Written by Emma Glassman-Hughes
When I first got to college (picture: a young, impressionable little kitten), I met a lot of people who, just by nature of being their incredible selves, made me feel insecure; about my talent, my humor, my body, or any number of things. Though it was one of my roommates--a petite, blonde, singer-actress-dancer with the warmest smile and the best clothes--with whom I struggled the most. To be clear, we became instant friends and to this day I love her dearly, it was just that my vulnerable freshman self felt like she had a lot to be jealous of. That’s why it shocked me when one day she expressed concerns about her body fat, which she felt was excessive, but of which she had very little. She motioned to her lower belly--to a small, protruding gathering of fat that, to me, looked perfectly healthy and like it belonged there. Looking at her tummy, I was so perplexed; but it reminded me that even women who are considered near-“perfect” in a conventional sense, like my wonderful roomie, still have insecurities about their bodies. The belly is an extra sensitive region for some, as well, because it’s one of the body parts where women store the most fat, and a place where they struggle the most to get rid of it, if that's their prerogative. (Not sayin' it should be, BTW).
All that cultural context aside, my roommate stood there and looked me in the eyes, clutching her tummy fat in her sweet little hands, and expressed her frustration with something I’d never heard of before; she expressed concern for her FUPA. What the f-u-p-a is that??
After doing some heavy research (otherwise known as rudimentary Google searching), I found the Urban Dictionary definition of it ('Fatty Upper Pubic Area,' or 'Fatty Upper Pussy Area' to our more uncouth friends) and a whole bunch of “articles” about foolproof ways to lose one. Testimonial after testimonial filled my screen, each one with a new woman wondering about this (allegedly) excess body fat, and wondering about ways they could achieve a flatter stomach. It was virtually impossible for me to find any information about the biological significance of a FUPA or the reasons women develop them--it was as though women are just automatically meant to erase them from our bodies without knowing why they were here in the first place. This is a disturbing trend in women’s health; why is it that each scientific or helpful article about a woman’s body is buried under 20 other articles about how her body isn’t good enough the way it is now, and that it should be changed?
Not everyone can be Gwen Stefani. (Have you *seen* that woman's stomach?? It's a literal washboard. Srsly). Here's my question for you: why are we spending so much time and energy trying to all look like the queen of flat tummies when we could be embracing our pooches and flaps and grippable bits? Most FUPAs don’t pose any dire medical risk for the women in question, and in fact may be an indicator of a body that is prepared for pregnancy and childbirth--many are accentuated by these natural processes as well. Which leads me to believe that women aren’t really trying to get rid of FUPAs for the health benefits--they’re trying to get rid of FUPAs because they’ve been told that they are unattractive and that the ideal woman has a flat stomach, and therefore that they should strive to have one themselves. Even if it’s not biologically expedient to do so.
For all the ladies out there like my beautiful ex-roomie, and for any other woman who has looked at her stomach in the mirror and cringed, this one's for you. Let's learn about our FUPAs and our bodies, and *then* make decisions about how we should proceed with them. Just do yourself a favor and stay far away from Google for this one. #FreeTheFupa