Last night I attended a special preview screening of Taryn Brumfitt's new film Embrace.
Throughout the film Taryn travels the world to interview an impressive range of women about their attitudes to their bodies including Adelaide researcher Professor Marika Tiggemann; UK talk show host/photographer Amanda de Cadenet; body confidence activist Harnaam Kaur; motivational speaker Turia Pitt and Collective Shout co-founder Melinda Tankard Reist.
It was a moving film which had me laughing one minute and then on the verge of tears the next.
There were so many themes unpacked throughout the film; post-baby bodies, our relationship with food, eating disorders, depression, self harm, media and advertising, cosmetic surgery, sexualisation and adultification of children; and each theme deserves an individual analysis of its own.
However one situation really stood out to me.
The Australian Classification Board has only just recently given the film an MA15+ rating due to what they have described as "protruding labia" during a 12 second scene where a professional shows a small sample of women's vulvas, all of which are different, and all of which are normal and healthy.
Taryn states on her website: "I am shocked and outraged that the Board has deemed Embrace unsuitable for under 15 year olds for showing in an educational and informative context the range of ways a woman’s body can look. The whole point of the classification system is to protect minors from being exposed to harmful content, but what exactly is the board protecting them from? This is not rude or crude, this is natural, this is life."
“An M rating (stipulates) that nudity must be justified by context. The nudity in my film is completely in context."
This would have been a really good film for mothers to take their 13 and 14 year old daughters to. To teach them about body positivity and acceptance at such a crucial time in their lives.
Instead it is likely that they will see hardcore porn before they've even had their first kiss.
Earlier this year the ABC reported that thousands of women "every year submit to costly and potentially risky labiaplasty - a surgical procedure to remove or reduce the size of the inner labia - in a bid to achieve the neat, "single slit" look promulgated in media images."
What hope do women and girls have of feeling comfortable with their own bodies when the only version they are exposed to is the highly photoshopped pornified version?
"An Increasing number of Australian teenage girls have “genital anatomy anxiety” and are requesting genital cosmetic surgery to alter “normal” body parts, according to alarming new research.
The survey of 443 Australian GPs found a third have seen patients aged below 18 wanting to trim or shape their genitalia. Almost all the doctors surveyed said they had seen women of all ages express concerns about the appearance of their genitalia."
It is clear to see that porn culture is having a huge impact on the way men and boys view women and the way that women and girls view themselves.
So what can we do? We need to hit back against porn culture. We can challenge the way women and girls are represented in the media. We can demand better from marketers and advertisers to ensure they include a diverse range of women in non-sexualised and objectified ways.
There is more than just one body type than the narrow stereotype commonly pushed by the media. I love this quote from our friends at Beauty Redefined:
Yes we want diversity but we also want to be valued as whole people.
So for 86 minutes last night I could laugh and cry in a safe space surrounded by my colleagues. But after the film ended we stepped out into a patriarchal world where we are drowning in the uphill battle to be recognised as whole people and not just the sexualised sum of our parts.
I hope that this film continues to push the conversation into the mainstream.
I hope that people of influence within corporate organisations are inspired to change the way they market to society and sign our Corporate Social Responsibility Pledge.
I hope that every woman that watches takes a step further towards loving herself for what she can achieve instead of hating herself for what she looks like.
Embrace opens around the country from August 4
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