It's 2020 And We're Still Shaming Women's Stretch Marks

by Rachel Garlinghouse
chokja/Getty Images

I’ve had stretch marks since late middle school. One day they weren’t there, and the next day, I had little white lines all over my hips. I hit puberty later than most of the girls in my class, but when it hit, it hit. My legs were long, like country-song long, and the stretch marks were proof of my fast and furious growth.

I wanted to get rid of them as quickly as they had appeared. The teen magazines—as well as my mom’s magazines—promised me all sorts of miracle creams. Unfortunately, I was only in eighth grade with no income, so I had to just deal. As I got older, and now as a woman in my late thirties, I couldn’t care less about my stretch marks. Apparently, however, society is still publicly shaming women for having normal bodies, which might include stretch marks, cellulite, or skin discoloration.

Jackie Goldschneider, one of the Real Housewives of New Jersey, was recently body-shamed on social media. I know, none of us are surprised. She was rocking a pair of skinny jeans and a black sweater crop top, exposing part of her stomach, including stretch marks. Gasp. How dare she? Of course, some critics with their keyboard courage came swinging, letting her know that she needed to cover up or get that fixed–ASAP.

She wasted no time clapping back at all the haters. “My beautiful stomach held 4 healthy children, and those stretch marks remind me every day of how powerful my body is and how much mothers endure during pregnancy.” She went on to tell us, “I won’t airbrush my body to perfection so you can see a fake version of me or an unrealistic picture of a mother.” Cue the church choir. She added that none of us should be ashamed of our perceived flaws, stretch marks included. My fave was the hashtag she used: #loveyourself.

She’s certainly not the first, nor will she be the last, celebrity who is shamed for her bod. What she experienced happens to almost all of us, with much less exposure, but still just as hurtful and frustrating. Many of us have worked long and hard to love ourselves and accept our flaws, yet there’s always that person who decides they need to point out that we could do better and try harder.

The reality is, stretch marks are extremely common. In fact, Dr. Diane Walder, a board-certified dermatologist in Miami, told Scary Mommy that 70% of women develop them. Striae is the medical term for stretch marks. She shared that striae are “caused by an rapid increase in the size of skin” such as puberty or pregnancy. That rapid growth “causes the breakdown of the elastic and collagen” resulting in those lines that usually fade to a white color, crinkle, and cause a slight depression in the skin.

Why do some people get stretch marks and some don’t? Dr. Walder says there can be a genetic predisposition, but there’s also other factors like hormones. She remarks that stretch marks are absolutely not a harmful medical issue. Rather, they are a cosmetic struggle–for some. There are options for appearance improvement, such as products and procedures, but they are not medically necessary. Basically, stretch marks come down to how you feel about them and what you want to do next, if anything.

What does Dr. Walder do if she has a patient who is concerned about the appearance of her stretch marks? She presents options to the patient after examining the extent of the marks. Treatments can be costly and be time-consuming, and she wants her patients to make educated decisions. However, if her patient is like Jackie Goldschneider, someone who is cool with their stretch marks, Dr. Walder shares, “More power to her!”

If you’re like me, I’ve made peace with my stretch marks, and until this story broke, I completely forgot about them. Like Jackie, I have four kids, and I have little time to fixate on every single little imperfection on my body. The truth is, at least to me, scars are beautiful. They tell stories of journeys, and we should absolutely be unashamed of them. I have stretch marks on my hips, and scars under each breast from a mastectomy. I pay them no attention–like, ever–because I frankly just don’t care nor have the time.

Whatever your “flaws,” you have a decision to make. If you want to flaunt your cellulite, your freckles, your scars, go for it. Why spend needless time, money, and energy covering them up so that others feel more comfortable? If you don’t love them, because YOU don’t love them, then do what you want to cope. No one gets to tell you how you should feel about your body.

Plus, you already know the truth. Bullies are truly unhappy with themselves. When they spend their time and energy seeking to bring others down, it says way more about them than you. This is something I’m teaching my kids, and it’s a lesson I’ve had to learn myself. Trying to please others is exhausting and futile, because there will always be another bottom-feeder out there.

I still have a burning question. Why, in 2020, is anyone still body-shaming women? As much as I would love for all the haters to go away, I also know that the reality is we must be stronger than them. We have to love ourselves and our bodies, not seeking outside affirmation, especially not from strangers on the internet. There will always be those who seek to bring others down, but there are, hopefully, more of us lifting each other up.