The Skinny on the Thigh Gap

Mannequins with jeans(Source: Lion Hirth @Wikimedia, CC BY-SA 3.0)

My latest article for Busan Haps, on (mostly) US teenage girls’ latest body image obsession, and why, to my great dismay, they themselves prove to be largely responsible for its success. Researching it taught me a lot about how people negotiate the messages about body image perpetuated by the media — read: never assume any groups are simply passive consumers — and how crucial it is to examine the role of social media to understand body image in 2015.

Also, I mention that, in December, the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority forced Urban Outfitters to remove a photo of a model with a thigh gap; since writing, France’s Parliament has also moved to make it a crime to use models below a certain BMI. I’m still not convinced that demonizing one body type (or part) is necessarily the answer though.

What do you think? Please let me know in the comments, either here or in the article.

3 thoughts on “The Skinny on the Thigh Gap

  1. What I find very interesting about this body shaming trend is that it is completely driven by women. It’s totally self imposed. Unlike many other standards women may feel pressure to adhere to like larger breasts and butts, thigh gap is all about self hate. A standard of thinness largely unattainable for most. Men simply don’t care. Some even find it unattractive. Sure the fashion industry and the internet bares the lion’s share of responsibility for helping this trend grow to dangerous levels but it’s been around a long time. I can remember being 15 over 40 years ago and hating my thighs. I hated the way my shorts rode up between them. Hated that they were the only spot on my teenage body that I could not seem to change regardless of diet and exercise. It wasn’t until later around 18 or so that I discovered them to be an asset. I noticed then that certain men didn’t fixate on my boobs. (I was a nice solid c cup in those days.) They liked my thighs. Yes it would be wonderful to have my glorious 18 to 25 year old body back. I certainly wouldn’t be so critical of it if given the chance. I’m not sure if I would have tortured it and covered it so much out of shame and embarrassment. Hell, I know I wouldn’t. I had a good body but I seemed to be the only one who didn’t know it.


    1. Thanks for your comment. And I’m intrigued by your comment that the trend existed over 40 years ago. Do you mean specifically a thigh gap? (Although I’m sure it would have had a different name back then, or none at all.) Or something else?

      Either way, I hear you about wanting one’s youthful body back. When university students ask me in my presentations about what they can do to combat the negative body-image messages perpetuated by the media, one thing I tell them is that it helps to know just how amazing they look at that age, even if they’re just wearing a cheap t-shirt and jeans. Most just nod politely of course, not really believing me, and won’t appreciate what I said until they’re much older. But I like to think I get through to some.


      1. I can’t remember that we had a specific name for it in the 70s. I just know two of my skinny girlfriends had it and I didn’t. I however, had boobs and they didn’t which made me their source of envy. See how it works? As for your students, they can’t relate because they aren’t comparing themselves to old people. They’re coveting what other young people have and what the media tells them. It’s like saying people in the US don’t live in poverty because we don’t have slums like India and Bangladesh. I hope you’ve realized the futility of trying to get young people to pay attention to you. For them we largely don’t exist except for the burdens we may place on them as teachers and parents and for our usefulness as their financiers. My kids love me because I’m not nearly as out of touch as most parents but they still think I’m lame most of the time.


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