I knew they were viewed as unattractive, though I couldn’t say precisely where I had learned such a thing. What I did know was that the word – unattractive – was at the forefront of my mind every time I looked in the mirror at the faint, squiggly lines puberty had stamped upon my body. Stretch mark cream, conservative clothing, intense dieting – I was determined not only to hide them, but to get rid of them forever, no matter how unrealistic that goal may have been.
After all, they were unattractive. They had to be because women in the media, the ones everyone called beautiful, didn’t have them.
It took years for me to embrace these stretch marks, which I now view as a sign of my growth throughout life, not as marks of shame. Today, the concept of stretch marks is something that the popular media is finally beginning to embrace. Lip Sync Battle co-host Chrissy Teigen was widely praised after posting a photo of her stretch marks on Instagram. Victoria’s Secret, despite previously failing to represent the body positivity movement, released unretouched photos of model Jasmine Tookes. Even popular rapper Kendrick Lamar insisted he was “tired of the Photoshop” and wanted to see more stretch marks in his song “Humble”.
Though this is only a handful of examples, such body positivity is extremely important, considering that in last year’s Dove Global Beauty and Confidence Report, it was reported that 65% of girls felt pressure from the media to strive for unrealistic standards of beauty. The photoshopping and masking of stretch marks – scarring that naturally occurs in up to 90% of women worldwide – in movies, photoshoots, and advertisements is just one example of such a standard. Why should the media pretend stretch marks do not exist when the vast majority of women have them? What are we really telling young girls if we say that only 10% of the population is attractive?
Of course, despite the more open attitude the media has been displaying towards stretch marks, the industry is still sending mixed messages to women and girls concerning their bodies. Star magazine – one which I religiously read as a Hollywood obsessed preteen – continues to post photos of celebrity women in bathing suits, judging whether they are “hot” or not. Not surprisingly, photos featuring these celebrities with stretch marks do not make it to the “hot” list. Chrissy Teigen and Jasmine Tookes may have displayed their stretch marks in a highly publicized manner, but they are tall, thin models, women who made careers out of fitting into mass society’s idea of “beauty”.
Showing off your stretch marks may be a current Hollywood trend, but one can only hope that it not only remains relevant in the media, but grows and becomes a loud, proud affirmation for women everywhere.
“Stretch marks are beautiful.”
You may not believe it, but you shouldn’t be afraid to say it.