If this title doesn’t make any sense to you, congratulations. Seriously. You haven’t been exposed to what I think is one of the most upsetting trends in body image today: the thigh gap. The thigh gap, you guessed it, is the space between a girl’s thighs when she stands normally. Young girls are now holding this up as a standard of beauty, something to be achieved.
Here’s the problem: besides being another marker of a dangerous shift toward hyper-thinness, the thigh gap is something some women are not meant to achieve. Ever.
This post by Jen Rinker goes into more detail, but basically, women’s bodies are designed different ways. Some women are designed in such a way that they carry more weight in their hips, which means no matter how much weight they lose, they probably won’t ever achieve the “thigh gap.” Other women just have narrow hips, and so being thin won’t even create enough space for there to be a thigh gap. Which means that young girls who are trying to gain a thigh gap might be working toward an unattainable standard of beauty.
The issue of the thigh gap speaks to the bigger issue of beauty standards that are absolute, not relative to body type. Being 120 lbs, for example, is something that some women might naturally achieve. It might just be how they’re built. For others, it might be unhealthy to be that small or even impossible to achieve given the body type of the woman. Beauty standards that suggest that women are “one size, fits all” need to be ignored.
I am a curvy woman. I will never be 100 pounds. I will never be a size zero. I’ll never, ever have a thigh gap. But that says nothing about what kind of shape I’m in or how I look when I stand in the mirror. I don’t mean to beat the “positive self-image” horse to death, but bodies come in all shapes and sizes. Assigning a number or a measurement (like the thigh gap) to beauty is illogical, and if I were to try to paint myself by the numbers, I’d always fall short.
Do you remember junior high PE? I do because I hated it, but that’s another story. Assigning these numbers to beauty is like telling everyone in the junior high PE program that they have to run a mile in 6 minutes. Could athletes do it? Maybe. Is that the mark of a good athlete? It certainly would indicate that someone were a good athlete if they could do it. But if they couldn’t? Perhaps some are better long-distance runners. Perhaps some (like me!) have short legs and will never be able to run that fast. Perhaps some students’ fastest mile time will only ever be 10 minutes. But does that mean these students are out of shape? Absolutely not. In the same way, the thigh gap is nowhere near an accurate measurement of health or of beauty.
Furthermore, these young girls who are playing into trends like the thigh gap are often at the age where looking attractive to guys becomes important. But what guy (who wasn’t a complete chauvinist) ever comments on a woman’s “thigh gap?” Yeah, I’ve never heard of one.
So at the end of the day, the thigh gap, like many other beauty “ideals,” is something to be concerned about and wary of. Having a gap between your thighs when you stand says nothing about your health, your beauty, or your weight. Achieving a beauty standard is less important than looking like the best “you” possible. As for me, I’ll be getting back to the gym this semester. But the only measurement of my success will be the gap between my fitness level now and where I hope to be.