This Bizarre Belly Button Challenge Is the New "Thigh Gap"
Indulge us for a moment, if you will. Take one of your arms and wrap it around your back so that your fingers reach to the other side of your torso, all the way to your belly button.
Kind of like this:
Can you do it? It's harder than you think! It sounds like the kind of impossibly difficult thing only contortionists and yogis are capable of. Yet despite the ridiculous premise, the task, termed the "belly button challenge," has taken the Internet by storm.
Thousands of people are posting photos of themselves with their upper bodies twisted into into pretzels, all reportedly to prove that they're fit enough to touch their belly button from behind. (It helps to be very skinny and flexible.)
Shanghaiist reports the trend has exploded on the enormous Chinese social network Weibo. The photo that sparked the trend, posted on Wednesday, has now been viewed over 80 million times.
A quick perusal of the trend on Weibo reveals how popular it is. Dozens of photos show lithe young people, mostly women, with their arms twisted behind their back:
According to the BBC, the topic roughly translates to "reaching your belly button from behind to show your good figure." The outlet also reported that it was discussed more than 130 million times by Weibo users and led to 104,000 conversations.
While Shanghaiist pointed out that "many Web users agree that the challenge has nothing to do with one's figure, but rather the length and flexibility of one's arms," most of the participants appear to be thin young women, illustrative of the desire for a "good figure."
One young man, however, bucked that trend, posting a photo of himself with the caption, "Is this trend really that difficult? I don't think so," as translated by the BBC:
Besides Weibo, the trend has also popped up on Twitter:
These kinds of trends can emphasize unhealthy body image. Like the "thigh gap," the mythical space between one's thighs heralded as a totem of thinness and beauty, trends like the belly button challenge carry the distinct hazard of emphasizing body negativity. In other words, if you can't partake in a craze that celebrates small waists and slim physiques, your body isn't adequate: It needs to be thinner.
"Quirky poses and pictures can be fun, but sometimes they also become expressions of competitiveness or insecurity," Jolene Tan, programs and communications senior manager at a Singapore NGO focused on women's rights, told the BBC. The belly button challenge appears to be "one more way of scrutinizing women's bodies to see whether they are 'good enough,'" she said. "We need to do more to promote acceptance of diversity in women's bodies."
Indeed, as model Robyn Lawley, who was once criticized for having too small of a thigh gap, wrote for the Daily Beast in 2013, "We have the power to change perceptions about body image — and we have the power to stop harmful trends like the 'thigh gap.'" The belly button challenge may not be quite as overtly problematic, but we need to stop perpetuating the same myths about female beauty.
Belly buttons are overrated anyway. Just ask Taylor Swift.