Mind the (Thigh) Gap

I’ve been aware of the thigh gap obsession for a while now. Before I began to see headlines about it…it was just something I became aware of as a young girl who wasn’t comfortable in her own skin.

A thigh gap is when one stands with their feet together, and their thighs do not touch. But does this gap say anything about being thin or fit?

In essence, the thigh gap can be as attainable as hoping to look like one of the unrealistically Photoshopped fashion ads one may see in a magazine. Many specialists even state the fact that having a thigh gap isn’t necessarily due to muscle or fat, but bone structure.

Much to my disappointment, when Googling “thigh gap”, the first entry that shows up is titled “3 Ways to Get a Thigh Gap”. While the article, through WikiHow, mentions that a thigh gap can be genetic, and due to your hips and pelvis, it goes on to give girls tips on hormones, exercise, and diet.

mind-the-gap-20_largeTumblr is another concern, as well as Pinterest. One of the other top results for “thigh gap” is Tumblr itself. Clicking on it reveals a mixture of images: girls in their underwear, displaying thin legs, a definite thigh gap, and often protruding bones. Other images include women urging others to be mindful of the gap, so to speak, and reinforcing healthy body image.

“[…] psychologists emphasize that parents can be positive role models by avoiding words like diet, thin, and ripped and emphasizing the importance of eating well and exercising for being healthy and physically fit,” wrote Boston.com’s Debroah Kotz in a recent blog post about Thigh Gap.

The sentiment of choosing one’s words carefully among impressionable soon-to-be body conscious young girls rang a familiar bell, especially with my recent post about eating disorders among the young.

Parents may not be aware of the images their children are seeing through social media. Children and teens may realize that fashion ads and celebrity bodies are not as realistic, but seeing an image through social media may make it seem more real. However, some of the Tumblr and Pinterest images are edited as well.

keep-calm-and-remember-thigh-gap-2Many pages dedicated to thigh gaps are managed as “thinspo” blogs for girls, or “thinspiration.” These are similar to “fitspo” or “proana/pro anorexia” websites, fueling eating disorders through skewed support groups, where girls “help” one another get thin through social media. However, looking at one Tumblr page in particular had me reeling. So many of the images were clearly Photoshopped–the lines between many thigh gaps were wavy from a shaky hand, the background blurred from poor editing, and chunks of hips were missing. Still, many images did look real and disturbing. Either way, girls are using the images, real or not, as unrealistic and often unhealthy goals.

When searching Twitter for “thigh gap” I found many Tweets from men opposed to the thigh gap, men supporting women who are healthy just the way they are. But does it matter?

The dangerous reality is that it’s a movement being led and supported by girls, to other girls.  Many experts suggest parents sign up for a Pinterest or Tumblr account themselves, so that they can keep an eye on the images their daughters may be bombarded with.

“To be honest with you, I remember — oh gosh, late 80s, early 90s — this coming out, so girls would be in the locker rooms and everybody would stand up in the mirror and see which one had the largest (thigh gap),” Psychologist Mia Holland said in the NBC article linked above.

One reason why it’s trending and gaining traction so much now?

Social media.

About The Author

Farah is a writer and producer who works mainly with music and educational media. When she is not at work or writing about music, she plays the drums in an indie jazz band. She enjoys sci-fi, prefers to sing show tunes while she cleans, and consumes an obscene amount of seltzer water. You can follow more of her writing and music on Twitter at @LaParadiddle.

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