Someone asked me why the #flattummy ad in times square is bad.
1. quick-fix weight loss solutions are often extremely harmful and full of chemicals.
2. it perpetuates the unbelievable and ridiculous body standards society places on women, where our worth is defined by the circumference of our abdomen. note that this sign is directed at women only, because the same expectations do not exist for men.
3. note also that because the term “suck it” is used, and where a woman is mouth-open licking a lollipop, which is perhaps the most sexualized candy, this ad 100% says to women “buy our product, men will think you’re sucking a dick, men want you to have a flat tummy, a flat tummy = a man wanting you to suck their dick.” because only with a flat stomach are you deemed hot enough to exist. no matter that you are hurting your body, no matter that they will ALSO want to put a baby in you which will negate your “flat tummy” forever but isn’t it funny that the ability to make a literal life from scratch and a small waist line seem to be unbalanced on the scale of male importance???
4. who walks around in times square? little girls. little, hopeful, innocent girls who stare at all the big signs and billboards and think of new york city as the center of it all and if a flat tummy ad is in new york city it must be very important, and now she’ll never un-see that, and she’ll never eat a sugary lollipop when she can eat something that will do nothing but take from her instead. pounds, spirit, health, brain space that could have gone to curing cancer, or soccer camp, or becoming a professional chef. she won’t become a chef because girl chefs are fat, she won’t go to soccer camp because her thighs will become muscled and too strong, and she certainly won’t study hard enough to cure cancer because her mental flash cards will be filled with notes on how to give the perfect blowjob because she saw an ad in times square when she was 9 where a beautiful, thin girl was sucking a lollipop and she saw that image again and again and again (in the movies and music videos and her best friend’s older sister’s instagram photo) until she finally sees it in cosmopolitan next to a how-to list to blow your boyfriend’s mind, which officially proves that lollipop=dick sucking. and dick sucking is more important that curing cancer.
5. she will never, ever have a second or even a third cookie without dread and guilt searing her from the inside out.
6. she might not ever have the first cookie.
7. or, she’ll throw it up. because if you can manipulate your body from the outside in, she’ll think, it must work both ways.
8. some women will never have a “flat tummy.” I never will. I have a soft, thick layer over my abdomen that rolls over when I sit and sort of sloshes to the side when I lay down. I have woken up, checked the flatness of my stomach more mornings than I am happy to count. there have been many days where I let the shape. of. my. stomach. make or break my next 24 hours.
9. in theatre school I took voice classes. our teacher taught the boys how to speak in their falsetto and they would cry immediately because the last time they did that was when they were a child, which was the last time society ever let them talk like a girl. she taught the girls how to speak low, like a man does, from a place of power. she had to spend extra time with the girls, because she needed to teach us how to unclench our stomachs. because after a lifetime of “sucking it in,” we had no idea what it felt like not to do it. and if we couldn’t let our bellies go, we couldn’t tap into that power. she couldn’t get me to unclench my stomach. I just couldn’t let go. imagine that I never did? imagine I never tapped into my power. my writing comes from that place. just imagine.
10. I learned flat tummy first, everything else about bodies second. it took me years before I knew anything about my anatomy, my brain, my heartbreak, my pain. it took me years to eat for my body, not for diet culture’s body. before I let a boy see me in a bikini after I ate, before I could let my stomach slosh to the side as a lover held me in bed.
11. explaining to women that their body is uniquely theirs, that your own god-given anatomy tells you if you will be able to have a six pack or not (most of us cannot), that exercise is about the very basic need to move and not metabolism, that they will fuck up their body forever if they expect that they can trust the back of a one-time-payment medicine bottle, or stupid fucking ridiculous dumb as hell calorie counter app, explaining that to them becomes almost impossible if the highest honor and priority in life we learn before anything else is being skinny, sexy, and having washboard abs.
12. guess what? there are little boys in times square too. and when they see that ad they will fall victim to a history of misogyny already salivating for them. their baseline expectation for women will not include their smarts, intuition, wisdom, power, humor, worldliness, compassion, or strength. no, they will understand that in order for a woman to have the spotlight, she must have a lollipop in her mouth and a body that will never get to enjoy a real lollipop for as long as she lives.
13. imagine we could strip that all away. imagine we could take fleshy, perfect, round little babies and let them grow into bodies already designed for excellence. imagine we taught them to worship the insane privilege of a healthy, functioning body. that every moment of being alive meant using that physical form for joy, and learning, and the wonder of touch and intimacy. that no hug was slandered by the fear of being too big, too much, that self-worth didn’t even exist in the same language as the word skinny. imagine a world where a time-capsule was dug-up in times square and a crowd of gorgeous, soulful, un-shamed people discovered a giant poster and read foreign words: “flat tummy.” imagine if they looked at each other, laughed, and said “what’s that?”