Stretch marks. Those tiny and sometimes not so tiny pink lightning bolts that adorn most of our bodies. They signify life. They signify change. And often, they signify you’ve created. We have all seen those posts praising women for their post-baby bodies, proudly showcasing their stretch marks and soft bellies—and that’s absolutely fantastic. I am utterly ecstatic for them—they’ve done something absolutely phenomenal, and have the courage to tell society to eff its standards of womanhood: that idea of a skinny, yet big-breasted, yet curvy woman with perfect skin, long hair and a sweet, meek smile. We see posts about women openly declaring love for their bodies, stretch marks and all, saying phrases like “my body created life” and loving it more because of that.
While this is so fantastic and awesome, I can’t help but think it creates a dichotomy between two kinds of women—a divide—between those who have and want children, and those who don’t or can’t.
Is this just another way we women have been conditioned to pit ourselves against each other?
I haven’t given birth—nor do I want to. And like most women, I have stretch marks too—around my thighs, around my hips, and around my breasts. It’s inevitable. It’s a part of life, growing and changing. And as I age, I come to love my body more and more—even if it isn’t supermodel skinny, even if my belly is soft, even if my thighs touch, and a whole lot of other things that happen. But why can’t my stretch marks and soft belly be celebrated as “beautiful”, even if I haven’t given birth to achieve them? They’re a fact of life. And I think emphasis needs to be taken off celebrating bodies based on what they have or haven’t done.
There’s already a significant stigma against women who don’t want children. That oh, you’ll change your mind or your life isn’t complete until you’ve had kids or you don’t know happiness until you’ve heard your child’s laugh or worse: you’re still young. You’ll realise how great having kids is.
Thanks. I didn’t realise my life, my worth and my value revolved around popping out miniature versions of me and my partner (gosh, that would be trouble). I’m perfectly happy not going through that experience, thank you very much.
As a social community, we adore and stand behind women who’ve had children and choose to wear bikinis in public. We stand behind these mothers, and we call them brave (which they are). But should we really be teaching and continuing this idea that we can only love ourselves entirely if we’ve borne children? Is this really the message we want to send to young girls? “Your life isn’t complete until you’ve had a baby”.
We should all be proud of our bodies, and proud of our tiger stripes. And if we continue to praise women for their soft bellies, stretch marks and so on, only if they’ve had children, we continue to perpetuate this way we differentiate and place value upon different choices. We continue to perpetuate the idea that children complete your life—which is obviously a terrible notion for women who don’t want children, and women (including trans women) who can’t. Just because my body hasn’t been through a miraculous experience like giving birth does not mean I am any less deserving of celebration. I shouldn’t have to go through that to be comfortable with my lack of a thigh gap, with my stretch marks, with my comfy belly. I am a happy, healthy human being: isn’t that enough?
We need to celebrate our bodies, not for what they have or haven’t done, but for the simple fact that we are human—and all humans deserve to be able to celebrate their bodies: and be supported and cheered for doing so. There’s so much negativity in the media about women: please, ladies: can we just love our bodies for how they are?