How The Tiger Got Her Stretch Marks: Decoding Feel-Good Timeline Fodder

Stretch marks image macro

The picture above this paragraph has popped up in my Facebook feed more than once. Whenever I see it, I get a sudden urge to pick up my laptop and throw it through the nearest window. A tanned, Caucasian stomach with unrealistic stretch marks shopped on by the right hip. “Your body is not ruined,” it says. “You’re a goddamn tiger who earned her stripes”. I look at my own stretch marks in the disabled toilets at work (there’s more room and a full-length mirror). “Tiger stripes? Who the fuck are you trying to kid? These babies came about via the midnight pizza and pint of Haribo Tangfastics-strewn Ben & Jerry’s that I ate in one sad gulp back in 2006 after Chris L slept with me and never called again”. If that was how Tony the Tiger got his stripes, no wonder his species is endangered.

Like many women in their late 20s, I have a strange yet wonderful relationship with my body. It’s not exactly perfect, but whose body is? I have pretty decent (if debilitatingly huge) breasts; good firm legs that allow me to run five miles without requiring an oxygen tent; and a pleasingly wobbly stomach that my boyfriend likes to wrap his arms around at night, using my midriff as a fleshy security blanket. This year, I’ve managed to lose a significant amount of weight. Admittedly this was prompted by a memorable if sobering visit to the doctor. The nurse took one look at my family’s medical history – an epic saga featuring deep vein thrombosis, type-2 diabetes, adult leukaemia and high blood pressure in the falsetto range – then told me off for an hour about all the peanut butter, pork belly and Negronis in my diet. But every yin has its yang and, as the weight slipped away, the stretch marks arrived. Oh the stretch marks.

I feel ambivalent about my stretch marks. I’m not particularly wild about them, but I see them as being as much as part of me as any other part of my body. To deny their existence would be like pretending I don’t have a belly button. They’re just….there. And while I suppose it’s nice that someone is trying to make me feel better, even if it’s about something I don’t really give a tuppenny fuck about, why stop at stretch marks? Why don’t they create one for unsightly hairy moles people occasionally get on their backs, or the smattering of freckles some of us have at the tops of our arms? I can just see it now: “Hey girl! I love your freckles! Your body sure showed the sun who’s boss!”

And what’s with that mixed metaphor? I’m a tiger? A tiger in the sack or a tiger mom? Anyway, ‘earning stripes’ is a military idiom – the frosted-cereal-loving big cats are born with theirs. This meaningless, greeting-card guff serves no real purpose other than making the creator feel better about themselves and how they perceive women’s bodies. It’s the Tumblr equivalent of a pat on the back.

As a plus sized woman, I’m used to being patronised left, right and centre by modern society. Those Dove adverts with their “real” women are major offenders here. “Don’t be ashamed of your curves! They make you a real woman!” Oh really? And what does that make my size 8 friends then – fold-up sofas? Bitch please. But it annoys me that whenever some no mark fires up Photoshop and assembles one of these homespun homilies, I’m supposed to be teary-eyed with gratitude. I don’t need an inane image macro to tell me something that’s self-evident to those of us with working brains.



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About author
Christina McDermott is a half Manc-half-Yank-Liverpool-dwelling writer and food blogger. She likes Krautrock, Booze of all flavours, Bad Jokes & Owls, and hates Bananas.
15 total comments on this postSubmit yours
  1. Ugh, yes! This is why it was so delightful when a bunch of Tumblrs (myself included) started making unspirational rather than inspirational images. They ring way more true.
    http://unspirationalthoughts.tumblr.com/

  2. Great piece. i hadn’t seen this little photoshopped homespun homily til you posted it last night on Twitter and as I said then, it just made me think of those rugs with the head on which might be missing the point somewhat…

    But reading this and thinking about it, there’s a sense that because these stretch marks are on the stomach is that you got them making babies and that’s OK, but that if you’d got them another way, then it might not be so acceptable. It’s just repeating the idea that women are ultimately just about what their womb does and that’s not liberating at all.

    My stretch marks are from going through puberty, having very very pale thin skin and losing and gaining weight through an ED and serious illness. They are mainly on my hips and my inner thighs. The ones on my hips are silver and I never think of them. The ones on my thighs are still red and angry and recriminating. I hate them. I never bare my legs because of them. They are a reminder of the battle I’ve had with my body and I reserve the right to not like them. And I reserve the right to go postal on anyone who tells me otherwise thanks….

  3. I was mortally ashamed of my stretch marks at 16. I was in constant hock to the cocoa butter companies, and afraid to be seen bare. I thought they were hideous, shameful marks of greed. Then I had a boyfriend who said, “Look, I’ve got them too. I just got big when I was playing rugby.” And it turned out they were just part of the way human bodies grow and change, and now my stomach has been babied to fuck, I am very much of the opinion that I don’t need anyone to patronise me into accepting my own skin, thanks all the same inspirational photoshoppers.

    I love you, Cay. xx

    • That’s a good point actually. When I was writing this last night, my other half pointed out that he had stretch marks on his legs as the result of a teenage growth spurt. It’s not just women who get them, and they’re just a fact of life. Normal, harmless, and nothing to celebrate or commiserate.

      And I love you too. xx

  4. I got mine through weight gain caused by life-saving medication, mostly. Apart from the ones on my thighs which came from too many packets of cheese and onion crisps in my late teens/early twenties. Oh, and growth spurts as a child.

    Earned my stripes? I paid good money for them!

    Whoever shopped this image has obviously never had to worry about great big red lines suddenly erupting all over their hips.

  5. Yes, I totally agree, I too got stretch marks as a teen much like Sarah, thankfully they’re mostly invisible but this inspirational bullshit is just insulting. Also I loved this post for the last paragraph, so sick of people saying only curvy women are “real women”. :)

    • That kind of talk really riles me. As though women can be shoved into ‘real’ and ‘unreal’ boxes because of their size. It only serves to pit us against each other solely because of the meat on our thighs. Urgh.

  6. I adore you and find you godlike.
    xo

  7. I don’t get the point of this take down. Really, isn’t the macro just a bit naff? That’s what the hide/unfollow buttons are for. I don’t see it trying to sell you anything, or put down anyone else, it’s pretty self-evidently just something made to make someone feel a bit better. Cloth-eared sentiment aside, why sneer? Because while stretch marks are common and natural, they’re hardly visible in most visual media, and while you DGAF, that void might bother some people with them who don’t have the same resilience you do. When I was a self-conscious teen, reading that Salma Hayek had stretch marks made me feel better about mine. Naff, vapid, shallow, sure. But empowering for one miserable young woman.

  8. I just want to say to the person that replied and wrote the blog to the tiger strips picture!!! Firstly you sound angry and like someone who has a big problem with her body. Also some one who is insecure !? I think the picture dipics the beauty and versitility of the womens body and purpose in life!! I’m pregnant at the moment and I was so worried about stretch marks but this picture always pops into my head and reminds me that if you eat healthy during your pregnancy and not eat for 2 which I find to be a absoulute myth as I can bearly eat enough for one…. I’m not skinny I have never been skinny but I have been fat and worked my but off for 2 years and lost 30kg! I’m now 5 months pregnant and weigh 71kg and yes I have stretch marks like these on my boobs but still love my boobs regardless! What I’m trying to say is try and look a bit deeper that only the outside! I think that this picture is inspirational and beautiful! Its who we are in life that makes us! I haven’t touched a beauty magazine in more than 20years because I don’t believe in the falseness of the media all we can do is love our selves!! And by the way I have frekcles and I adore them on my olive skin body. I think it goes well and have had many people compliment me because of them.

    Love yourself!!!

  9. I see what you are trying to say but I am patterned all over with stretchmarks but I’ve managed to lose weight and they look just like the woman in this photo. Maybe its luck but I wouldn’t just assume that the woman in the photo has her stretchmarks shopped on, but she is stretching her body out so they don’t wrinkle. This photo makes stretchmarks look good which is great if you worry about any kind of scarring and I know a lot of girls are so shocked when suddenly their body is different, not only in size but in texture and colour and marking.. Any change is shocking and it takes a while to come to terms with it.. and I think this photo helps a lot of people in that way. I completely agree we shouldn’t rely on the media to tell us what is acceptable but unfortunately a lot of people do, and it isnt just the media, it is society itself. If you have the strength to be yourself and ignore everything around you then brilliant! But its not always that simple.

  10. I lost a lot of weight really fast and was left with stretch marks around my armpits and stomach. I used almost the whole bottle of Made from Earth’s Aloe & Jojoba Creme Therapy before my girlfriend commented on how they were fading. I didn’t really notice because I see it every day, so the change was gradual. Definite give the Made from Earth Aloe a try, because it worked wonders for me!

  11. I know this post is 2 years old, but… (I Googled the phrase because I was going to share it with a friend, stumbled upon your post)

    I have seen this image/saying posted in mom circles/pages/groups; I don’t know where it originated but the context n which I’ve seen it is pregnancy and childbirth (usually natural birth): the earning of the stripes is not about weight loss, it’s about surviving pregnancy and birth.

    I agree with you the image above does not show a very realistic stomach; I’m pretty sure the first time I saw this it was a black and white image of a mom, with her un-flat belly and her pregnancy stretch marks, and her infant child.

    Maybe someone took the saying from this thinspo-ish image and applied it to post-birth moms’ stretch marks; maybe it went the other way around… I don’t know the original context, but I wanted to at least provide the alternate context, to explain why at least some of those women may have been sharing the saying.

  12. (Sorry… going back to the original text [still looking for the thing to share with my friend], ‘Your body is not ruined”=this IS a response to pregnancy. We’re told pregnancy ruins our body, natural birth makes our vagina “too stretched out,” and makes our boobs all floppy. This meme is not about weight loss, it IS about pregnancy and society’s messages to women about their bodies after pregnancy. Now, that doesn’t mean the image does not trigger other thoughts/feelings in people who have stretch marks for other reasons, but please understand those women who are sharing this as body positivity after having their body undergo very drastic changes in less than a year.)

  13. I’ve got stretch marks on my body as I lost a lot of weight a year ago. I used coconut oil and it is fading though not rapidly. Great post! – John

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