There’s a global epidemic of body hating,” says filmmaker Taryn Brumfitt
One woman has a beard. Another sustained burns to more than 60 percent of her body. Then there’s the TV personality who’d struggled publicly with her weight for decades. Taryn Brumfitt spent months traveling the world in 2015, meeting these women and others, in the hope of answering just one question: “Why do so many women hate their bodies?”
“There’s a global epidemic of body hating,” said Brumfitt, sitting in her office in Adelaide, South Australia, over Skype this month. “So many women are trying to find a quick fix, a pill, a potion, a lotion, to help them love their bodies. So many brilliant minds are wasted on these thoughts.”
Part of the problem is the lack of diversity in the stories the media reports on women and the images of women we see, Brumfitt believes. Open most fashion magazines and we’re bombarded by images of size 0 girls and guides on “how to get thin fast.” Women are getting fat-shamed, skinny-shamed and criticized for being everything in between. Your boobs droop, your labia looks weird, your chin isn’t sharp enough.
“I want women to know they don’t have to conform to one body shape to feel OK about themselves,” said Brumfitt, founder of Body Image Movement, a campaign aimed at “redefining the ideals of beauty.”
We need to end this conversation about boob jobs and tummy tucks and diet, diet, diet,” the photographer and mom-of-three stressed. “We need to talk about this differently. I truly believe that the more stories of women we hear, the more we’re inspired by people who’ve faced adversity and pushed through, the more we can empower women into becoming their authentic selves.”
It was this belief that led Brumfitt, 38, on her around-the-world quest last year.
Her goal was to create a documentary — one that would chronicle the unique stories of a diverse group of women, many of whom had struggled with body hatred before finding self-love.
“I believe that by sharing our stories, it gives people hope that they too could love their bodies as well,” Brumfitt said.
She made the documentary film,”Embrace,” after more than 8,000 people donated $200,000 to fund the movie’s creation on Kickstarter. It’s the most successfully crowdfunded documentary in Australian history, according to Brumfitt. She held the world premiere in Sydney on June 12.
In the film, Brumfitt visits the home of American actress and TV host Ricki Lake, who spoke about her long-fought battles with body image. Lake admitted she had “no idea what that would feel like” to not worry, even for a moment, about her weight.
“She was very raw and very honest,” Brumfitt said of the TV star.
Harnaam Kaur, also known as the “bearded dame,” described being on the cusp of suicide before choosing to embrace her body as it is, ditching the razor and self-hate for good. Australian model Stefania Ferrario spoke about watching her peers eating cotton balls to feel “full.” An anorexia survivor known only as Tina sobbed on screen as she implored young women to never starve themselves.
“I also spoke to Turia [Pitt] for the film,” said Brumfitt, referring to the 29-year-old woman who suffered burns over more than half her body during a 2011 ultramarathon. Pitt is now a motivational speaker and humanitarian. She recently completed an Ironman triathlon after doctors told her she’d never race again.
“Turia said, ‘If I can get on with my life, I don’t know why others can’t,’” recalled Brumfitt. “And it’s so true. When I ask people the question, ‘What do you think you’re going to be thinking about in your last moments on Earth?’ No one’s ever said, ‘My nose’ or ‘my big bum’ or my ‘thigh gap.’ If only we could remember this — that our bodies are not ornaments, but vehicles to achieving our dreams.”