I can honestly say that almost every female stomach I have ever seen in the media has been flat. And this is a fact that makes me sick.
In no way do I have anything against flat stomachs or people who have them. I accept all body types. I just wish that the media would also accept all body types, particularly by portraying females with stomachs that aren’t flat— because believe it or not, if you look around, the majority of women do not have flat stomachs. And that is not a crime.
When I was suffering from Anorexia, one of the fixations I had was making sure my stomach was completely flat. The “flatness” of my stomach directly affected how much I’d allow myself to eat. I constantly checked my stomach; even when I was about to fall asleep, I’d clench my abdominal muscles just to make sure they’d stay flat.
My stomach was unnaturally flat. It was a forced flat, formed by restricting food and over-exercising. It was an unhealthy kind of flat.
I swear my life revolved around that silly little thing called a stomach. My life almost ended because of that silly little thing called a stomach.
Looking back, it makes sense that this was the part of my body I worried about the most. Media messages were overtly telling me to have “flat abs” or a “flat belly”. Nearly every magazine boasts some workout to obtain flat abs.
Ads infiltrate countless websites, promising flat stomachs with “one simple trick.” Almost every female model, plus-sized or not, has a flat stomach (or if she doesn’t, her stomach is cleverly concealed or Photoshopped).
Things weren’t always this way.
Before the 1800’s, women lived life and posed without worrying about their stomachs (list of beauty ideals throughout the ages here). Renaissance paintings of women in the nude showcased their unaltered bodies, meaning that some not flat stomachs were seen by the public and normalized.
Back then, a circle could represent women: unchanging and balanced. Now, they are closer to a line: chopped and condensed. Below is an excerpt from Anita Johnston’s book, Eating in the Light of the Moon:
“Women still live in a society where what is masculine, linear, rational, and logical is considered superior to what is feminine, circular, intuitive, and emotional. Today’s woman is a round peg trying desperately to fit into a square hole in order to survive and flourish.“
The most important word in the above passage is “trying”. Women (and men!) shouldn’t have to try to change their bodies. Both naturally flat stomachs and naturally unflat stomachs should be considered acceptable—beautiful, even.
Let’s ask to see representation of all kinds of stomachs in the media. After all, they are all represented in our daily lives. I don’t need to define my worth by the shape of my stomach. You don’t need to define your worth by the shape of your stomach.
Elizabeth Frankel is a Minnesotan who loves psychology, theatre, and anything related to horses. She seeks to understand why the world is the way it is through critical thinking, and when that fails, she just employs sarcasm.
Beautiful piece. I struggle with the flatness of my stomach daily after gaining 30 pounds over 3 years. I loved my flat stomach, but it may just not be in the cards for me anymore! I am making peace with my belly, and this piece helped me to do so.
Great piece! I think focussing on any one body part is an all-too-common manifestation of negative body image. We all have that one detested part. It’s so easy to overlook all of our amazing attributes and just focus on one perceived flaw.
I’m so glad to hear this piece helped you! I understand your struggle, and I send you all my love and support. You go girl! Make that peace!!
I find that normal looking women who are comfortable looking that way are the most attractive. The nicest curve on a woman is a smile.
I’ve never had a flat stomach. From 8-18 years, even when I was skinny I always had a littler ‘bump’, kinda firm but never flat. Even now, after having a baby, I have worked out loads to get my stomach ‘back’ but all I have achieved is a similar flat-ish ‘bump'(+ stretch marks and lose skin which is def not socially acceptable on my 23 year old body ha). I am one of those who does not have the ability to have a flat stomach, it’s not physically possible. When I was younger I thought I had a ‘fat tummy’, but now I don’t care and understand the constraints of genetics and physicality. We are just born this way, or whatever way. But unfortunately homogeneous images of a certain type of body shape are so socially acceptable, even idolised, that the billions of variations of the human form out in the real world have become sub-standard in comparison to the style and fashion, and rare, body type endorsed in corporate ideals of beauty.
So freakin’ love this. Thank you for being bold, brave and secure enough to do this. Lost 15 lbs. this past year, am a size 4 but still find myself obsessed over my belly. I try to remember that belly was home to 3 marvelous human beings. I must be at peace with my battle scars! KUDOS again
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