These images are confronting, yes; but the only way they could be harmful is if they continue to be censored.
After 24 months of travelling, filming and editing I am weeks away from releasing Embrace into the world; a documentary I truly believe has the ability to change the way a generation of body haters feel about themselves.
There is a sequence in the film that discusses the fact that women rarely ever see another woman’s vulva, often leading many women to turn to cosmetic surgery to ‘fix’ what they perceive to be an unsightly part of their bodies. This is followed by a section of images in the film that show a range of women’s vulvas, all of which are different and all of which are normal and healthy.
I have now found out that the Australian Classification’s Board has given the film an MA 15+ rating purely based on the inclusion of “protruding labia”. 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.
If the Board really thinks that young teenagers aren’t going to be exposed to nudity before the age of 15, they are being naive. The nudity that many of them will see is not coming from a place of empowerment or education, it’s coming from pornography where body parts are taken to their most extreme form of aesthetic appeal; natural or not.
Where are children and young adults going to get their information from if films like Embrace are censored? This was the reason behind the very conscious decision to include the collection of vulvas in the film. There is already enough body shaming in the world and here’s another dose of it. From billboards to music videos the staple of our image-based culture is the youthful, sexualised female body.
This classification decision means that the film cannot be seen by an audience that should see it most, from doing research for Embrace I know that 70% of girls are dissatisfied with their body and more than 50% of 5-12 year olds want to lose weight. What message does it send to these girls that the part of their bodies that drives so much of the physical changes in their coming years needs to be restricted and hidden for anyone under the age of 15? By all means give Embrace an M rating, this is a guideline for parents and we encourage families to go together but the Board’s decision to give it a rating that comes with legal restrictions means that Embrace and its important message will also be restricted at a time when it is needed most.
What you can do to help?
1. Take the 30 second “Get Invulved” Survey below
2. Join the Movement – because to create global change we need to stay connected
3. Share the Official Trailer for Embrace – because the trailer will now only be shown in cinemas before films that have a rating of MA15+ or above.