Stella Bergsma is a novelist, opinion writer and frontwoman of the band Einsteinbarbie. Stella writes columns, articles and stories for the Volkskrant, De Morgen, HP/DeTijd, Linda and Vrij Nederland, among others. She is a regular guest on talk shows – including Today Inside – to give her unvarnished opinion on dangerous issues like feminism, sex & literature. In 2022, she explored the taboo on breasts in the documentary Sorry for Boobs (Net5).
For an article Stella wrote for Saar Magazine and De Standaard, she had her fat frozen. In this Tiktok, see how Stella Bergsma is treated to her abdomen with CoolSculpting. You can read the full article below.
Of course, as a feminist, it would have been cool if she did not care about how she looks. But yes, that belly? Somewhat embarrassed, author Stella Bergsma has her fat cells frozen. In her mind, meanwhile, she is on the barricades.
‘Yes, very good and now turn a quarter turn.’ I am standing in my pants facing a large photographic apparatus. On the floor is a circle with numbers. ‘With your feet to the six, so yes,’ says the practitioner. He presses a button a few times. Extremely friendly he is. Yet I shiver. I feel vulnerable and … cold. And that while I am about to be frozen. At least my belly is. I am here to have my fat cells frozen. These then seem to pee right out afterwards. Using a plastic brace and a marker, the doctor has already very artfully brushed on my paunch what will soon be put on ice. Then the photo transfer is finished and I get slippers on and a dressing gown. Whether I want coffee. Something else perhaps? An obviously slim intern escorts me up a flight of stairs. I am treated with all due respect, but still feel like a bit of a piglet on my way to the freezing bench. In a room with a big blue chair, I am allowed to wait for a while. I look at the stripe of Picasso on my belly and am reminded of Sunny Bergman’s documentary Beperkt houdbaar [Limited storage life]. In it, she asks a plastic surgeon what all he could improve about her. After listing a whole laundry list, he leaves the treatment room. She is left crying in front of the mirror. To be honest, I am closer to crying than laughing too. I am nervous. What am I doing here?
‘You,’ I am told when I say that I am planning to undergo some rejuvenation treatments and write a piece about it. ‘I didn’t think you were doing that sort of thing.’ Or they would think I look old, I involuntarily think. But they don’t. ‘You strike me as one of those people who thinks we should just accept ourselves even as we get older,’ I get as a rejoinder. Which sits. Because I am that kind of person too, of course, but on the other hand, so not. I can accept old age fantastically well … with others. With myself, I find it a lot harder and I’m ashamed of that. So-called as a matter of principle, I try to propagate that society should condemn older women less, but secretly I condemn myself. I am starting to get an old neck and I find that ugly. My belly that I just can’t get rid of has been an eyesore for years. Even feminists are vain.
So that’s what I’m doing here. I am going to have my feminist fat transformed into ice cubes and in a week’s time I am going to subject my principled neck to ultrasound treatment. It seems to work fantastically. A neck is one of the hardest body parts to tackle. Without a half facelift, it is very difficult to do anything about the turkeyiness of your neck, and also those transverse annual rings that women get on their necks at some point, you can hardly get rid of with something like botox or fillers. Ultrasound seems to be the solution to that. As far as I understand it at all, sound waves can get into the deeper layers of your skin and stimulate the production of new collagen there.
It scares the hell out of me. It probably has to do with the fact that years ago I accompanied my mother – I am no stranger to vanity – when she underwent a scifi-like treatment for, or rather against, her double chin. It was so extreme that even I, as an onlooker, developed PTSD (post-traumatic stretching disorder). My mother told me later that she felt like ripping the device out of the therapist’s hands and slamming her to the ground. ‘Even rather a double chin dragging behind me than this treatment. What are women doing to themselves?” she shouted furiously in the car on the way home. Her feminism had flared up very violently for a moment.
For me, emancipation is also starting to bubble up as the attending physician grins as he enters the blue room. ‘Stop sexism! Abortion free!”, I want to shout as he prepares the lobes on my abdomen and puts them in some kind of white suction cup. ‘Break the glass ceiling. We women demand,’ I feel like screeching when he tells me that the first five minutes are very cold and annoying for a while, but after that it is not so bad.
It’s a strange split I find myself in: the exasperation that women are still judged more on their looks than their talents and at the same time do the same myself. I can remember times when a camera crew came to my house to film one of my militant opinions, and I was so worried about how I looked that I completely forgot what I had to tell the world. And then, as I become more and more confident about my content at 52, I secretly fear that I will be rejected because of my form. That I will speak unparalleled words on television and people will shout: that neck, it fucks her up!
My fears are not unfounded, of course. I see ‘public’ women of a certain age being criticised for doing too much to themselves, or instead being called ‘cremated croquette’ when they just get old. If I see them at all. It’s the world we live in: unpleasant and unjust. Like those predicted first five minutes at the ice cannon. Stinging pain, tingling. I almost want to jump onto the barricades again, but after that it is indeed not too bad. Of course, by then you are so numb to the cold that you don’t feel anything except that you can’t leave. Fortunately, the slender intern comes to talk to me and that distracts me so much that the freezing time flies by. When the suction cups come off, the weather is equally unpleasant. My lower body stings like ice hands held near the stove. But even that is soon over. I send photos of my bright red belly to my girlfriends, who send me back that they want some too. ‘Yay, freezing party! Nice and chill. I have many more spots on my body that can be iced,’ I shout to the attending physician. ‘Look here! And here! Actually, put my whole body on a freeze fuus. Make me a popsicle, dokkie.’ Those who want to be beautiful must suffer cold.
I suddenly understand why that tinkering with your appearance can be addictive. Funnily enough, I feel proud, as if I have overcome something difficult. It’s strange how satisfied I am. Could it be that undergoing such treatment is actually born of self-love rather than self-loathing? That caring about your appearance is also caring about yourself? But who decides how you should look? As a woman, it is sometimes so hard to really know anymore what is forced on you and what you choose freely. Is the treatment for my neck I have yet to undergo a free choice? The closer the day of treatment comes, the more I doubt. I think of my furious mother and feel scared. I call her to ask what her treatment was called. She doesn’t remember. ‘It was very bad,’ she says, ‘I do remember that.’
When the day arrives, I am beside my bed at 7 am. I took paracetamol to build up a mirror and a diazepam to keep myself calm. The latter was on the doctor’s advice, but I still feel very restless. Last night, with a big bell of cognac next to me, I scoured the internet for experiences with the ultrasound treatment. These ranged from: ‘doesn’t mean anything’, ‘a slight tingle’, to: ‘it was horrible’, ‘like I was being stabbed with knives’, ‘like someone was scraping a layer of skin off me with a peeler’. Unthinkingly, I drink the bottom of cognac in my glass. Something of warmth spreads in my belly and suddenly I know what to do. I make a strong pot of coffee and throw in two huge shoots of the drink. People always talk about microdosing with drugs, but this is much fancier, I think contentedly. Warm, calm and content, I finally lie on the treatment table. The practitioner talks to me and explains what she is doing. She looks for the right layer of skin to send the signal through, so that I am treated in exactly the right place. I do indeed feel stimuli, a bit of an irritating sensation, like getting a light electric pulse, but all in all I am so terribly unaffected that the same euphoric feeling washes over me as when freezing. Let her continue. Treating more zones. If this is it, I can easily handle it. Smooth me, doctor, pull me tight.
I am now two weeks on. The results seem to show only after about six weeks. Still, I already feel that my upper abdomen is slightly smoother. Or have I lost some weight because I have become extra motivated? And does my neck seem to have become less loose? Or have I just got used to it because I spend hours every day obsessively peering at it in the mirror? The changes will probably be more subtle than I initially thought. That’s just the way it is with things like that: you’re terrified of how drastic it is and then you’re disappointed that the results aren’t even more drastic. For instance, I used to do microdermabrasion, botox and fillers with sweat on my hands, only to think afterwards that everything could have been much smoother and tighter. But subtle is always better. Like a microdose of cognac. I will patent that and always keep it in the back of my mind for when life gives me real trouble.
All in all, I keep feeling double about the treatments and my own attitude towards them. On the one hand, I think I am quite right to let myself get nice and tight and want more, more, more. Going through life with a smooth stroke of the sound iron. But I also find it all pretty superficial bullshit. I get the need for some substance and depth. Although I actually find that thinking about that ambivalent attitude towards your looks quite profound. It’s a problem many women, and nowadays more and more men, struggle with. Would I have something done to myself in a world that didn’t care? That didn’t condemn me for getting older and fatter? Probably not, but I don’t live in that world. When I feel beautiful, I dare to go out in public more easily to discuss how unfair it is that I dare to go out in public more easily when I feel beautiful. Can you still follow me? Interesting though. Maybe I could make a documentary about it, a kind of sequel to Sunny Bergman’s. But then in six weeks’ time, when I’m nice and tight.
Stella Bergsma. (2023, 15 June). As a feminist having your body tightened, do you?
De Standaard. Reachable through this link.