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.