Embrace Your Body
Posted on February 24, 2017
As someone who, up until the last few years has been thin for most of my life, body loathing is a new thing for me.
Once upon a time I possessed the coveted thigh gap, I weighed in at between 45 and 48kg. I didn’t eat very much, and though my bones were visible through my skin, I wasn’t ever anorexic, as all that I did to contribute to this thin ideal was smoke a lot of cigarettes, drink a lot of tea and coca cola and read books. I didn’t exercise to maintain my thinness, it was just me. My size 4 -6 state didn’t stop designer Alannah Hill looking me up and down disdainfully one night when she saw me wearing her ‘Supper in Saigon’ frock.
I may have been thin, but I didn’t make the grade.
Watching Taryn Brumfitt’s body image documentary Embrace last night at a Fanforce screening organised by a friend who had been inspired to spread the films message far and wide, I was struck by the women with “perfect” bodies who hated them nonetheless. I was blown away by the sheer number of women on the street who, when asked to say a few words about their bodies, used the word “disgusting”. It brought tears to my eyes because though I have never spoken the word aloud, that is how my inner voice describes me every single time that I get out of the shower. When our cat knocked down and broke the full length mirror in our house many months ago, I was secretly glad, and I never replaced it. I loathe having my photo taken, and think that my husband must look at me and privately ponder the bad deal that he got, how different I look to the woman that he signed up for.
Watching Embrace, I gained the courage to write these things here, to effectively speak them aloud.
The film saw Brumfitt, who had posted an unconventional version of a Before and After photo on facebook that had gone viral and been viewed over a hundred million times, set off around first Australia and then the world to talk to women about body image and particularly about the way that women judge themselves and are judged by the world, not just for their body shape and weight, but for ageing, for the appearance of our genitalia (though boobs are splashed everywhere, real women’s vulvas are rarely seen at all, and yet women judge themselves on that too), for diversity. We stand alongside photoshopped ideals and all that we see is ugly, fat, inadequate, old, not tall enough, not blond enough, not pretty enough.
And it is no wonder that we find ourselves wanting.
As Turia Pitt, featured in the film amongst a host of other smart and interesting women noted when commenting about the cruelty of people’s judgements on the topic of her partner staying with her after her injuries, what did they think that she was and that he had been with her for in the first place? Just her pretty face and body? Was that the sum value of her parts?
It most definitely wasn’t.
I am the same person that I was when I was thin, except that I am, in fact a much better version of myself, happier, more fulfilled, healthier, more accomplished, more confident in my abilities, possessed of more agency than I ever was before, and who is this inner voice that dares to label me with such ugly words every time that I catch sight of my nakedness?
A few weeks ago I was at the local pool with my husband and children. I was squeezing myself into my size 12 (I am size 14) swimsuit, mostly because I so hated the fat that showed under the rashi vest that I normally choose to wear. I noticed my two year old daughter staring at me and defensively, so full of that self loathing that I believed that she was judging me too, I asked her,
and she answered, in a voice filled with adoration and awe,
“You so boo-i-ful, mama!”
I almost cried.
On my bedroom wall I have a pastel nude that my older brother drew. I carried the rolled up drawing for years before framing and mounting it when my son was a baby. When I did, my husband asked if it was of me. I scoffed at him that when my brother had drawn this I had been seventeen or eighteen years ago (and not in the habit of posing nude for my older brother), but it made me look at the form in the drawing. She had a tummy, she had flesh. Her body looked a lot like my post baby body. She was beautiful.
I give myself permission to call myself beautiful.I hope that you can give yourself permission too. But beautiful is a long way indeed from all that I am. I am so much more than what I look like. We are all much more than our appearance, whatever it is. If we trust the popular media, we might believe that young, thin and beautiful women are the only ones with voices worth listening to.
You can buy the film on itunes, and take a look at the website here and I urge you to (you can even organise your own screening at a cinema like my friend did). I urge you to please embrace yourself as you are today. Embracing means silencing that inner voice. It means telling our daughters (and our sons) that women’s bodies are not ornaments, they are vehicles’ to take them the places that they need to go to be happy, to love, to grow and create, and be.
Send that message. Start sending it now.