This post first appeared as part of Blogger Idol’s Week 6 Challenge: Hot Topics.
There’s another body image trend making its way through social media into the minds and egos of girls everywhere. It’s called #thighgap. Thigh Gap is a gap or space between the thighs, specifically when your feet are together. It’s being seen as a measure of physical beauty and sexiness.
One of the biggest factors in having thigh gap is the shape of your pelvis … something we have no control over. If your pubic bone is more rounded, rather than pointed, you’re inclined to have thigh gap–especially if you have wider hips. If the pubic bone is pointed, the only way you can get Thigh Gap is to starve yourself to the point that your adductor muscle (your inner thigh) atrophies and shrinks. Of course, as you starve yourself the effects aren’t pinpointed to one muscle or area.
This obsession with physical appearance and being dangerously skinny at all costs is a serious problem. Pinterest understands the connection between this obsession with thigh gap and unhealthy behaviors. After I searched thigh gap a few times, the following message was displayed at the top of the page:
Eating disorders are not lifestyle choices, they are mental disorders that if left untreated can cause serious health problems or could even be life-threatening. For treatment referrals, information, and support, you can always contact the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237 or www.nationaleatingdisorders.org
Marketing and the media have a lot to do with this idea that skinny is sexy … the skinnier the better. We’ve got photoshopped and edited images of naturally beautiful women flooding our media in magazines and catalogs. Many of these photos have been tweaked with the waist narrowed, neck elongated, eyes widened, thighs slimmed, and breasts enlarged until these marketing magicians have created a “perfect” woman or image. Women and girls–impressionable, insecure girls–are looking at these thinking they’re an ideal beauty. Worst of all, they’re looking at these pictures thinking they’re attainable. But they’re not because they’re not real. Even these already gorgeous women, beautiful by the standards of most, aren’t good enough. Oftentimes, they’re “not thin enough.” Among other things, they need more Thigh Gap.
Not long ago Abercrombie & Fitch was under fire for their business model: They only want “thin and beautiful people” wearing their clothes. Thin and beautiful are not synonymous. Being one of those does not make you the other. It’s frustrating that this message is being sent, even more upsetting that it’s being bought by and ingrained into our youth. While I believe A&F can market to a certain niche, I also believe that their message sucks.
There are companies out there who use “real” models. They’re not photoshopped. They come in a variety of sizes and shapes … just like Real Women do. Some of us are a size 2, others a 12, and some a 22. None of us is beautiful because of the number on a tag. We’re beautiful because we’re real. Thigh Gap doesn’t make anyone beautiful–or not.
Some girls are obsessing over this thigh gap–starving themselves, flirting with an eating disorder, consumed with working out, scouring the internet for photos of the “perfect” thigh gap to serve as the inspiration for what they want to look like. They pin their self-worth on whether or not their thighs touch and they pin hundreds of pictures to Pinterest boards with names like Operation Thigh Gap, Thigh Gap is All I Need, and Thinspiration. They’re looking for validation based on an external factor … specifically, one that has more to do with genetics than calorie intake or number of hours spent in the gym.
We have to quell this obsession with being so skinny. We need to champion the ideal of being healthy and strong, not obsess over things like thigh gap. For ourselves–and for our daughters–we need to say that enough is enough. Your physical appearance is not the most important thing. It’s not what defines your worth. It’s also not the only component–or even the most important one–in being “sexy.” Sexy is being healthy and comfortable in your own skin. Confidence is what makes you sexy–no matter your size.
I have a twelve-year-old daughter. I don’t want her to identify skinny as the definition of beauty. If she’s skinny, fine. If she’s not, that’s ok too. I want her to value being healthy and strong over fitting into some arbitrary or genetically predisposed body shape. She should care more about who she is and what she does rather than what she looks like and whether or not she has Thigh Gap. I want her to strive to be healthy, strong, fit, and capable … I want her to know that being skinny doesn’t make you anything other than skinny. It doesn’t make you sexy. It doesn’t make you successful. It doesn’t make you perfect. Perfect doesn’t exist.