Women Like Us Foundation supports women’s leadership for Gender Equality and Social Justice in the areas of Sex Trafficking, Homelessness and Education. It is the purpose of our blogs to create awareness of the work of women and the impact they are making on the world.
On a Sunday night in 2013, an Australian woman posted before and after photos of her body on Facebook and received over 3 million likes. These weren’t the usual before and after shots that display dramatic weight loss and a flatter stomach after dieting. The before photo was of her in a bikini, thin, tan, and lean, participating in a women’s fitness competition. The after shot was of her body, soft and curvy, after the birth of her daughter. The photo has now been seen by more than 100 million people and went on to create a media frenzy.
This woman is Taryn Brumfitt, now the leader of a global effort to end body shame for women with her project Body Image Movement. Her crusade includes speaking and writing about body acceptance, pursuing the quest to change and redefine beauty ideals, and a documentary called Embrace that chronicles her own debilitating story of body hate and her long journey to finding body love.
Taryn’s efforts are seen as remarkable and pioneering as she takes on corporate and media messages about how women’s bodies should look. One of the tenets of the Women Like Us Foundation is gender equality, especially since we know it is an important catalyst in the restructuring of human rights for all and Taryn is leading a very important aspect to this fight.
Gender inequality has had an enormous influence on the physical expression and appearance of women’s bodies over thousands of years. This includes, but isn’t limited to, practices such as binding women’s feet in China dating back to the 10th or 11th centuries, Muslim laws requiring complete coverage of women’s bodies in public (except for their eyes), and the waif like physical frames of runway models.
Body image in Western Culture has been a topic of increasing concern over the last 30 years, with awareness becoming more main stream with the death of Karen Carpenter in 1983, due to anorexia nervosa. Her passing woke the world up to the influences and pressures for women to be thin. Although anorexia and bulimia are rooted in complex emotional and psychological issues, the message from our media about life being better for those women who are thin, continues to be a core theme in fashion magazines and pop culture, influencing millions of women.
What are the numbers?
According to the National Eating Disorders Association, 20 million women suffer from eating disorders at some time in their life in the United States. By age 6, girls are becoming concerned about their own weight and body shape. And, 40-60% of girls, ages 6 to 12, are concerned with becoming fat.
Overall, 80% of American women are dissatisfied with their appearance, as echoed by Ms. Brumfitt’s interviews of 100 women in Australia, asking them to describe their bodies in one word. Responses included “Wobbly”, “Imperfect”, “Stumpy”. And “disgusting” was used numerous times by many of the women.
This is a glimpse into the internal wars that women wage with their bodies. The war often looks like constant inner criticism about body parts not measuring up to media standards, fears about being fat, self-deprecation of body appearance in social settings (especially around other women), and restricting and/or indulging in food in unhealthy ways.
What’s Changing Now
The Women Like Us Foundation supports women’s leadership in the world and that quality can only come from a strong self-image. The foundation continues to do their part in supporting women through efforts to end sex trafficking and homelessness and to promote education by mentoring teen girls through their One Girl at a Time program. Taryn’s efforts are also helping to change women and girls’ self-image from ‘fixable, damaged, needing improvement projects’, to ‘celebrations of strong, healthy, vibrant beauty’.
Change is also slowly happening around the world. Taryn Brumfitt’s Body Image Movement and her documentary Embrace are both making an impact, along with other change makers such as Dove’s “Real Beauty” empowerment campaign that’s been running for over ten years, a more accepting attitude towards women’s natural curves, as demonstrated with the Sports Illustrated 2016 Swimsuit issue cover photo, featuring plus sized model Ashley Graham, and European fashion organizations specifying a minimum healthy body mass index for models.
The Women Like Us Foundation is proud to be part of these global changes and welcomes support from our community to further the cause. Together, with other efforts like Taryn Brumfitt’s Body Image Movement, we’re closing in on the gender inequality gap and helping women to thrive through social change.
To learn more about the foundation go to http://www.womenlikeusfoundation.org/#women-like-us and to learn more about Taryn Brumfitt’s work and her documentary go to https://bodyimagemovement.com/
Blog author Molly Lyda, MA is a Life Coach and Therapist in Los Angeles, who supports women in finding balance and purpose in their lives through her program Intimacy 101: Create the Life You Want. She enjoys volunteering with the Women Like Us Foundation and working to make a difference in women’s lives. http://www.MollyLyda.com