Belly Button Challenge: 'Disturbing' Social Media Trend Sends Negative Body Image Message To Women, Say Experts

Just when you thought body image pressure couldn't get any worse, now there's a new trend set to make women feel bad about themselves.

Hot on the heels of thigh gap and the #HoldACokeWithYourBoobs challenge comes The Belly Button Challenge, a 'disturbing' trend that encourages women to reach behind their back and round their waist in an attempt to reach their belly button.

The challenge began on Wednesday and has had more than 130million hits on Weibo, a popular Chinese social media site. Now, it's spreading across the internet.

According to Weibo, the ability to reach one's belly button in this bizarre way shows you have "good figure".

But we'd like to call bullshit on this trend. All you need to achieve it is a) a smallish waist, b) flexible shoulders and lower back and c) longish arms. We tried it at HuffPost UK, so you don't have to, and only two of us can actually do it - but boy to our shoulders hurt.

In short: it's a stupid trend that you should steer clear of.

"Quirky poses and pictures can be fun but, sometimes, they also become expressions of competitiveness or insecurity," Jolene Tan, senior manager at Aware, an organisation in Singapore that champions women’s rights, told the BBC.

"We need to do more to promote acceptance of diversity in women's bodies," she adds.

A spokesperson from Beat, the UK's leading eating disorder charity, told HuffPost UK Lifestyle: "Social media can be a powerful, positive influence. However, the emphasis on image sharing and selfies is putting increasing pressure on young people in particular to look a certain way.

"Eating disorders are complex and multi-causal so while social media in itself is not sufficient to cause an eating disorder, being constantly bombarded with images of others, and constant – sometimes unfavourable – comparisons can be toxic for those susceptible to an eating disorder.

"This new trend potentially poses a further threat to such vulnerable individuals. We need to be doing more to promote acceptance of diversity of body sizes and shapes, and to develop young people’s resilience to these types of images."

Speaking to HuffPost UK Lifestyle, positive body image campaigner Leyah Shanks, has labelled the trend "disturbing".

"Since the growth of social media we've seen some pretty disturbing "beauty" trends like the Kylie Jenner Lip Challenge and the Thigh Gap," she tells HuffPost UK Lifestyle. "Both encourage unhealthy comparison and competition among women - but this trend pushes things one step further."

Shanks believes that body positivity is on the rise, but that we still live in a "thin worshipping" world.

"It's sad that being able to do the Belly Button Challenge is seen as some kind of achievement," she adds. "It seems that social media has a tendency to push women to extremes, often towards a goal which is simply not attainable for them.

"Personally I hope that social media will stop spewing out trends like this which encourage us to compare ourselves to others, and instead produces trends that empower us to be our own kind of gorgeous!"

Well said.

Gina Rodriguez

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