward I will no longer be as silent as I have been in my desire to end diet-talk amongst my girlfriends and my family. Body dissatisfaction isn’t something that’s happening to some remote woman somewhere, it’s happening here, with my own friends and I want to create a safe space for them.
I will continue to remember to not call my friends pretty before I call them smart or kind. I will no longer politely look away when a family member or friend is engaging in casual body-shaming because I’m scared that speaking up about it will make them angry. Let them be angry. I’m angry. I’m angry that women are living their entire lives truly hating their bodies, angry about all the time I’ve wasted hating my own.
Positivity breeds positivity, and I’ll be doing my part to contribute to that.
So in case someone hasn’t told you lately, or you haven’t been able to tell yourself, let me tell you: You are beautiful. Just as you are.
If you are interested in attending your own screening of the movie here in the United States visit Gathr to see if there is a campaign to screen the movie in your town.