For me, there's something pretty exciting about bellies — and when I see photos of women grabbing their bellies, the reasons for this become abundantly clear. For as long as I can remember, everything from a trip to the grocery store to turning on the television has been met with some kind of suggestion that I "lose my belly fat now ." Be it a tabloid screaming at me while I wait in line for the cashier while purchasing my favorite Entenmann's product or one after another Nutrisystem commercial at primetime, people's obsession with nipping, tucking, sucking, and hiding tummies is seemingly inescapable in the contemporary world. For those of us who don't exactly believe in conditioning entire groups of people to only think one body type is beautiful, though, embracing the belly arguably becomes all the more important.
Whilst one doesn't have to strip down and show their naked chunks with pride to the world to be body positive or prove one's alliance with the body pos community, a good belly selfie holds a lot more power than you might realize. The reality is that bellies (especially larger ones) are stigmatized. I'm almost certain that this is because all fat is stigmatized, and so our stomachs — often our most visibly fat bits — end up bearing most of the body hate the world has to offer. As with any target of shame, bullying, or marginalization, however, one of the greatest ways to reclaim the thing being torn down is to, well, embrace it.
When a photo pops up on my Instagram feed of someone proudly touching, jiggling, patting, or grabbing their belly fat, I can't help but feel hopeful. To be honest, I often feel that way no matter how buff or flabby or wrinkly or petite the tummy is, for the simple reason that body image issues affect everyone, and putting yourself out there (especially a body part that's so consistently shamed by the mainstream) is hard to do. But because of the realities of thin privilege and fat hate, a fat person unapologetically showing off their stomach has its own special kinda power.
Here are 15 beautiful photos of women grabbing their tummies and not giving any effs about what the trolls have to say.
1. Belly Button Love
I'm obsessed with the position of Stephanie's right hand here. If you ask me, belly buttons are a totally underrated body part. Her entire demeanor and radiant smile give off complete self-loving vibes.
2. Free The Stretchies
Bustle's own Alysse Dalessandro of Ready to Stare does something especially empowering here. Since the shot is more of a close-up, we're able to see her appreciating both her tummy and her stretchies. Everything about this image is beautiful — including her charming smile and totally adorable pose.
3. Giving It A Squeeze
Aspiring model and blogger Jewelz happily admits to enjoying playing with her tummy whilst showing it some love for the world (or Instagram, which is basically the same thing) to see. Publicly recognizing that you find attraction in a part of the body so coated in social stigma isn't easy, but this woman shows why it's important to do it anyway.
4. A Confident Stance
To me, the way writer, blogger, and model Courtney Mina is orchestrating this belly grab is nothing short of powerful. Her stance screams confidence without being cocky. She's not afraid of owning her sensuality and highlighting the unique beauty (and sexiness) fat bodies possess.
5. The Handles
Samantha is managing to give some love to both her belly and love handles in this photo — the latter being another body part we're told is "problematic" and in need of eradicating, of course. Her fearlessness in this public demonstration of body confidence is pretty something.
6. A Profession Of Love
In this memorable fatkini photo from Aug. 2014, Tess Holliday shared a bit of her journey to self love with a focus on learning to appreciate her belly. Discovering the beauty, sensuality, and uniqueness of your tum is definitely a journey worth taking.
7. Shake It Up
Corissa of Fat Girl Flow's belly grab video is perfection. The caption, "It's just a belly, y'all," couldn't be more true. Our bellies don't correlate to our worth or value. Our bellies don't make us good people or bad people. Choosing to make them more than just a body part helps no one. What's more? Corissa's passion for freeing the belly lives on:
8. Full On Belly Pride
Sam Roswell of Fatty Boom Tatty is owning her belly right now. It's an in-your-face kind of pose, and that's precisely why it's so rad. Rather than teaching fat women and men to hide their bodies, it's time we teach people who fat shame to give it the eff up.
9. The Lingerie Selfie
In patting her belly with seeming affection and respect, Mel Chillag reminds us that our tummies deserve a little love too. We so often forget to treat them with kindness, but it's never too late to start.
10. The Poke & Grab
Emerald shared this photo on Tumblr, with a caption that addresses the policing of women's bodies. She wrote, "Body equality is important to me and I don’t ever want to stop challenging those old and harmful ways of thinking. I want to help shape a world where a woman doesn’t have to defend her right to be in a crop top or in her underwear if she so chooses," and I'll just let those words stand on their own.
11. Model Behavior
Model Megan Kimberling shared this photo on National Underwear Day, proposing a simple question to the trolls: "Try reflecting on why you feel the need to judge someone else's being. What are your issues you blatantly project onto others?" She confronts those who feel it's their duty to make fat people feel insignificant and shows off some double belly pride in the process.
12. A Bedtime Cuddle
Bustle's own Jodie Layne is giving new meaning to the term "tummy time" and I love everything about it. Spending some alone time with your body — getting to know it and love it — is hugely important on the road to body positivity.
13. A Gentle Pat
Diana of Fashion Loves Photos is re-vamping the notion of a power pose here. I love that in placing her hands firmly on her belly, she draws attention to this part of the body so often associated with shame and guilt. There's nothing shameful about this photo, because there's nothing shameful about any belly or any body.
14. The Diet Industry Dropout
Lucia of U Can't Wear That is giving me all the feels right now. From the T-shirt to win all T-shirts to her striking and unapologetic pose, I just want to frame her flawlessness.
15. The Cheeky Grab
I am loving the sweet cheekiness of YouTube vlogger Brittney's belly grab here. It's obvious that she treats her body with affection and a sense of play, and I personally think that's something we should all be aspiring towards just a little more.
At the end of the day, body positivity is about way more than bellies and way more than plus size visibility, specifically. But those are two pretty important components of it for a lot of people. It's remarkable how much of a statement a single image of an empowered fat person can make — be it an iPhone selfie or a professionally taken shot. Sometimes all it takes to kick start your journey to body positivity is snapping a photo of the thing you fear or have been told you should fear. These women aren't just posting photos of their glorious bellies: They're posting an entire philosophy. And it's one this world desperately needs.
It's time we #freethebelly, y'all.
Images: Courtesy nerdabouttown/Instagram, Courtney Mina, Sam Roswell, Mel C, Emerald Shaw, Jodie Layne, Diana Thompson, xBrittney89, Marie Southard Ospina