The backlash was swift when body image activist Taryn Brumfitt was named 2023’s Australian of the Year. She wasn’t saving lives, so why did she get the top honour?
It would be a worthy question if the answer wasn’t so bloody obvious. Brumfitt’s ultimate honour coincides with the month that tennis legend Jelena Dokic was the victim of vicious online trolling because of her weight.
Body image is one of the biggest issues in Australia, and we need a face to it now more than ever.
In 2018 The Butterfly Foundation released a report that found 1 in 3 Australians are unhappy with the way they look. The report also discovered that 73 per cent of Australians wished they could change how they looked.
If something impacts most of the population, we need to take it seriously. I understand the knee-jerk reaction to dismiss it but you need to take a second to understand the breadth of it first.
Australian commentator Mike Carlton was a voice on Twitter that expressed he was unimpressed by Brumfitt’s recognition and tweeted: “My Australian of the Year would be a doctor or nurse working nights in intensive care or the ED, dealing with Covid and daily death. Real, compassionate work. For very little money,” he tweeted.
“NOT someone who makes a buck out of saying it’s OK to be a bit fat. Good night.”
I’m not even going to touch on the fat comment. I’ll focus on the rest.
People clearly don’t see body image and positivity as a big enough issue, but the statistics plainly tell us all otherwise. In a row of three people, there’s a chance one of you is struggling.
If it was any other issue, the person advocating for change would be applauded not belittled.
In the last week, Dokic has been outspoken about the abuse she’s copped purely because she has gained weight. She took to Instagram to share examples of the abuse from someone online telling her to “cut back on the candy bars!” To another, comparing the tennis icon to a “whale”.
Dokic faced the backlash head-on and wrote: “The body shaming and the fat shaming over the last 24 hours has been insane.”
How do we expect women to feel good about themselves if the moment their body changes they face mass ridicule?
Of course, it isn’t just women that are struggling with body image the Butterfly Foundation has found that men account for one-third of Australian’s struggling with eating disorders. In 2022, we saw James Packer get mocked over some shirtless photos of him.
I look at my own experiences, and anytime I write anything, the first insult that is hurled at me is about my weight and to pretend that doesn’t impact my body image would be untruthful.
It is really bloody hard to love yourself in these social media-soaked times and Brumfitt’s trying to lead the way.
She famously talks about how we weren’t born hating our bodies it is something we ingest as we grow up. And she’s right! It is society that teaches us that horrific lesson, and it is one plenty of Australians would benefit from unlearning.
To think Brumfitt is unworthy of the title of Australian of the Year is completely ignoring how much bad body image impacts and hurts Australians.