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.
In 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.