My Body Is Not Defined By Pregnancy
The product of sex educator Karen Rayne and midwife Christy Tashjian, the blog records user-submitted photos of women's disembodied bellies, accompanied by the belly's age and reproductive history. The point of the blog, the creators write, is to "put our bellies in perspective," as bellies are "intimately related our sexuality and to our reproductive lives. It's a complicated interaction, that confluence of sex and babies."
A typical submission looks something like this:
It is complicated, that "confluence of sex and babies." My midsection's ability to create proto-humans is something I have to fight against every fucking day. Getting a birth control prescription. Paying for it. Taking it every day. Wondering if I'm pregnant. Buying pregnancy tests. Defending why I don't want children. Swallowing painkillers for my ovaries. Bleeding out of my vagina. Dealing with CVS while bleeding out of my vagina.
Being able to make babies sucks. But I do a lot of other things with my belly, too. I fill it with tacos. I lay on it. I put beer in it. I do the odd sit-up. I bend it over when I bike to work. Most of the time, though, it just sits above my legs and under my boobs as I type on the computer all day, and I never think about the thing.
This is not a perspective on the belly supported by the Belly Project:
I understand the point here: Women's bellies are expected to be both sexual objects and reproductive agents, it's a huge bitch to strattle that fence. I don't want to deal with satisfying either of those unattainables. I'm about as interested in defining my body by abortion, c-section, and "horrible vaginal birth" as I am by a hotness rating. At some point, belly after belly after belly, the blog becomes—excuse the pun—unstomachable.
Many Belly Project submissions are detailed to the point of absurdity. One belly includes this identifying information: "32 years old, 1 pregnancy (0 babies, 1 abortion), currently ovulating when this picture was taken." Why not also say, "32 years old, 1 pregnancy, just ate a sandwich"? Most problematic to me, though, is how all the belly submissions define their abortions as "pregnancies." In the Belly Project world, a tiny uninvited fetus that you choose to flush out six weeks in is defined in the same way as those nine months a woman spent growing and birthing desired offspring. I understand that some women consider their abortions this way. I would not.
That's what unsettles me about the Belly Project: It defines the female body by the very things I have to struggle every day to not let define me. Age, pregnancy, abortion, and ovulation are important to the Belly Project. Tacos and biking and careers are not. Maybe, as the project develops, the submissions will diversify. We're not there yet: today, I searched the Belly Project Web site, and couldn't find "None of Your Goddamned Business" anywhere.
Meanwhile, the "Man Belly Project" has begun posting photos of male bellies accompanied by the belly's age, alcohol consumption, and exercise regimen. Honestly, this guy speaks to me more than a reproductive history ever could: