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HEALTH | Body Positivity: Bridging the “Thigh Gap”

Model, Cara Delevingne's thigh gap is so famous, there is a Twitter dedicated to it. (@CarasThighGap)
Model, Cara Delevingne’s thigh gap is so famous, there is a Twitter dedicated to it. (@CarasThighGap)

The dangerous concept of the “thigh gap,” which is the term for the space between your thighs that appears when you’re standing with your legs pressed together, has been wildly spreading about in the media as the latest hot topic.

From a medical standpoint, thigh gaps or lack thereof do not directly correlate to anything other than hip and pelvic width. If someone has wider hips, they are more likely to have a thigh gap while someone with a narrower pelvis and hips is less likely to have extra space between their thighs.

When Jessica Yadegaran of The San Jose Mercury News wrote the article “Thigh Gap: What’s behind a dangerous teenage body image obsession”, news of this rapidly growing obsession amongst younger folks spread to the general public. Many adults and older people less familiar with social networking websites such as Tumblr and Pintrest were shocked to hear about this popular “trend” for the first time.

However, the concept of thigh gaps is nothing new to teenagers and young adults. For several years now, seeing “inspirational” photos of thigh gaps on Tumblr, Pinterest and other related websites is a regular occurrence. In addition to thigh gaps, photos of concave stomachs, gaunt faces, protruding bones and other forms of “thinspiration” heavily dominate many blogs. We are constantly bombarded with images of bodies that should be considered underweight and/or unhealthy with comments such as “wish I could look like this” or “ready for bikini season.”

The idea of “thigh gaps” has been receiving a lot of attention lately, with many pop culture websites and popular news sources commenting on the absurdity, danger, and subjectiveness of this trend. However, why is nothing being said about the equally desired but more commonly accepted features such as flawless skin or perfectly toned legs?

Take the commonly encouraged and admired beauty attribute of having a flat stomach. This concept receives little to no criticism even when striving/dieting with the goal of having a flat stomach can have the same negative health effects of dieting for a thigh gap. Are we just so desensitized to this idea of beauty that it is okay to go to unhealthy lengths to obtain it, since it is considered socially acceptable and beautiful?

Like thigh gaps, flat stomachs are based almost exclusively on one’s bodily anatomy and build: some people have a larger fat percentage on their stomach or a longer torso that results in a bigger or smaller stomach. Yet, we as a society often shun people with rounder bellies and claim they are “unhealthy” or “ugly.”

In the future, will thigh gaps just be taken for granted the same way as flat stomachs, legs with no cellulite, or a forehead without wrinkles? Will one without a thigh gap be considered ugly or unhealthy? Will there be plastic surgical procedures to create an artificial thigh gap?

When one searches “thigh gap” in the Tumblr image search box, each page of images are proceeded by this statement:

“If you or someone you know is dealing with an eating disorder, self harm issues or suicidal thoughts, please visit our Counseling & Prevention resources page for a list of services that may be able to help.”

However, when “flat stomach” is searched for, there is no such disclaimer. What does this tell us? That someone who is striving for a flat stomach is not in danger of or suffering from an eating disorder and/or other mental health issues? Since whoever searched the phrase is striving for something socially acceptable so there are no dangers associated with it? This is pretty scary because one could still try to obtain a thigh gap and a flat stomach in the same way: through extreme dieting and exercise.

When will we realize that many societal ideas of beauty pushed upon us are equally as dangerous as the current hot topic of thigh gaps? Or will the shock and concern surrounding thigh gaps die down? Will thigh gaps eventually be considered as, beautiful, normal, and healthy like so many other beauty ideals we believe today?

Read Kendall Anderson’s earlier blog post: HEALTH | Body Positivity: The Skewed Social Implications of Health.

The Mills Body Positivity Group meets on Wednesdays at 4:00 p.m. and Thursdays at 12:20 p.m. Check out the Facebook group:

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