I Think I Found My Thigh GapPosted: November 25, 2013 Filed under: Body, Body Image, Woman | Tags: Body, Woman, Women's Bodies 43 Comments
This morning I went to the mirror to try to figure out what this “thigh gap” trend is all about. To be honest, reading about it has been very confusing for me and I’m not sure I totally get it. I thought it must be a super-young-person thing—kind of like when my nine-year-old nephew tried to explain to me how to play Bakugan with him and I couldn’t figure out what he was talking about—but then I read that women as well as teen girls have been measuring themselves against this latest “ideal” of beauty.
Curious, I gave it a go. I stood in front of my reflection to try to find a gap between my thighs that—if it existed—would supposedly mean I was more attractive than those who didn’t have it. Standing with my feet together, I definitely didn’t have one. Spreading my legs apart a bit so my feet weren’t touching each other—leaving just an inch or so between them—I still didn’t have one.
Inch by inch, I put distance between my feet until a tiny sliver of a gap finally appeared between my thighs. There it is! Only . . . I think the gap is supposed to be there when my feet are touching each other, not when they are six inches apart, or it doesn’t count as a thigh gap.
I started to mentally run through a list of exercises I could do to make this thigh gap happen: Thighmaster (do they even sell this anymore?), leg lifts, attaching weights to my legs . . . wait, what am I doing, stop this!
Admittedly, there was a time when I might have really tried to lose weight to get my thighs to the shape where there would be a gap in between them even if it isn’t really possible for someone with my body type. Still, I would have felt like I wasn’t “good enough” otherwise—attaching my sense of worth to someone else’s ideal of what is desirable.
But what exactly is an “ideal” except for an idea with a letter “L” attached to the end of it? Something like this “thigh gap”—an idea that someone came up with in his/her own mind—isn’t real unless we all buy into it and make it so.
A few days ago I stumbled upon an Upworthy story on Facebook. In it there was this video about the man in Venezuela who is responsible for cultivating the nation’s beauty queens. The problem is that his standard for what is beautiful is so unrealistic that no one can achieve it—not the candidates, not even the nation’s mannequins—without undergoing mass reconstruction.
Even this man admits his ideal of beauty is straight out of his head and not based on anything else. So I wonder, what happens if he changes his mind and decides that short, small-breasted, and flat-assed women are next year’s new beauty standard? Will all these women and mannequins go under the knife yet again?
What happens if someone else takes over his job and this person has a preference for big feet and bone-thin arms and belly buttons that stick out? What if whoever came up with thigh gaps this year decides next year that women and girls are more attractive if their teeth don’t touch when they open their mouths to smile? Will the annual number of oral surgeon visits rise?
I once dated a guy who wanted me to get plastic surgery so that my nose wouldn’t bump out on top. I have the nose that I have because of my mother, who has the same type of nose—and in the Philippines, our noses are considered closer to the idealized shape than the more typical, “flatter” noses. (It seems to me the prerequisite for any standard of beauty is that only a small minority of the population is born that way—everyone else needs to undergo surgery. More profitable, I suppose.)
But this boyfriend of mine, who wasn’t from the Philippines, had a different idea of beauty. “If you just get a nose job, you’ll look perfect,” he assured me. I think it’s because he couldn’t stand his mother, whose nose resembled mine.
Can we please revolt against these made up trends and standards? We can start by simply ignoring them. They only have power over us because we give our power to them. Take our power back, and perfect abs and thigh gaps are just idea_s of beauty (no letter “L”) that exist only in someone’s mind and not at all in reality. Now that’s the kind of gap I’d really like to see.
Love this article. As we have been working with our clients, this trend has surfaced time and time again. Getting them to think about their own idea_s of beauty has been challenging but inspiring at the same time. I look forward to sharing this with them and hearing their thoughts.
Thank you! It sounds like your work with the girls is very important. I’d love to hear if sharing this creates a shift for them.
I will definitely let you know.
Wow – what a disturbing video and what an insightful article. Thank you for sharing, Diahann! Reminded me of the Marilyn Monroe days when a size 8 was considered beautiful. I hope we get back there someday. I’m with you – it starts with us! And I hope you put that boyfriend in his place! 😉
Thank you, Kelli! I hope we get back there someday too- it’s so crazy how these trends get started and then everyone buys into them… like the story about the Emperor with his “new” clothes.
This is about as ridiculous a thing (actually, things) as I’ve ever heard. Thank you for pointing out how ridiculous our culture is in telling us what the “in” thing for beauty is. If only everyone had your perspective…
Thanks, Michael! I really feel like understanding what goes on behind all the trends and standards is a first step in not letting it affect us… I know it is for me.
I’ve never heard of the thigh gap, and I don’t even have to look at my thighs to know I don’t have one. I’m not worried about it, however. This is not to say that I don’t worry about the appearance of my legs because unfortunately I do. But what I worry about is the ugly veins that started popping out on my legs in my late 30’s. It’s genetic, my sister has them too. Sometimes I think about having surgery to remove them, but I’m frightened to go under the knife. And how much happier will the surgery really make me? Probably not much happier. You always write great, thought-provoking posts chica. 🙂
Thank you Celeste!!
I agree w/ you about being too scared to go under any knife- 🙂 – and that it definitely is not going to lead to more happiness. It’s amazing how women and girls can always find something about their bodies to pick on– I was able to not get swayed by the thigh gap but found something else about my thighs not to like when I was staring at them… and had to snap myself out of that one too. (Btw-we selected two of the recipes you suggested-Meatless meatloaf and the squash/pumpkin soup… you and my bf are blog friends also– Happy Thanksgiving!
That video – wow. I’m so grateful that charming guy took the time to let us know what ‘beauty’ really is – now we can all just cut ourselves up accordingly ;-). I’m looking forward to living in a world where peoples’ spirits are no longer bound up by the pursuit of such illusory idea(l)s. Thanks for this post Diahann.
Cat! 🙂 Me too! I’m thinking of all the creative energy that is going to get freed up when that happens.
I have to add that you touched on something huge (pun intended, in light of body parts). So much of what we favor and repudiate is projection and/or a filter of our own experiences. Meaning, the nose issue your bf had was not personal – bingo: it took him to his mother.
Yes, Diana! I wasn’t aware of that at the time… that it was his own projections/filters cuz it felt so personal. What a different relationship it would have been if both he and I could have seen that.
The thigh gap obsession is really sad and unfortunate, and that’s coming from a personal trainer. I’m a big fan of Jen sinkler’ work- she’s a blogger and fitness enthusiast encouraging women to be strong. She started a Close the Thigh Gap campaign on Twitter that is really awesome. The info is here on her site, you would probably enjoy her work, too! http://www.jensinkler.com/close-thigh-gap/
Thank you, I will check her out! I love that she started a Close the Thigh Gap campaign. I’m all for it. 🙂
THANK YOU. I’ve always felt embarrassed for not having this “thigh gap” but even at my skinniest I never had it, its just not how my legs are shaped I think. You are right, these standards lose their power once we stop giving them priority and preference- its the single most powerful act of taking back our power that we as women can do.
Yes, Aisha! I love how you describe it as an act of power because it really is. I feel liberated knowing that whatever standard I’ve been judging myself in is just someone else’s idea and not a real ideal. Thanks for reading and commenting.
Wow…that video is really an eye-opener. What’s disturbing is that it’s the ideal of a man. How come we give men so much power? And what about his body parts? It’s a double standard. Men are perfect as they are (grey hair makes a man distinguished while on a woman it makes her look old). What ever happened to beauty is in the eyes of the beholder? Or an older woman is beautiful because she is wiser. What is also disturbing is that so many of these women are young and are dissatisfied with their bodies. This kind of propaganda leads to women’s lack of self esteem which in turn makes them more vulnerable to be controlled.
I agree, Carol! I especially think it’s ironic that as women get older and they have more substance to them they get messages from society that they might be less appealing because they’ve dared to age. I’d rather date the me I am today than who I was in my 20’s :).
I wonder if that boyfriend of yours thought he was perfect, Or thought he needed plastic surgery himself. I’m guessing there’s a double standard here. He doesn’t need any work but the women he dates do.
These crazy notions that everyone must look the same– And like an impossible ideal–tend to arise from advertising and pornography. Advertising is motivated by getting you to feel bad about yourself so that you will buy stuff to look like THAT. In porn, men will keep coming back if they can’t get THAT in real life. It’s all about sales. (The porn industry was the first to start with enormous boob jobs.)
I didn’t know that about the porn industry “inventing” the giant boob jobs. It’s crazy- trying to turn women into “fantasy figures” for sexual entertainment, which simultaneously dehumanizes them while viewers get to watch them from a distance rather than engage with the fullness and expansiveness of the real women. Thanks for the tweet, btw!
Ridiculous. We women need to stick together and end all this nonsense. Love your blog. Looking forward to reading more of your posts!
Agreed, Marcia & Thank you! I love your blog, too 🙂 What a great theme.
this is so great, i’m glad you didn’t get the nose job what a rotten man! the ‘thigh gap’ ideal is very prevalent in the eating disordered community and it’s so sad to watch.
my idea_ of beauty is body positivity and peace and the self assurance to call oneself beautiful and believe it.
Thank you! Your idea_ of beauty is a great one. I wish that for all women and girls this holiday season… wouldn’t that be an amazing collective transformation!
[…] I Think I Found My Thigh Gap […]
So because you don’t have societies ideal body, that means that it isn’t okay for other people to want that body type or even work to obtain it? This may be empowering to those who are overweight and don’t care, but for those who actually care about their bodies, this is extremely offensive. Every body type is okay, not just the abnormal types. Skinny is pretty and healthier than overweight!
Not at all! I’m just saying that there are certain standards I am choosing not to aspire to because they are impossible for most of us-me, specifically, to obtain. And I agree- every body type is okay-more than okay even. And I think every woman has the right to want what she wants for herself and take care of her body in the way that feels most honoring to her.
I love this! I completely agree; these standards are silly. Some women will never not have a thigh gap and some women (like me!) will seriously never have one. It’s an unrealistic standard of beauty. I’ve also blogged on the subject. 🙂 http://tayloryates.wordpress.com/2014/01/14/the-thigh-gap/
Thanks for reading, Taylor. Loved your post on the topic, too.
“They only have power over us because we give our power to them.”
Very well said. Much too often, people seem to think that they’re powerless compared to those setting trends or dictating what’s beautiful or not. They say they feel pressure because society says this or that is hot, and this or that is not. But really, in the end the important thing is how you perceive yourself. It all comes down to what you choose to do with the info being given to you. Do you want to give your power to the trendsetters or not? It isn’t always easy to free yourself from the ideals but i think we all owe it to ourselves to try our best to ignore them. Of course, if we feel good following an ideal then we should do that, but if it makes us feel bad- why stick to it? It’s not OK to bully ourselves just because we don’t fit into someone else’s narrow ideal of a beautiful woman. Or a man, for that matter.
Hi Lili, thank you. This was a real big aha for me- that I was the one giving the “ideal shapers” out there their power. If we don’t listen they are out of a job. And totally agree- the choice is ours whether we decide to accept an ideal or not.
First off, why does anyone listen to that man.. his ideas are no more unique than his obviously altered face. Second, I have to admit that the thigh gap idea(l) got me two years ago. I ate so clean my shit would squeak when it came out. It took me until recently to differentiate between working out to feel good, and working out to be ‘pretty’. You’re so right about the power we as females, and society in general, give to these unhealthy images. The more we endorse it, the further it will grow. In short, love thy thigh gap. Wonderful post& clean honest writing. I’m enjoying looking through your archives :). As a women studies minor it’s refreshing since I don’t get to explore these issues much abroad. Much blog love!!!
Thank you! I think it’s awesome that you have worked out the difference between working out to feel good and to meet an ideal. That’s something I recently started to feel into too- now if I feel like the need to go exercise is from a place of self-objectification- I don’t go- but if it’s to feel great, be healthy, be fit, have great energy, move my body, love the way I look for me- then off to work out I go. And yes, love thy thigh gap! 🙂
Powerful: ideal is an idea with the letter l attached to the end of it. I love playing with words, and this one amuses me greatly.
How true: the standard for beauty is that a tiny minority of people are born that way. Most aren’t even born that way, nor do they actually look that way. Surely you’ve seen the videos of model makeovers, using software like Photoshop. I’ll send one to you that has been circulating amongst my friends lately.
Hooray for people who encourage people to express their own creativity and preferences, rather than emulate what is considered popular. I do this with my kids, and marvel at their beauty.
I couldn’t find you at google+. Can you access the video here? https://plus.google.com/u/0/+CraigChamberlin/posts/2eevwbxAHCS
Yes! Thanks. I’ve seen this before- and it’s really powerful.
I think it’s marvelous that you instill uniqueness and embracing what’s innately wonderful about them in your kids– your voice will be whispering in their ear throughout their lifetime, so what a wonderful affirmation to constantly be buzzing about in their heads.
I definitely appreciate the man in the video -hearing him say where he was coming from in coming up with his ideals, I thought- wow- to think about how many times I have given up my own ideas to match someone else’s made up ideal!
I started growing up with lots of rules and attempts at perfection. Then, as a teen, I was immersed in a culture of nurturance. When I had kids, I knew that I would know how to raise them when they became teens, and looked forward to those years. Now that those times have passed, I trust myself to continue seeking who they are (what they like, want and feel) and supporting that.
Idea…ideal… great to ponder and apply in my life. Thanks
Very well written – I must admit that I had never given “gaps between the thighs” a thought until a female friend told me about them and their signals – I am convinced that women pushing each other as men pushing each other – the comments we weigh most on clothing, body image and other thing – it’s related to the same sex – women want to impress other women and we men want to impress other men – a kind of struggle for position directly between persons of the same sex and thus indirectly related to persons of the other sex – the skinny women “clothes racks” are women’s ideals of women and the big “male training steaks” are men’s ideals of men – of course everything isn’t black white, but I am convinced that the main battle is between the same sex among themselves – but of course some of it is indirectly for impress the opposite sex too – it is a relief to meet people (both women and men) who don’t care and “just” are themselves… 🙂
By the way, there’s nothing wromg about your nose… 😎
I find great pleasure in reading your posts – very thoughtful… 🙂
Thank you, Drake 🙂 I agree that sometimes women (or men) worry that a certain body part they think matters so much to the opposite sex when the latter hasn’t even thought of it. I have yet to meet a guy who even knew (or cared) what a thigh gap was. A I don’t even know what a “training steak” is. I’m glad you enjoy my posts. I really enjoy your photos w/ your unique insights too.
Bravo for sharing your awareness! These fads are as fickle as the weather, and doesn’t mean anything that really counts. Who makes up these arbitrary rules anyway? I find them all silly and immature. If women want to exercise for fitness and health, that’s fine but “thigh gaps” are mostly determined by genetics. If your body type happens to be ectomorph, then it’s easier to obtain, if endomorph then it’s nearly impossible. But that doesn’t mean one body type is “naturally” more beautiful or attractive because of any given feature. Thigh gaps are only one feature of the whole package, and that’s only physical! From this perspective, how much importance should we attribute it? Enough said.
Thank you. Yes, it is so liberating to know that these are just fads and not truth, which can feel like it without the awareness. That is really interesting about the ectomorph/endomorph reference, I will have to look into that. I really appreciate what you’ve added to the conversation here. 🙂