15 days ago two mums started something that makes me feel disgusting and like celebrating all at the same time. Love your Lines is an Instagram account with a tag line of “Two moms celebrating real women, real bodies and real self love.” It asks followers to send pictures of their lined body parts via email, and offers them the choice to remain anonymous or to give a caption with their photo.
The reaction to the account has been huge with the account gaining 40,000 followers in just over two weeks. It’s being hailed as a revolution! While I’m not sure it’s a revolution it is a simple idea that does so many wonderful things.
In the weeks after Ewan was born I felt like nobody had stretch marks like mine. I had never seen other real life women’s stretch marks. When a friend tried to show me hers I struggled to see what I was looking at while mine shone in bright red. Now, when so many images flood my instagram feed I start to feel more normal. When stretch marks are hidden and the only images you see are that of beautiful bikini-clad celebrities six weeks after giving birth you start to feel like the freak. I felt it was right to want to hide my body because it certainly didn’t look like the rest of the bodies I saw everywhere.
Even if my top rode up I would feel panic that someone might have glimpsed what lay beneath. I know for certain that I would have felt less shocked if I had seen more images of stretch marks on real life bodies. Many of the images I had seen of stretch marks were “before and after” images. They were designed to show you the “nasty” picture (which is what mine looked like) and the smoother “fixed” image. Love your Lines offers me,and anyone interested, another view of women’s bodies. One that isn’t photo-shopped or false. One where women share their image as an act of confidence and even defiance to the mass media singular image of the ideal woman.
That’s all good, right?
So why do I feel a little disgusting?
There is something about the account makes me squirm. Initially, I couldn’t pin point it but I’ve realised I feel like a voyeur. Yes, the images are put up voluntarily but part of me can’t help thinking that I’m objectifying these women just to a different standard than how I objectify women in a magazine.
By cropping images to focus solely on stretch marks the woman is no longer in the picture. Her stretch marks are the object. Her head is removed , the rest of body is removed, and while there may be a caption about how her marks came into being, her body and her marks are the objects of the viewers eyes. She is reduced to her image and reduced further to the image of a small part of her body.
When I shared my stretch marks on here on the blog it didn’t feel like objectification to me because I shared those images here, where I share so much more about myself. They are not images on their own they are part of the wider picture of me. I’ve shared the ups and downs of being a mum, my love of Arklow pottery, my misadventures with bluebells and my body is another part of that.
The images in Love your Lines are intimate but the women remain strangers, objects rather than active subjects. The pictures aren’t sexual but they are intimate. Intimate images flooding my feed, with or without stretch marks, makes me a little uncomfortable. But not so uncomfortable that I want to look away. So like a well trained voyeur I keep looking.
I’m a follower of Love your Line. I clicked follow to feed my preoccupation with stretch marks.
As the days go by and I see more and more submissions to Love your Lines I am becoming less and less interested. At the start I would examine the images, compare them to my own stretch marks, read the womens’ captions. Now the marks are becoming more common place, I’m acquainted with so many different types of stretch marks that they no longer surprise me. The voyeur in me is no longer getting a jolt of surprise by the images and objectifying the women to compare them to me seems redundant when so many people have such similar marks to my own.
An exciting possibility of social media, and of sharing real life images on blogs, is that it might make bodies so objectified, so scrutinized, that it becomes insignificant. We might at some point see so many stretch marks that we no longer care, see so many post surgery bodies that we are no longer surprised, we might see so many #fatkini’s, #stretchies and #selfies that we become immune.
We might at some point have seen it all before and even stop bothering about what others look like. now that would be a pretty decent rebellion!