Taryn Brumfitt struggled with her body and the way it looked. She tried to keep in shape with body building, she considered surgery. But then in 2013, she posted a naked photo of herself online, showing her stretchmarks, her belly, her imperfections. The photo started something: not only were there many women who reacted strongly – and positively – to it, it sent Brumfitt on a journey of self-acceptance and activism that is chronicled in this documentary.
Much of what Embrace talks about is important and touching, but unfortunately it just doesn’t go far enough for me.
The message Embrace sends is a good first step when you’re just starting out questioning the way we – on a societal level – treat women and their bodies. But unfortunately it gets stuck at saying “all bodies are beautiful” instead of going that step farther and saying “no body needs to be beautiful in the first place”. That women are measured by how beautiful they are is a problem because it’s a wrong unit of measurement, and not because the acceptable measures aren’t wide enough.
I also take issue with the view that my body is a vehicle for my self (instead of an ornament for the pleasure of others). While vehicle-rhetoric is preferable to ornament-rhetoric, neither are revolutionary enough. My body is not some kind of vessel for my self, my body is me, I am my body, we can’t be separated. In fact, there is no we, there is just an I.
So, I wanted to keep shouting of the film to go further, not stop after the first step taken on the journey but to continue. Trust me, I understand that it can be an empowering thing to realize that beauty standards are arbitrary and anyway, any person can be beautiful. Nobody should let the literally distorted portrayal of women in the media make them feel bad. We all should feel comfortable with who we are. But all of that isn’t enough.
It’s not enough, not only from a philosophical perspective, but also because it’s not enough for individual women to change the way they feel to change a structural, societal problem.
But then, I thought a lot about this particular issue already and I can imagine that if you haven’t, Embrace can be powerful and eye-opening. And at the very least, it’s an easy starting point.
Summarizing: Sweet, but not enough.