I have the privilege of getting to write about the beauty of fat bodies on a regular basis, which sometimes includes talking about my own. I once wrote about learning to love my stretch marks, and how common it is among all bodies to have these physical signs of growth and change appear throughout our lives.
So when I decided to do a round-up of people showing off their stretch marks, I expected to receive the large responses that I usually do when I seek submissions on social media. Typically, I get between 45 to 70 volunteers, and I actually received nearly 80 responses when I asked if folks wanted to show off their no thigh gap pride. I figured this would be much the same.
But when I put a call-out on both Facebook and Twitter, the response was much smaller. In fact, I only received 11 submissions. Upon submitting their photos, a few people even told me that they took the images specifically for me, and that my post helped them realize how often they were actively covering up their stretch marks still.
I wanted to know why stretch marks are still something we as fat women (and maybe women of all sizes) try to cover up and hide. As for those who had no issue with their stretch marks at all, well, I wanted to know about that too. Here are 11 plus size women sharing their thoughts on stretch marks, in their own words.
“I think the reason so many women have issues with showing their stretch marks is that even when fat women are celebrated by the media they either A: Don't have stretch marks to begin with, or B: Cover or Photoshop them out," says blogger Rachel Matheson. "There are so many women of all shapes and sizes who have them. I don't get why we still as a society like to pretend they don't exist. They are visual proof of growth and I think they should be celebrated.”
“I hardly remember a time when I didn’t have stretch marks," Harmony tells me via Twitter direct message. "When I was 11 and my cup size expanded practically overnight, there they were. I got new ones every year somewhere — my inner thighs in high school, across the back of my hips in college, on my arms, my upper belly, and finally, when I was 38 weeks pregnant, across my waistline right by my belly button. Those are my favorite ones, the ones that say, 'Look how your body stretched to accommodate a whole person growing in you.' But there’s no real reason for me not to love the rest of them too — look how my skin stretched to accommodate all of the body that I have! Isn’t biology amazing?"
"Since I was a child, I've had stretch marks cover most of my body," says Brioné Jackson. "I knew they were different, but because I've lived with them so long I don't hate them. I do however, hate the way they are perceived as ugly and that makes me hesitate to show them. Thing is, since a good 85 percent of my body has them, hiding them is nearly impossible. Why can we accept tattoos and other markings but not stretchmarks, scars, and other imperfections? They streak my body some thin and some bold, they resemble lightning streaking the night sky. They are a part of my being, and I find beauty in that."
"I had my first stretch mark when I was child on my legs," says plus Vlogger Terr Cacilia. "As I grew, I developed them on my hips, stomach, and arms. Showing my stretch marks is such an intimate action, and they are one of the few major hurdles I have not yet gotten over in my self love journey. These marks are an amazing example of how my skin can adapt to all sorts of changes, and while I do not feel shame when I look at these lines, I also do not feel prepared to share them in their entirety.”
"I think maybe [hiding my stretch marks] has something to do with the fact that people already comment on so much of my body; in both the positive and negative," says photographer Yuli Scheidt. "I'm fat and tall and pale and freckled and redhead so comments run the gamut of positive and negative depending on how the commenter views an attribute. It is all still unwanted attention but I have to be gracious about it. But the stretch marks are not something anyone has ever commented on and so I don't feel shame, but I still feel odd acknowledging they exist."
"For me learning to love myself is the best gift I could ever give myself. Being at peace with who I am has taken many years. It's still a path I walk every day," says plus size blogger Bessie Pledger.
"I don't care what others think about my stretch marks, because my relationship with my body is complicated enough without other people's opinions," shares Corissa Enneking of Fat Girl Flow. "As someone who has struggled with disordered eating for a very long time, my stretch marks have always been a very tangible sign of the changes my body has gone through. For a long time, it was difficult to see those fresh marks on my skin, knowing they were from my expanding shape. And even today, those little pink lines can be painful reminders of the large amounts of weight I've lost and gained through my recovery. Those tears in my skin are my story. I wish I could say that I wear my battle wounds proudly, but the truth is sometimes there are parts of our bodies that remind us how tough body acceptance can be. We all have our own unique experiences with our bodies, and my stretch marks are my reminder that it's OK to take my time, and enjoy the journey."
"It's difficult to show my stretch marks because I've been taught by society that they're scarlet letters to be ashamed of," says Toni Marriott. "But through my journey, I've come to realize that they aren't scarlet letters, but more of a badge of honor! Something that I shouldn't be scared of showing but that I should embrace because loving all of me is not a choice; it's a requirement."
"I guess the only thing that is really difficult is that other people don't look at my stretch marks the same way I do," Ann Newport shares with me. "I don't appreciate the stares and dirty looks when I choose to wear a crop top. I wish other people liked them as much as I do!"
"I was 16 when I got pregnant for my first child, who weighed just under 12 pounds at birth," says Cynthia Ramsay Noel of Flight Of The Fat Girl. "My adolescent skin stretched quickly, and I've had massive stretch marks on it ever since. As a teen, and young mother, none of my friends had stretch marks that even came close to resembling mine, and it made me feel very isolated. I went to great lengths to hide them through three more pregnancies, and well into adulthood, until one day I just said fuck it! Showing them publicly for the first time was extremely difficult. They had been a source of shame for me for a long time, and I felt very vulnerable putting them on display, knowing full well that people would judge me. By that same token, it was very empowering for me to let go of my inhibitions over these marks on my body that were a part of me, and there to stay. Although they're faded now, and no longer the flaming purplish-red they used to be, they are still very fresh reminders of my four beautiful children, and I show them off proudly now, and always will!"
"It seems built in us to hide our stretch marks and feel ashamed of them," shares blogger Michelle Marie. "I mean, come on, nobody wants to see THAT — we know, because of all the disdainful glares we’ve gotten when we’ve been brave enough to flaunt a little flab. In society’s eyes, stretch marks signify the epitome of fatness and failure, and who wants to flaunt that? Well, me, actually. It is easy to only see stretch marks as ugly, but there is also beauty in them — they mean my body has grown, developed, changed shape, and evolved. As a mother, my stretch marks are also my body’s souvenir of bringing a beautiful life into this world. I don’t think any of that is shameful or should be hidden, in fact they should be celebrated and embraced. Here’s to you, stretch marks!"
After reading through all of these collective responses, I understood that — just like a lot of aspects of body love — the way people feel about showing their stretch marks is a little different individual to individual. There's a lot of past hurt and trauma for people to unpack when it comes to stretchies. But these marks are something individualized and beautiful and part of the self love journey that I feel lucky to be a part of witnessing among fellow fat women who I admire.
I hope one day we see more images in the media that show stretch marks proudly. Like all things, the more we see stretch marks, the less stigma will likely be associated with them.
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