First there was the “thigh gap.” Then came the “bikini bridge,” the “bellybutton challenge,” and the “collarbone challenge.”
In March of this year, the “A4 Challenge” popped up—which apparently is some bizarre trend where women (and men) hold a piece of paper to their waste to show that they can hide behind it?
I have no fucking clue.
Individuals post photos of themselves completing these “challenges” on social media with the accompanying hashtag (i.e. #A4Challenge), where people can then find these photos by either searching that specific hashtag, or as the majority of us do- accidentally scroll into these posts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Each of these hashtags are used to define some sort of “fitness” level, and sadly, what some deem as “beautiful.”
And, just when I thought it couldn’t get stranger and more grotesque, it did.
Of course it did.
Now enters the newest in a lineup of ridiculous trends: The AB CRACK.
Many would argue that these hashtags are not used with the intention of displaying one’s beauty, but one’s physical fitness. However, here’s the problem: they are never used for that. They don’t motivate women, they bring women (and men) down. They set an image in the brains’ of women around the globe that THIS is what beauty is, that this is what FITNESS is. And they couldn’t be further off base.
I don’t need to tell you that everyBODY is created differently.
I don’t need to tell you that what might be attainable (fitness-speaking) for my neighbor down the street, may not be attainable by me, or millions of other women.
I don’t need to tell you that because one body weighs less than another, it’s not necessarily healthier than one that weighs more.
I don’t need to tell you that images are easily photoshopped, and half of the shit we see on billboards and magazines IS NOT REAL, nor do I need to tell you about filters.
What I do need to tell you is that THIS IS NOT A DEFINITION OF YOUR BEAUTY OR YOUR HEALTH.
These images do one thing: DAMAGE. They set a proverbial bar for what women should attain to be like- to LOOK like. And, let’s be real here for a minute- VERY FEW PEOPLE LOOK LIKE THIS.
When are people going to get it through their thick skulls that blasting these hashtags as “fitness challenges” will never bring a positive vibe amongst women and men? When will people see that these hashtags and images do harm?
Hey—BE PROUD OF YOUR BODY. Absolutely. I am a firm believer that you should be proud of your body and what it does for you 24/7, however, a hashtag does not define your body, your beauty, your fitness level, or YOU.
I believe that we can (and should) share and wear our bodies with pride. I just don’t believe that we need a hashtag to detail that.
Here’s the problem: These hashtags aren’t promoting health and wellbeing, they are promoting aesthetic—an extremely unattainable one that leads to eating disorders, body dysmorphia, and a collective sigh that can be heard around the internet from every woman (and man) who does not look like this (So, about 99.9% of the population).
What do you think women hear/feel when they see these images?
“If you don’t have thigh gap/bikini bridge/ab crack/A4, then you are not physically fit.”
UHM. NO. WRONG. WRONG. WRONG.
The women in my life are strong; not just on the outside, but on the inside too.
Their bodies have withstood multiple pregnancies, illnesses, marathons, surgeries, raising children, etc.
Their bodies have served them to deliver some of life’s most treasured gifts and collectively, we are grateful for them.
I introduce to you a line-up of my friends, my incredibly beautiful, strong, intelligent, HEALTHY friends who don’t need a hashtag to define them in any way, shape or form:
At first, it was difficult and uncomfortable to gain so much weight; I was full of extra self loathing. Through the slow and steady process of self love, I’ve realized that I am just as amazing now, if not even more so!, as I was at 140 pounds. I have so much to offer this world, and I am so much more than pretty.” – Mary England, Uncustomary.org
“My Name is Kristine Korver and I keep my body strong because I love it and it helps me carry, play with, and actively love my three children whose pregnancies have demolished any hopes of ever achieving an ‘ab crack’! And, I am 100% fine with that.” – Kristine Korver, TheDew.com
“My name is Kimberly Zapata and while I may not always love my body the way I should, I know my thighs are thick because they are strong, my breasts are flat because they have fed and nourished a child, and I know am beautiful — regardless what number I see on my scale or inside my jeans.” – Kimberly Zapata, Sunshine & Spoiled Milk
“My name is Chrissy Woj. I went on Weight Watchers for the first time when I was 14 when I wore a size 12. In my adult life, I’ve worn clothes ranging from size 11 to size 22. I’ve rejoined Weight Watchers at least 10 times in nearly 20 years. I struggled with an eating disorder for six years. This suit is a size 20, and I feel sexy as hell. No ab crack needed. – Chrissy Woj, Quirky Chrissy
“My name is Christie and, although there are some days I still struggle to love my body as it is, for the most part, I appreciate it for all it has done and can do. After suffering through an eating disorder, which damaged relationships and deprived me of enjoyable experiences, I no longer let body image issues keep me for enjoying life — like spending the day at the pool with friends.” – Christine Organ, ChristineOrgan.com
“My body survived 5 years of anorexia and bulimia and grew an amazing child. At 33, I feel comfortable in my skin and learned recovery isn’t always a straight line – and it can involve celebrating some glorious curves.” – Alison Tedford, Sparkly Shoes & Sweatdrops, The Good Men Project
My name is Ashley Alteman and my body is my vessel. It has created, carried and delivered one of the most badass human beings on the planet, my daughter! It has withstood kidney disease, and it has gotten me through thirty-two years on this planet. My body in it’s physical form does not define my beauty- the whole package does! Inside out, from head to toe- I am one crazy, fun, loving and adventurous human being. I love my body for keeping up with me. – Ashley Alteman, SmashleyAshley.com
What you see above is BEAUTIFUL, my friends! Don’t be fooled into thinking you need a THIGH GAP to determine your self worth, your beauty- ANYTHING. No hashtag defines you in ANY WAY.
Thank-you to all my beautiful and amazing friends for helping me with this piece- I love you ALL!
If this post resonates with you—SHARE IT! Get the word out!
Show you do not support these ridiculous hashtags/trends/and “challenges.”
Get to know the women in these photos who are setting a positive example of body image and are creating a dialogue.
Photo: Courtesy of those pictured, with permission.
This essay originally appeared on Smashley Ashley.
And thank you for commenting below and sharing this!