Documentary examines body, image

Swedish-American filmmaker Kristen Vermilyea, pictured above with a poster for her documentary "Beyond Boobs," presented her work at SUNY Oswego Tuesday evening. 

OSWEGO — With provocative and witty conversation, filmmaker Kristen Vermilyea’s new documentary examines large societal problems — and some other large things.

On Tuesday evening, SUNY Oswego’s Title IX office hosted Vermilyea’s screening of “Beyond Boobs,” which explores identity and body objectification from a female perspective.

The Swedish-American director and actor explained that her intention with the film is to raise awareness regarding gender and equality.

“We need to have a conversation together, not separately about these things,” Vermilyea said in an interview Tuesday with The Palladium-Times.

The film explores her decision-making process and contemplation to obtain breast reduction surgery, while exposing and challenging stereotypes of big-busted women.

“I have always been the woman with the biggest breasts in the room, but I’ve been hiding my insecurities behind my chest. I self-objectify with them,” Vermilyea said.

Through multiple interviews and mixed advice, Vermilyea came to ask a tough question: “Am I me? Or am I my breasts?”

Although many men throughout the course of the film attempt to explain the factors that go into desirability, Vermilyea takes an alternative approach by sharing her experiences growing up and what they taught her in invaluable lessons on how men perceive the female body.

“I walk down the street in New York City and see men staring at my chest left and right. I’ve been shown that women’s bodies are shameful. We are taught to hide them until we’re not,” Vermilyea said.

The discussion that Vermilyea wishes to promote centers around the concept that “we are not our bodies” and the filmmaker encourages men and women to take charge of who they are, doing what they believe is best for their health and self-confidence.

As Vermilyea continues to travel to universities and colleges in the United States to present her film and share her story, she hopes leave people with the message that “owning who you are is brave.”

SUNY Oswego Title IX Coordinator Lisa Evaneski said the film raises critical points often missing from modern cultural dialogue.

“Having discussions with students about body image and specifically objectification is so important - if someone is treated differently because of the way they look it can impact social and professional relationships,” Evaneski said.

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