It’s time we all got it into our heads that stretch marks are part of a natural life progression. Let’s embrace the new era of tiger stripes.
I think it’s time stretch marks received a little more respect. After all, they literally prevented your organs falling out of your skin. When you grew, they held you together. Expanding and contracting as your body needed. And almost everyone has them in common; 80% of people - including all genders - have stretch marks.
From those (my hand is well and truly up) who grew stretch marks as a child, to mums whose bellies burst open to grow a baby, not to mention the millions carrying massive breasts, so many of us have stretch marks. Perhaps it’s the one thing that can bring us all together post Brexit and Trump.
But back to the point. Logic loves stretch marks, because these markings are a sign that you are alive and growing. Most people have them and only dead people will definitely not get stretch marks.
But who cares about logic? For most of my life, not me, that’s for sure. Like many of you reading this, I’ve spent a lot of time and energy avoiding showing off the bits of my body that have stretched. How many of us avoid ever showing off the tops of our arms? I would spend entire work days in heatwaves sweating in a cardigan over a vest for fear of uncovering those loose, stretch-marked flaps hanging under my arms. Would boleros even exist as a concept if it were not for bingo wings?
It’s no surprise that we women still have issues when it comes to these red and silvery lines. Heck, women aren’t meant to age or behave like animals. We’re supposed to be smooth, light and fresh. Not lumpy, heavy and peppered with imperfections. Humans, however, just aren’t like that. We are like animals, we do biologically age and our bodies change as we grow up - these are facts. Facts that rub up against the expectations of society, causing a great many of us a great deal of pain. It’s painful to feel ‘unsightly’ and unacceptable to feel like we’re an outcast because of something our body has done all by itself. But there are two things we can do about it right now.
The first is to be unconditionally accepting of other people’s bodies. The more compassion we show for other people’s stretch marks, the more compassion we will feel for our own. If we follow people online like Felicity Hayward, Stephanie Yeboah and others who are already showing off the bits we hide in shame, we will learn to see these parts of us in a new light and appreciate them. We’ll get used to seeing them every day on our feeds instead of the same kinds of ideals of perfection – ideals that don’t really exist.
The second is to be radically honest about our own bodies. And if we tell the truth about our own bodies, we’ll soon realise we’re all dealing with the same s**t and be an inspiration to others, too. We’ll be that change we want to see in the world.
Another thing we can do is reward those people and organisations that celebrate this human stuff already. ASOS have stopped air brushing their models marks out of shoots and Chrissy Teigen posted her stretch marks on Instagram.
But, it hasn’t always been like this. This is a new phenomenon of fourth wave feminism where we can now hail a ‘side boob of stretch mark’ as a wonderful example of womanhood, and of radical self-love. So, to make sure this trend sticks, we’ve got to champion the radicals.
And we are. Hundreds of women got on board with artist Sara Shakeel colouring in stretch marks with glitter. More and more women talk about their ‘stretchies’ as ‘tiger stripes’, and when I look at my stretch mark-covered biceps and bingo wings slamming into my opponent at Muay Thai training, it’s easy to see them as something very fierce.
We have the power to change how every part of our bodies are viewed. We just need to decide that we aren’t going to do it to ourselves anymore. It isn’t being ‘done to us by men.’ No healthy man has ever run out of a room screaming because a woman had stretch marks on her arms. This is our responsibility. To change the conversation we have with ourselves about our bodies, for us, and for the next generation.
Like Gloria Steinem in Miss Representation said: “If you and I, every time we pass a mirror, downgrade on how we look or complain about our looks, if we remember that a girl is watching us and that’s what she’s learning.”
Main Image: iStock