Ladies, You’re Not Fat or Ugly: One Mom’s Mission to Counteract Body Shaming

Taryn Brumfitt is out to challenge the pressure to Photoshop and plastic-surgery yourself into perfection.

(Photo: ‘Embrace’/Kickstarter)

May 15, 2014· 1 MIN READ
Culture and education editor Liz Dwyer has written about race, parenting, and social justice for several national publications. She was previously education editor at Good.

If you could describe your body in one word, what would it be? Thanks to fat shaming and unrealistic media messages, if you’re a woman, the descriptor you’re likely to choose isn’t a positive one.

That’s why body-image activist Taryn Brumfitt hopes to create Embrace, a documentary that will explore our obsession with body image and share the stories of women who went from hating their physical appearance to loving themselves, flaws and all. This week she and filmmaker Hugh Fenton launched a Kickstarter to fund the film’s creation.

Brumfitt is ideally positioned to make a documentary about body image. The Australian mother of three once felt the way too many women feel every day—like a disgusting, ugly blob. Although Brumfitt dieted and exercised herself into fitness competition shape, she still didn’t feel like she met the requirements for perfection presented by Hollywood and most fitness magazines. In early 2013, she planned to have a tummy tuck, but before she went under the knife, Brumfitt wondered what kind of message her dissatisfaction with her body was sending to her daughter, Mikaela.

That’s when she decided to launch the Body Image Movement, which counters the inescapable body shaming in our society by encouraging women to speak positively about their bodies and the bodies of others. In March 2013 Brumfitt shared before-and-after photos of herself. Those kinds of physical-transformation images are in every weight-loss advertisement, celebrity cover story, workout DVD infomercial, and lifestyle magazine. But Brumfitt cleverly made the pictures the inverse of what we’ve been taught to expect. Her “before” was of her at a bodybuilding competition, and the “after” photo was of her post-pregnancy. They went viral across social media.

Now, after more than a year of public speaking, television appearances, and Twitter activism, Brumfitt hopes that Embrace can dig deeper into why women and girls are told to tuck and tighten themselves into an unachievable physical ideal. She also hopes to tell the stories of females across the world who’ve learned to love their bodies. Brumfitt needs about $187,000 to make the film. If it gets fully funded, she and Fenton plan to begin filming in July and anticipate completing the project by July 2015.

The film is much needed. In the promo video, Brumfitt asks other women how they’d describe their bodies. It’s both sad and unsurprising to hear them choose such horrific terms. Brumfitt also included footage of the emotional struggles she still goes through with her own body image. After all, it’s not like a magic wand gets waved over a woman and she’s suddenly impervious to all the “you’re fat and ugly ” messaging from the media. But if projects like this one are successful, maybe one day we’ll have a generation of girls who don’t walk around ashamed of what they see in the mirror.