My Body is My Soul’s Mate: On Self-Acceptance and Taryn Brumfitt’s “Embrace”

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By Casey Rose Frank

If someone stopped you on the street today and asked you to describe your body, and you felt compelled to answer honestly, what would you say?

Would you compliment the legs that helped you get everywhere you wanted to go today? Would you smile and hug your curves, your soft belly or arms and call yourself beautiful?

Or like thousands of other women, would you answer that you thought your body was disgusting?

It feels like a bit of punch to read that, doesn’t it?

In Taryn Brumfitt’s documentary, Embrace, she interviews women in the street all over the world, asking them to describe their body. They called their bodies disgusting, fat, not good, shifting and 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.

Women all over the world are at war with their own bodies. They are pursuing impossibly limiting standards of beauty, constantly consuming images of “ideal bodies,” that in most cases are edited beyond anything an actual human can achieve. And when these women fall short of the impossible, they call themselves disgusting.

In Brumfitt’s true acceptance and love of her own body, she seeks to answer the question so many other women asked her: “How can I love my body too?” In the film, she meets with women from all over the world that help her, and in turn, the audience, find the answers.

The film was able to transcend the general rhetoric of the body positive movement in 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 effects of a body that has dealt with cancer or surgery. There is a woman who has proudly grown out her beard, and a woman who survived serious burns across her entire body. When we talk about there being no wrong way to have a body, we have to include the people who are seen as “other” in more ways than just weight.

Taryn Brumfitt’s exploration of how we can each come to not just accept our bodies, to not just 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 portrayals 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.

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. We can learn that our individuality 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.

Seeing this film has made me feel that I can 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.

Picture a little girl. Maybe she’s your daughter, your friend’s daughter, a niece. Would you want her to waste a single moment hating her body? Or would you want her to live her life as she does now, joyous in her movements, proud of who she is regardless of her size or shape?

This kind of change is not only for us, it is for the girls who will someday be women, who do not have a choice about what kinds of ads bombard them on streets, the sides of buses, in commercials, and on magazine covers.

We are the ones that can make a change for them.

If you are interested in attending a screening of the Embrace visit Gathr to see if there is a screening nearby, or start a screening sign up yourself.


Casey is part of the Contributing Writer Network at Thirty On Tap. To apply to become a Contributing Writer, please click HERE.

{featured image via unsplash}

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