I was recently at a concert with my mom and two friends, and there were a lot of very oddly-dressed people there. (Put emphasis on the very in that sentence. One particularly memorable outfit was a pair of bellbottoms with pink hearts, a white feather boa, and sparkly silver platforms.) Among these people was an overweight woman wearing a short denim skirt and a belly shirt. Yes. An overweight woman wearing a belly shirt. The four of us were scandalized and nicknamed her Belly Woman.
“There must be something wrong with her,” my mom said. “No sane woman would walk outside like that.”
When my mom first said it, I thought it was a little harsh of her to say that the woman had to be mentally ill to dress in a belly shirt when she was overweight. As I thought about it more, I realized that there was absolutely nothing wrong with this woman; in fact, there was something more right about this woman than there is about most of us. This woman felt so comfortable with her body that she was happy to show herself off, as much as she may weigh. She may have been heavy, but she had self-esteem. I wish that I, with my thin body, had that kind of self-confidence.
Online, I found statistics that 53% of 13-year-old girls and 78% of 18-year-old girls feel uncomfortable with their bodies, but I think those numbers are highly underestimated. I constantly read on my Google Buzz that my friends are running to the gym, and they all eat like bunnies. Girls and women in the past and present feel fat. Eating disorders have skyrocketed since the 1960s. Women have been pressured to stay thin ever since the feminine mystique, the idea that women should be housewife-mother dolls in the home, was created in the 1950s. The fact that “Belly Woman” had the self-assurance and courage to stomp on fifty years’ worth of inundation from men and media that women have to be thin is so heartening. May we all have the strength to follow her example and begin to love our bodies.