Yesterday I admired 75 different women’s bellies. They were plump, lean, scarred, furry, wrinkled, smooth, freckled and all photoshop-free.
As I went through the gallery, it struck me that I could only think of one positive image of bare stomach fat in mainstream media. Lizzie Miller’s photo shoot for Glamour magazine, which accompanied an article about body confidence, generated the kind of stunned fascination that a Sasquatch riding a unicorn might. (If you know others, please share them!)
The magazine editor received a barrage of emails reacting to the image, and as Miller herself remarked in the Guardian, “the overwhelming reaction to the tiny photograph, buried on page 194 of Glamour magazine ‘shows that the world is hungry to see pictures of normal women.’”
I certainly was. My 75-belly experience began when I saw the following image on Pinterest.com, then clicked through to see photos and captions that celebrated women’s bellies — regardless of whether or not they would be considered attractive by mainstream standards — on xojane’s real girl belly project.
It was refreshing to see something like this on Pinterest, which sometimes feels like a bastion of “thinspiration” and body-shaming.
Pinterest, in case you’ve never heard of it, is an online pinboard that allows users (“pinners”) to organize and share things that they like. Relative to the general internet population, women are greatly over-represented at pinterest.com, and the vast majority are 18 – 34 years old, according to Alexa stats. All pinners have their own boards, but there are also community boards that aggregate everyone’s pins into public galleries.
Perhaps predictably then, women’s bodies have become something of a battleground, with some posting quotations like “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” while others fire back “b*tch please, have you ever tasted nutella?”
In this context, some pinners reacted to the above photo of Sabrina’s tummy like this:
If you’re interested in the whole thread and the range of reactions, you can read it here, but suffice it to say some people were thoughtful while others responded by skinny-bashing or implying that one type of body is better than the rest — and the latter didn’t sit well with me.
As I remarked in the thread, I think it’s important that we see the beauty in diversity, and stop being so patronizing toward other women.
I, for one, felt happy and grateful after viewing the gallery. I was especially grateful to the women that wrote things that are sometimes hard to admit (like saying they’d never had a good look at their own bellies, or that they found it really hard to take a picture without automatically sucking it in, or that it took time to embrace their saggy skin and scars.) I don’t think anyone mentioned male approval. The experience was refreshing and more unvarnished than any advertiser-mediated Dove ad could ever be.
Although I hope we all strive to be healthy, this may or may not mean we’re skinny and blemish-free. And health is not just physical — we must constantly work on having healthy psyches and recognizing that junk images are bad for us, just as we know junk food is.
The tummy thread was a reminder that we all need to strive for and promote a more well-rounded appreciation of all the things that make women beautiful, and much more than that!
There’s more to life than wanting to be wanted. (That last link was to a great book on the topic.) Why don’t we spend more time discussing what makes us interesting, intelligent, influential, courageous, funny, kind, quirky, or unique?
In this spirit, here are a few words and images that help combat all the ugly things that are shared on Pinterest under the guise of promoting beauty.
I hope to endorse the radical notion that we should spend more time celebrating — and no time shaming — ourselves and others.