opinion

"If you're a woman, at some point you'll have to pick a team. And I am not Team Ashy Bines."

Last night’s television was sobering for anyone with a vagina.

On the Sunday Night show the excellent Melissa Doyle was talking body image with two very different women.

They agreed on one thing: Women hating their bodies is holding them back.

After that, things were messy.

In one corner there was Ashy Bines: fitness guru, Instagram sensation, creator of a 12-week Bikini Body challenge, nominated leader of a cult populated by women with French braids and brightly-patterned activewear.

In the other, Taryn Brumfitt: body image guru, Facebook sensation, creator of a documentary called Embrace which focuses on all the ways that being obsessed with our bodies is screwing up women and damaging their lives.

Left: Taryn Brumfitt, Right: Ashy Bines. (Images: Facebook/Instagram)

These women are both exceptionally smart and exceptionally ambitious about the spreading of their message.

They come from the same place: A concern that the way women feel about themselves is deeply, intrinsically entwined with the way they feel about their bodies.

And then their paths drastically diverge.

Because in Ashy's world, the mantra is this: If you don't like it, change it.

Saggy bum? Mum tum? Stop eating that, start doing this. Ashy runs the Booty World Tour to reduce and then pump up women's bums, en masse. She uses her own remarkable body as branding for a movement that is best described as 'Stop whingeing and get off your arse'.

Listen: Mamamia Out Loud discuss the cult of Ashy Bines and fit-shaming.

But over in Taryn's world, the message is: Don't like it? Learn to love it.

Because Taryn, as a woman who has been a competitive body-builder, who has driven her body to the very edge of what it can do and how it can look, knows that for women, perfection is always just out of reach. There's always something else to tweak, to shrink, to define. The impossible standards we hold ourselves to are exactly that - impossible.

Taryn's line? You can either spend your life at war with your body, or you can embrace it.

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Both women have been slammed for their positions.

Ashy talked about how she has been trolled and bullied and terrible things have been wished upon her and her family. All because she is has monetised being beautiful and healthy and fit.

The vast majority of those trolls were women, and Ashy believes they are motivated by jealousy.

“Maybe some mums are feeling guilty for not being active or not eating healthy,” she says.

Taryn, meanwhile, has been roundly criticised for "letting herself go". She's routinely called 'lazy', 'ugly' and 'disgusting'.

This is not about pitting these women against each other. It's ridiculous and sad that either one should attract such brutal feedback for expressing themselves with honesty.

But if you are a woman at some point you will need to choose along their lines:

Are you Team Self Improvement, or are you Team Self Acceptance?

We live in an age dominated by Team Self Improvement. We are all encouraged to be striving for the very best version of ourselves daily. Women are expected to look like models, have fulfilling, ever-advancing careers, perfect children, partners with whom we are having mind-blowing sex daily, and a diet that builds us to be better from the inside. Why have food when you can have superfood?

Team Self Acceptance are a quieter crowd. With the exception of the energetic Taryn, TSA are silenced for a different reason. Women are not supposed to be happy with their bodies. Saying you are not tortured about your weight, your nose or your strange curly toe is not sisterly. We are encouraged to bond over a hatred of our outer selves. And if you dare to suggest that you are a "good enough" mother, or that your relationship is chugging along okay, well, what are you? A lazy monster, that's what.

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Team Self Acceptance exercise because it makes them feel good, because they want to live long lives with the people they love, not because they want to look excellent in a bikini at some pre-determined date in the future.

Team Self Acceptance look in the mirror and know there are some things that will never be "perfect". And they can live with that.

Team Self Acceptance are staving off the temptation of Botox, haven't had their boobs lifted, are not signing up to the next punishing diet plan that sidles into their news feed.

Sometimes being on Team Self Acceptance sucks. Because all of our visible role-models are on Team Self Improvement.

You're doing everything wrong, the Internet hisses at us daily. Instagram reminds us that we are way more "before" than "after". No-one looks their age. Having a baby is no excuse for even a week away from the gym.

But then you remember. Do you want to think about the size of your thighs hourly? Or have you got other shit to do?

And then, the choice is simple. TSA, all the way.

LISTEN: Mamamia's founder Mia Freedman discusses the body image movement with Taryn Brumfitt.

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