Love the Skin You’re In

Main Cast/Director: Taryn Brumfitt

Like most American women, I am on a perpetual diet.  I can’t remember the last time I wasn’t worried about my weight or stretch marks or how big my boobs are.  It seemed simply to be the cross women in this society bear – we are valued primarily for how we look, and any deviation from cultural expectations leaves us open to criticism, especially if we happen to have strong opinions and dare to voice them.

I know this isn’t a good way to live, but it’s also nearly impossible to shake.  But I’m always game to try, so I downloaded and watched the documentary Embrace – all about a woman finding the beauty in her own body, as it is.

Embrace follows the unremarkable body image journey of an Australian woman named Taryn Brumfitt.  Taryn, like most women, was dissatisfied with what time and child-bearing had done to her physique.  So she did something about it – she got incredibly fit.  Fit enough to compete in a body building competition.  But as every woman out there can guess, she still wasn’t really happy with her body – and she realized that the other incredibly fit women all around her weren’t happy with theirs, either.  Thus a mission was born – to love her body and enjoy her life and stop beating herself up.  She posted a “before and after” set of pictures on Facebook – her body building self as before, her softer, rounder, happier self after.  Naked (discreetly so).  And those pictures went viral.  Getting not only the fully anticipated fat shaming comments (no, she is not fat) but comments from so many women who struggled with accepting their bodies that she embarked on a month’s long journey to meet some of these women, to try and figure out how to help an entire gender that can’t see their bodies as anything but never good enough.  The documentary is the chronicle of that trip.

Most body positive missives leave me cold.  It’s easy to tell people to love themselves no matter what they look like, but it seems nearly impossible to actually do so.  But I found Taryn to be so engaging, so earnest, and so determined to celebrate her body for what it does rather than how it looks that the film made an impact on even on my die-hard skeptical soul.

Embrace uses quite a few of the usual types of things we see when someone is trying to buck a size conscious society – a woman with anorexia begging other people to eat, a woman who mocked Abercrombie and Fitch for their outspoken disdain for anyone larger than a size 2, women whose outlooks had been morphed by tragedy.  And all of them definitely make the viewer think about how warped magazine images are and how unrealistic our society’s – and our own – expectations are in terms of our physical appearance.  But that isn’t why the documentary is affecting – it’s Taryn.

Taryn is neither fat nor thin – she’s a normal woman who has had three babies and isn’t 18 years old.  She’s also fit, exuberant, and curious and caring enough to try to make a dent in the crushing weight of a society that not only objectifies women, but does so to the point of demanding they hate themselves unless they have bodies that do not exist in nature.

If you are like a lot of us and hesitate to look in the mirror for fear that you (still) won’t like what you see, do yourself a favor and spend an hour and a half watching Embrace.  It isn’t going to change your life instantly, but it may convince you that it’s worth trying to stop beating yourself, and others, up over external things that simply do not matter.  I honestly felt better as a normal woman after watching, and that’s as high a compliment I can give.  Well done, Taryn Brumfitt!

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