A few months ago while in line at an eatery in the college town I call home, I overheard the female student behind me explaining to the guy she was with the concept of “thigh gap.” Until that moment I joined the guy in being blissfully unaware that there was a concept of thigh gap. But here, in line, we were both graced with a cultural anthropologist to walk us through it. She would be our sherpa up Mt. Yougottabefuckingkiddingme.
“It’s like, the body type you want where your thighs don’t touch,” she said. “Like, a girl’s legs are totally separate from each other from the knees all the way up.”
He greeted this with some unintelligible mumbling and frantic baseball cap adjustment and I didn’t envy him. Given the enthusiasm with which she explained the topic, it didn’t seem like him responding, “That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard,” was going to go over well.
I forgot all about thigh gap until something popped up in my Twitter feed yesterday that sucked me into one of those Internet rabbit hole journeys that makes pit stops at BuzzFeed (top 23 celebrity thigh gaps) and HuffingtonPost (what does thigh gap mean for Hillary 2016) and local news stations’ breathless online reports (how kids today are sexting about thigh gap). It turns out, thigh gap is very much a thing preoccupying young American women.
It wasn’t until I arrived at Pinterest and, out of morbid curiosity, searched “thigh gap” that I knew that we ultimately had only ourselves to blame. And by we, I mean women.
I’ve certainly done my feminist due diligence in the past, railing about male-dominated media forcing impossible beauty standards on us. I’ve pointed out that even though most ladymags are helmed by women editors in chief, they are still answering to a publisher who is invariably a guy. Same goes for retail commerce. J. Crew creative director Jenna Lyons may be the company’s public face for PR purposes, but the sales from the company’s thigh-gap-riddled catalog go to CEO Millard Drexler’s bottom line.
But Pinterest offers evidence that we bring this crap on ourselves.
We bring it with a forklift.
Because Pinterest is, by its very nature, self selecting. We see a picture and we pin it to indicate our support. We want to come back to it. We want to do it. We want to have it. We want to be it. It’s a chocolate cake we want to make in a mug in the microwave, or a salt covered sponge we want to use to get the mildew out of our showers. And in a lot of cases, it is apparently the gap that we want in our thighs. The conversation on Pinterest around thigh gap isn’t about aspiring to be healthy. It is a modern, female adoption of an entirely new thing about which to obsess.
With thigh gap idolization, women who are not naturally this slim (not that there’s anything wrong with that) are quite literally wishing upon themselves the eradication of themselves. Less is more.
Now, I’m around a lot of dudes all day long. And I hang out with a lot of dudes in my free time. They are not shy about sharing their opinions of women’s appearance around me. Not once, have I ever heard one of them say, “She was hot but then I realized her thighs touched at the top and that was the end of that.”
You know who may or may not have thigh gap? Beyoncé. Michelle Obama. Christine Lagarde. Sophia Loren. Melinda Gates. Jill Abramson. Melissa McCarthy. Serena Williams. Adele. Wendy Davis. Tina Fey. Scarlett Johansson.
It doesn’t matter if they do. It doesn’t matter if they don’t. Ladies, let’s get our heads out of our asses, perhaps via the gap we may or may not have between our neighboring thighs, and start focusing on what matters.
Like belly pooch.