Stop slinging judgement… and start taking action!

Over the weekend, a review of Embrace was posted on the world’s number one parenting website based in New York City – Scary Mommy. With over 4 million followers on social media alone and the potential to share the message of the film with so many people, I was naturally interested to learn what they thought.

 

Embrace received a less than favourable review which wasn’t ideal on such a big platform. Despite being a first time filmmaker, I fully appreciate that everyone is entitled to their own opinion and actually have no issue with the documentary being liked or criticized. What I do have an issue with however, zero tolerance in fact, are incorrect assumptions, incorrect facts and critiquing of Embrace by those who haven’t seen the film – all of which ensued as a result of Scary Mommy’s review.

I’ve been called many things in my journey to body loving, and inspiring others to do the same.

I’ve been told I promote obesity, that I’m lazy and that I am a bad role model for my children. And despite being an ordinary mum of three from the burbs – much like the regular readers of the Scary Mommy – I’ve developed a thick enough skin to not let the comments of others, particularly those I’ve never met, dampen my desire to help others with my message. Woe is me? There simply isn’t time for that when you have the weight of the body positive world on your shoulders! World being the operative word here.

This latest aggressive attack on my character falls into the great race debate, with the review concluding that despite Embrace (and the Body Image Movement) claiming to be a global social change project, that there wasn’t enough diversity in the film.

Before I share why this is so personally upsetting to read, let me begin by addressing some of the incorrect statements made in the review.

The review claimed that the only significant interview with a black person in the entire film was with a black woman in the film’s ending photo shoot, and that her interview was reduced to one line. Please see the transcript from Tenisha’s interview featured in Embrace below.

I’m hoping that there’s a woman out there that’s plus-sized that really doesn’t like her body too much and sees me in my bra and underwear and is like, “hey, it’s not that bad, you know?” Especially for moms, you know weight comes with having children, some stretch marks, a little cellulite. At the end of the day, no one looks at you like, “ew!” It’s you that tears yourself apart and sets the stage for people to frown at you. But the more that you love it, everybody else will love it too. I don’t have a problem at all. It’s okay to love yourself exactly where you are. I have a rule of thumb –  if you are in my presence, you’re not allowed to talk bad about yourself at all. It’s contagious. We can either make the negative contagious or we can make the positive contagious, so we’ll just go make the positive contagious. No choice.”

TENISHA 3

A little longer than just “one line long”.

As for the “only black person in the film”, please do not devalue the important roles Khristina and Lea, both women of colour, played in Embrace.

Another incorrect statement referred to the ethnicities of some of the film’s stars.

The review states, “To be fair, Taryn does talk to an Arabic woman who proudly wears facial hair (Harnaam Kaur), a Jewish actress (Nora Tschirner), and a Dominican model (Renee Airya).”

Firstly, Nora is a German actress and not “a jew”. Harnaam is not Arabic. And Renee is not from the Dominican Republic (this is just where we filmed her interview).

Similarly poorly written and with little integrity were some of the words left in the comments section.

One woman wrote, “In 90 minutes, you couldn’t have found room for one woman of color?” I asked her if she’d seen the film … she hadn’t.

Another woman wrote, “As a white woman, I can’t imagine how hurtful it would be to turn on a documentary like this and basically see no representation of myself.” I asked this woman again, if she’d seen the film … she hadn’t.

And this. “This documentary is a problem because the message is to embrace yourself, but it excludes people of colour that just reinforces that message they’re not the ones who should embrace themselves. Representation matters.” A comment from yet another woman who, you guessed it, hadn’t seen the film.

It was important for me that Embrace was inclusive and as a first time filmmaker, I sought as much representation as I could with the limitations that I had.

Some of those limitations were personal, for example I really wanted to travel to South Africa and parts of Asia, but with no resources or contacts on the ground in those places (and with a film crew of just myself and another person), I didn’t feel amply prepared. Would I have loved to have gone to South Korea to discover why 1 in 5 women have cosmetic surgery – yes. Would I have loved to have gone to Iran to find answers to why their country is the nose job capital of the world – yes.

So here is why this review has hit such a personal note for me.

While the author of this review may believe they’re advancing matters of social justice, I see this as having backfired. Who, in their right mind, would want to stand up for anything they believe in these days if they’re honourable intentions could be shot down so publicly?

I greatly fear the impact these toxic conversations will have on younger audiences. I feel really disillusioned by the anger and vitriol in some people’s comments and think 20 year old me would be running in the opposite direction of taking action or using her voice to advocate for anything in fear of getting It ‘wrong’.

Rather than encourage people to further explore global issues like body dissatisfaction, explore every nuance and facet of the epidemic, I fear that conversations like this will discourage others from wanting to take any action whatsoever to help make a difference because of the potential retribution that can ensue for not ‘doing it right’ or in a way that doesn’t please everybody. I’ve seen so many fabulous women I know do an outstanding job of leading businesses, creating record profits and kicking tremendous goals, only to be judged for not doing it ‘well enough’.

A single documentary, book or person is not going to be the silver bullet for what is a very big global issue.

I encourage everyone that is so deeply passionate about wanting to see greater representation in the body positive movement to go ahead and make that happen. I am not the sole solution to this problem, but then again, I never claimed that I was.

I am beyond proud of Embrace and the amount of information I was able to include in a very short 90 minutes. It was impossible to include everything, for everyone, but when I remember that this film is about my body image journey and my experiences, I feel I more than accomplished what I set out to achieve.

Embrace began as a tiny idea born in my hometown of Adelaide, Australia, that to my surprise grew rapidly into a worldwide movement. Will I apologise for where Embrace was born, in a Western country? No. Will I apologise for the resources I had to make this film? No. Will I apologise for being a white, able-bodied woman? No. To do so would dishonour the very message of this film.

We simply can’t be all things to all people. We can, however, be more forgiving of people attempting to ‘be’ that someone for the people, someone who is attempting to make an impact and create global social change. After all, it takes more courage to take action than it does to sling judgment from the sidelines.

 

You can start taking action right now. JOIN THE MOVEMENT

  • carla

    I saw the film. There was plenty of diversity. For crying out loud. Why are we women our own worst enemies. Thank you for your fine efforts to make a really positive film that has the potential to be life-changing. I have Embraced, or at least I try to every day.

  • Paula

    Well said and well written and please know that you are powerful beyond any measure. Haters gonna hate. Also whilst this is negative publicity it is publicity and people will still make up their own minds by and large. In a perverse way it may in fact increase your exposure. Not that this is what you would have intended. xo

  • Marie

    The part about comments from people who haven’t seen the film is especially disappointing-was going to say infuriating but trying to keep my tone on an even keel!
    I also understand the part about resources for independent films. One of my daughters is a filmmaker and despite fundraising and people who help for free, etc. you can only do what you can pay for -or borrow for!

  • Katharine Hagerman

    Thank you Taryn, for all of the great work you have been doing and continue to do. And thank you for responding so eloquently and thoughtfully to the review. I know it must have been hard to receive, and I strongly agree that although thinking about these things is important, people could share those views in a more positive and constructive way. I’m sure you know this by now, but ‘haters gonna hate’ as the song goes… and all you can do is to keep doing your best and staying true to your honourable values and intentions as you do! Keep up the great work. Katharine

  • Merissa Foryani

    Good on you Taryn. I love the film, have seen it three times, and encourage every woman I talk with to see it. I think it should be compulsory viewing for teenage girls particularly. I think you’re doing a brilliant job of being an ambassador for change, and in owning your own perspective. Much love and respect. xx

  • K Haynes

    Let’s just start with F$@% YES! Sorry, I generally keep it clean in public but OMG, what happened here??? Taryn, I first saw your initial photos on FB (I’m no longer on) and followed Immediately! I supported your kick starter fund and all of the updates leading up to the film’s release. I waited in anticipation for it to be available in the US (Massachusetts to be

  • K Haynes

    I lost my initial comment and don’t know where in my rambling I left off!? Suffice it to say, Taryn, there will always be those who judge without knowledge but those of us who you’ve helped and who’ve seen Embrace will continue to share your message and inspiration and hopefully also live your message to encourage others to do the same. At 53, I feel beautiful, strong, worthy, and basically fabulous! And it’s because of people like you and inspiration like Embrace! Rock on with your bad self, sista! You are a rock star!!! Thank you! 😊❤

  • Manuela Brenner

    Taryn, I do understand that this got to you. It would have affected me as well. One of my best friends keeps saying: Whenever a storm hits, stumble, get back on your feet, put your crown back on your head, and keep walking. I did see the movie with some of my closest girlfriends. None of us commented on it being racially biased. What I’ve learned: If there is nothing else left you can argue with, use either race or gender as a topic. It always works. It doesn’t matter if it is politicans trying to grab us by our most basic fear or others who do it for all types of reasons. I work in the academic field and I’ve been part of hiring commissions. You HAVE to pick a woman to be among the last three, even if she less qualified than other male candidates because it would look bad if it was only men. Why? Isn’t this weird? We come from not taking women into account for these positions or pushing people because of their otherness into the margin of society to you HAVE to include EVERYONE, no matter what. And, yes, this is how a friendly society should act but it became a compulsion. One way or the other: both is sexist and racist. I think what you have accomplished with your movie is more than extraordinary. Thanks for making it and spreading your message. Seeing your movie contributed to a group of my friends, so far only female, to meet once a month and talk about our body, sexuality and whatever needs to be included in these conversations. So far only women because we thought for the beginning it would make it easier. Men to be included soon :-) You contributed to this. Thank you very much.

  • Azola Silinga

    As a black woman from South Africa (by the way we would have loved to have you in South Africa for the work you do) when I watched the film I did not once feel like the was an issue with race or the women you chose to use for your documentary. That wasn’t the point of the documentary and I am utterly shocked by this ridiculous review. Your documentary was recommended to be by a dear friend who actually so happens to be from Adelaide. I learnt so much from it and it’s exactly what I needed to hear at the time. I was not in a very good space and this documentary saved me. And that is what it should be about. I loved the film and I am very grateful for it. You did a great job for being an ambassador to women. Keep doing what you doing!