Stretch marks are often praised because of their direct connection to childbearing. As a child-free-by-choice woman, I can tell you that there is a whole heck of a lot tied into a woman’s choice to not have children. I don’t want to get too off track but I have been called selfish and stupid for my choice to not have children. Abortion laws often position women, and other people with wombs for example trans men, as an incubator instead of as a human being. In fact, in many countries, cis women’s bodies have fewer rights when they are alive than they do when they are dead, simply because they possess the ability to produce a child. Consider that many of the same countries that require consent for organ donation, have extremely restrictive abortion laws that allow the person themselves very little control over their own reproductive rights. Women are praised for having children, for raising children and for all of their sacrifices to do so, including the fact that many mothers get stretch marks during pregnancy.
First of all, it is extremely problematic that our society still sees stretch marks as a sacrifice or a flaw women endure in order to be able to call themselves a mom. Stretch marks are a natural part of growing and often have absolutely nothing to do with weight gain or pregnancy. When so many of us, men. women and people of all genders, have stretch marks on their body, why on earth are do we still see them as a flaw? We need to flip our thinking on this and start seeing how amazing they are. Our skin stretches to allow us to grow, let’s take a moment to think about some of the scary and ridiculous alternatives, for example… if we grew and our skin didn’t grow with us so we basically stretched until we were translucent or if we were born with the amount of skin we would require as an adult and just had to deal with carrying it around until it fit. Gross! Stretch marks need to be praised for the amazing thing that they are, absolutely functional!
Second, the fact that stretch marks are only ever praised when it comes along with a baby, is really offensive to so many of us. I don’t really remember a time when I didn’t have stretch marks because I was a tall and chubby kid. But my most recent stretch marks developed during a deep depression that I experienced after my first dog, Ope, had to be put to sleep as a result of cancer. I was heartbroken and I healed myself by baking, while living alone, and eating all of the results. One day out of nowhere, there were brand new pink stripes on my lower tummy, in an area you will probably never see me post on social media because it is covered by even my tiniest underwear. These stretchies have faded a bit over the last year, my weight gain stabilized and my bingeing has long since subsided. (To be clear, I don’t define my binging as a formal eating disorder since it only lasted for about a month and there was nothing obsessive about it. I never purged, I just let myself enjoy my own baking and gained some weight as a result.) So I am among the group of humans that is excluded from the conversation when stretch mark talk immediately turns to the postpartum body.
Finally, stretch marks happen all over the body to people of all sizes. Friends who are shorter and much thinner than I am, have stretch marks. People can even get stretch marks when their muscles become larger and more defined. Stretch marks are in no way connected to people’s health, fitness, or overall wellness. In fact, you may have seen me post the caption “Hi Stretchies” once or twice on IG and I respectfully stole this saying from supermodel Chrissy Teigen. If that doesn’t make it clear that literally anyone can have stretch marks and almost everyone does, I don’t know what will. In fact, it was from the article I linked to above that I first learned about the hashtag #loveyourlines – which is the first campaign to focus on an appreciation of stretch marks that has no connection to a post child birth body. I hope you will check it out and join me in learning how to love your lines. As you know, based on my love of selfies and social media as a means of creating diverse representation, I think we need more images that showcase stretch marks as beautiful. Yes, belly stretch marks and thigh stretch marks but also those that show up on the inside of arms and on the curves of breasts. Stretch marks on thin people and fat people, stretch marks on bodies with and without cellulite, stretch marks on black, brown and white bodies. We need to learn to love all the stretchies!
This photo was originally posted on my IG page in colour and even though I usually convert them to black and white for the blog, I think it is really cool that it perfectly emphasizes my stretchies for this post. But let’s be clear that the main reason we aren’t used to seeing stretch marks in the media is because if this was being used for a magazine, they would have already been photoshopped out.