Category Archives: From Karen

The Body

First, I need to apologize for the long wait since our last post.  The Belly Project is a project of love the part of me and Christy, and it occasionally takes a back seat to life.  Christy is out of town at the moment, and we hope to have a few hours to sit down together when she gets back to get pictures up and running daily again.

In the meantime, I am cross-posting something I posted today on my professional blog.

First, to remind everyone, I teach human sexuality in a number of contexts.  One of those is through Austin Community College.  This is a post about a student and recent class where we talked about nudity:

I recently wrote a post about nakedness – nudity, actually – that was sparked by reading an autobiography of sorts by a nude model.  That post sparked a lovely conversation with a Naturist from the UK.  And then, a few days ago, I showed a bunch of pictures of naked people to my college class.

I do this every semester in the first week or two as part of our conversation about anatomy.  It is rare for American college students to have seen many naked people – just normal people, only without their clothes on.  So I show them a number of pictures from Greg Friedler’s series Naked New York, Naked Los Vegas, and Naked London (Friedler’s website, and a Google search for Friedler’s images).  I particularly like Frielder’s Nakes series because they show the same person fully dressed in street clothes and then fully naked in the same setting.  It is ripe fodder for discussion for people of all ages – from children to teenagers to adults.

This summer, one of my students, An Huynh, wrote a particularly poigniant response to her experience viewing these images.  She has graciously agreed to let me share her response:

“I think I experienced this epiphany in class today… When we were looking at the naked pictures of women, I was thinking “Gosh, females and males look SO alike.”  I started thinking that perhaps men and women are actually quite the same biologically and even internally.  It seems that the clothes we wear, what society has taught to be “right,” isolates us from being alike with one another.  I think it’s our clothes, that are produced by society, that is keeping us isolated from each other.  It seems that our material items are what makes us female and male.  The way we wear our clothes, our hair, our jewelry and even our attitude make us “female” or “male.”  I feel like these things that we wear are materialistic items that make us so different and ultimately so lonely.  I feel like big fat corporate bosses are sitting around a big red oak table thinking about how to make money.  One of them jumps up and says, “We make them feel shitty.  Because people who feel shitty buy more shit.  Ultimately we want shitty people buying OUR shit.”  So they create these advertisements and commercials and TV that create this “norm” that people must become.  I’m so sad about this.  I’m sad because, this is most likely true.  Big momma and papa industries don’t care about people, they care bout making money.  But I’m even more sad at the fact that I didn’t realize how much of an impact these commercials and movies had an effect on me until now.  I just always thought men and women are different.  The phrase men are from mars and women are from venus is a big ass lie.  It’s these goddamn sick riddled commercials, social norms, laws, and religion that has made human being so different from one another.  So alone.  When seeing those people naked, I felt so alive.  I felt that women aren’t as gorgeous and curvy as the magazines make them to be.  I felt that my body was NORMAL.  My body is the same as every other body, male or female.  I realized that it’s those goddamn fat ass greedy son of a bitches that made me feel so humiliated, so alone and so…UGLY.  I’m sad that I use to think this was normal.  That feeling fat, non-curvy, shirt, not blonde, just ugly was just normal.  I thought I handled my self esteem well.  Just think of the several hundred girls being born into a society in which they first learn how to kiss from watching ABC’s “Life of an American Teenager.”  For them to learn that everyone is beautiful on TV.  To learn that being ethnically different is like being ugly.  To learn that not having hips or small boobs mean you were undesirable.  When I saw those pictures it made me feel that if we never had these material items in the first place, and that we were all showing our selves bare and naked, that the world would be such a happier place.”

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Aaaaand…we’re back!

Happy New Year!

Christy and I apologize for our long absence.  It has been a very full year, blahblahblah, but there’s really no excuse for being gone since October, and we know it.  We’re delighted to be up and running again, and will be posting bellies daily for the foreseeable future.  On that note, we are always delighted by belly submissions, so keep sending them in!  Our e-mail address is thebellyproject@gmail.com.

I have a lingering wish to start a Breast Project blog similar to this one, that features pictures of naked (i.e., no shirt or bra or pasties or anything) breasts.  I have been hesitant to start this project because I’m not sure what the legal ramifications are – if there’s anyone out there who can provide me with this information I would be so very delighted!

Happy belly viewing!

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Plus-sized my ass.

Glamour has a spread out this month that’s grabbing headlines right and left.  Well, that and eyeballs.  I mean just take a look:

glamour

Isn’t that an amazingly beautiful picture?

But apparently Glamour thinks that all of the women in that photograph are “plus-sized” rather than “normal-sized.”  (There are more pictures, along with short introductions to the women here.)  I’m tired of the bullshit, dear readers.  While Glamour magazine may live in a bizarre, alternate reality where women’s sizes 12 and 14 should be considered large rather than average, the rest of us live here in America on planet earth where, in fact, women’s sizes 12 and 14 are the average.  To their credit, Glamour talks about this very thing in the article associated with the pictures.  But the language they use continues to be disrespectful and missing the point.

So don’t get all high-and-mighty on me Glamour, for suddenly portraying your magazine as breaking the societal standards of beauty that have gripped American women for decades.  This is a stunningly beautiful picture, and I love just looking at these amazing bodies.  But when they amazing-ness of them is qualified – repeatedly – by the words plus, larger, and big, and when the women are described as having confidence “despite” their bodies, I throw-up a little bit in my mouth.

If this is really a conversation that Glamour wants to have, as it claims, here is my opening statement: This is not progress, this is continuing the bullshit while attempting to gain eyeballs and advertisers by claiming progress.  Show me some real progress, and I’ll subscribe to your magazine.  I’ll be your biggest fan and call your name from the rooftops.  But first you have to get real, down here in the trenches, with all the normal people.

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What does your belly *really* look like?

You may have noticed (or not, as the case may be) that Christy has been posting all of the bellies for some time now.  I’ve been quite the belly slacker, and very grateful that she’s taken up my slack.  So, feeling rather guilty for not pulling my weight around here, I logged on to the Belly Project e-mail account briefly yesterday.  Or at least, I thought I would be logging on briefly.  I was actually in the middle of something else and planned on assuaging my guilt by dropping in to see how many backlogged bellies we still needed to post, although I had little intention of actually posting any of them.  We had quite a few – more than fifty actually.  So I idly clicked on one of the more recent ones from a woman I’ll call Erin.

ErinIn addition to her picture and information (19 years old, 0 pregnancies, 0 babies), Erin included a personal note.  She gave me permission to share her words:

I’ve always weighed more than I would care to. Even after finding my amazing partner (he loves my body precisely as is, stretch marks, wobbly thighs and all), even after accepting the size I wear, even after acknowledging that the health of my body is more important than the number on the scale: I’ve always hated my stomach. I’ve always hated the way it looks, the way it moves when I dance, the way it looks under my clothing. I took my picture tonight in the context of: the freshman fifteen, on top of the fifteen I wanted to lose, on the second day of my period. I took it because I saw a photo similar to mine on the site and it was the first time I’d seen someone near my age with the same reproductive history looking the way I do. I felt compelled to add my photo to the growing archive to show others out there that bellies come in all shapes and sizes, all ages, all races, all life experiences. More importantly, I took the picture with the intent of acknowledging my stomach for what it is, flaws and all, putting it out there to assert myself that my stomach is as worthy of love as everyone else’s. I tucked my shirt into my bra and I stared in the mirror. I took a shot. I glanced at it, took another. Tried another camera position.

Then, suddenly, I paused. I turned, I twisted, I looked at the picture in the camera and I thought to myself, “You know, that’s really rather cute. Sexy, even.” Flabbergasted, I took a few more shots. I looked at the photo on the camera and looked at the body in the mirror. They’re the same, and yet, 20 minutes ago I would have told you the stomach in the photo is one I’d like to obtain once the weight finally starts to come off. I’m not sure what happened, but let me tell you: I have kept every shot besides the one I’m sending you. I posed, I did a little dance, I took a few sassy shots between rounds of laughter and I am genuinely amazed at how happy I am with my stomach right now. I keep switching windows between my photo program and the browser, convinced I’m seeing things and yet…. all I see is a happy belly.

Thank you so much for what you do.

Erin’s e-mail reminded me why I love the Belly Project, why I volunteer my time and energy, resources that are not in abundant supply.  Erin’s experience is similar to many other women’s experiences.  Women often tell us how surprised they are by the beauty of their belly when they see it from a different perspective.  It seems to me, after corresponding with the hundreds of women who have shared their bellies, that an amazing number of women don’t see their belly as it exists in the world – rather they see it as something else entirely in their mind (and therefore in their mirror).

Women (and men) have asked if we really believed that all bellies are beautiful.  They ask, “But what about…” and then “Really??  But what about…”  They leave tacky, judgmental comments.  But I think these people haven’t truly immersed themselves in these bellies.  I do believe that they are all beautiful.  And a growing number of people agree with me.

One dear (male) friend said that he would rather look at airbrushed, supermodel bellies than “normal” bellies.  But he agreed to take a look through the pictures on this blog.  He was hooked!  He looked through every single belly, and found his entire understanding of the female body changing.  He came away with an understanding of the beauty in each belly on this site, and by extension the women’s bellies he sees around him every day.

To have influenced only my male friend and Erin in the way this site did, it has been worth every moment of time and energy it has taken.  And I know that it has influenced far more people than these two.  I am deeply grateful to the women who have taken the time and garnered the courage to send us pictures of their bellies, whether they are loved or not.  Because they are loved here.  All bellies are loved here.

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So many wonderful bellies!

Well, this has been quite a week!

Beginning with a delightful link from Jezebel, where we were alongside Julia Robert’s beautiful belly, our publicity has rather exploded.  This week The Belly Project has also been mentioned on Glamour.com, the Feminist Majority Foundation Campus Blog, Yahoo Shine, and so many more!  (We also, apparently, spawned a knock-off: The Man Belly Project.  We intend to send in our husbands’ bellies as soon they get enthusiastic about the idea.  Our bellies are on our blog, why shouldn’t their bellies be on the Man Belly Project?)

All of this has added up to more traffic over the past week than we’ve had since The Belly Project’s birth back in December 2008.  It’s been quite an exciting week here on our quiet street in South Austin!

One delightful side effect of so much publicity is (1) requests for interviews (you’ll be hearing about those as they come along…) and (2) lots more bellies!  Christy and I are delighted – and are responding to everyone and letting them know when their belly picture will be posted as quickly as we are able.  We’re both working mamas, though, and our time is unfortunately slim.  Please know that we want to include everyone’s belly on this blog (our current belly goal: Oprah), but it may take us a bit of time to get back to you.  Each and every belly is important to us, and we are loving looking at each one – so keep on sending them in!

If you’re new to The Belly Project, and most of you are, you can read more about it in the About section of our blog or this old post On the normality of bellies that Karen wrote some time ago.  We look forward to hearing from you and including your belly soon!

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On the normality of bellies… from Karen

Thank you so much to each of you for coming and looking at these magnificent, beautiful bellies!  We have had a huge response so far, and are just tickled pink (or purple or blue or yellow…whatever your favorite color happens to be!).

I have been spying on some of your discussion board conversations and blog posts that link to this blog, and mostly your response has been a pretty huge, “Wow, I am actually normal!” and “Oh my gosh, how liberating!”  This idea of these images being liberating – freeing – is one I had not considered before starting the blog with my friend Christy.  But it is certainly the form that a lot of the feedback and comments are coming in.

But there has been this other group who look at these pictures and say, “See, I’m not normal!”  And I’ve been thinking about that group of women.

We’re not here to judge women or their bellies, but rather to reduce the judgment.  It is never our goal to set up a site where women come to see others’ bellies and think theirs is not as beautiful and whole and normal as each and every one that is already up.

In the initial few weeks of our project, before we had any views, we were mostly just putting up pictures of our bellies and our friends’ bellies.  So Christy and I were walking among our friends wagging our iPhones around, asking them to drop their drawers (if only a few inches) and bare more of their reproductive history with us than they perhaps had done before.  It was an enlightening experience, seeing our friends in this light.  Almost every woman started off by saying “No.”  Then we’d show her a few other belly pictures we’d already taken.  And she would waffle, because she liked the idea of participating.  They asked if Christy and I had already put our bellies up, and they were comforted when we said we had.  (My belly is actually the banner belly at the top of the page.)  Then our friends, enlightened feminists all of them, would sigh and agree with some trepidation.  Some of them asked to go somewhere more private for the momentous picture, some lifted shirt right there among the gentiles.

After I snapped their picture, I’d whip my phone around and show them their pic.  And do you know what their reaction was?  They smiled.  They tipped their head to the side.  They said, “Oh, that’s kind of cute!”

Our bellies look different to us when we’re looking down at them, or reflected in the mirror.  But our bellies are beautiful.  They are an elemental part of us, this center of our bodies.  And they are beautiful and unique, each and every one.  Yes, even yours.

So it’s not that I’m hoping our belly project will show women that they’re “normal,” whatever that means.  But rather show women that their belly is on a continuum of bellies that are each fabulous in their own way because they are our own.

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What does your belly look like?

Welcome to our new project!  Women (and sometimes men…you know who you are…) can be obsessed with their bodies.  Hair, nails, toes, skin, breasts, hips, eyes, they all get fixated on.  But perhaps nothing is as preoccupying to us as our bellies.  Our bellies are intimately related our sexuality and to our reproductive lives.  It’s a complicated interaction, that confluence of sex and babies.

So, with that in mind, this blog is a place to come and put our bellies in perspective and to share them anonymously with the great wide Internetz.

We will include pictures of women’s bellies, their age, and the number of pregnancies, abortions, and miscarriages they have had.

So do you want to be part of the belly project?  Send us your belly picture, your age, and your reproductive history.

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