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My Daughter Does Not Need to Know About 'Thigh Gap'

Photograph by Getty Images

I think I’ve come on late to the buzz about the newest body image trend among young girls—the thigh gap. I overheard a group of women discussing it at the gym this morning, and I figured I’d better look into this troubling trend. Yes, I knew to what a thigh gap was referring, but I had no idea it was such a desired look, such a trending topic. I was blown away with the endless amounts of results I found when I simply searched “thigh gap.”

It’s an obsession among women, mostly teenage girls, with having a visible gap between the thighs when standing with knees together. Apparently a one-inch wide space achieves the goal, two inches or more really secures the desired look, however. And it seems this gap also wins status and popularity in many young girls’ eyes.

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Disturbingly, it seems that it’s becoming easier and easier for girls to develop poor self-image and insecurities about their bodies. Teen beauty ideals are getting specific. It’s not a simple worry about whether girls think they are fat or skinny anymore. No, that’s too basic. There is now an array of body conscious topics to focus on, unrealistic physical goals to be reached. You must not only be thin, you must also have a concave stomach, a bony collarbone and now a GAP BETWEEN YOUR THIGHS?!

Of course, the social pressures to be thin and beautiful were there when I was a teen. They have existed for decades. I remember reading Teen Magazine and feeling depressed that my ass was not naturally or ethnically capable of ever being Tiffani Amber Thiessen’s bubble shape. My friend and I would eventually deduce that genetics had created two ass categories: Tiffani Amber Thiessen had a perfect over-cupping ass (think J-Lo), whereas mine, not having the requisite meat, was more ready to be undercupped.

Later on, in college, I remember seeing eating disorder support group flyers posted on campus, and personally knowing several girls who struggled with anorexia and bulimia. Yes, women have been affected by unrealistic standards of beauty for years. The problem with today’s pressures to be thin, however, is that they are impossible to avoid. Social media, provides a huge platform from which images and campaigns for skinny are able to reach the youth. In fact this “Thinspiration” movement (it’s really called that) can be found all over Tumblr, Twitter and Instagram. The pressure I felt as a young girl can’t possibly compare to what this generation of girls feel today. Who would have predicted that "Thigh Gap" would have more followers than Scott Baio?

It’s about desiring to have something that is physically impossible

As I was poking around the Internet, I found several pro-thigh gap Tumbler pages complete with tips and instructions for how to get the thigh gap. One even donned diagrams showing which bone structure was more favorable and accommodating to the gap. In addition to finding that weird, I also found it interesting that this particular author pointed out to her readers that it is not physically possible for some women to have the gap, but still went on to give a long list of suggestions for achieving gap status.

And that’s the thing that stands out for me. This trend, as it affects young girls, isn’t about wanting to tone one’s arms or even shave inches off one’s waist. It’s about desiring to have something that is physically impossible if you do not have the right skeletal structure, metabolism or specific body type. For those not born with a gap, it is an unrealistic standard of beauty.

Is this any more appalling than any other beauty ideal, naturally unattainable to some, which has been put forward? Perhaps. Or maybe the booming social media world has just made it the breakout beauty trait of the year, giving it more attention than its unrealistic beauty-ideal predecessors.

What I do know is that social media is only going to keep growing in influence and reaching a younger and younger demographic. And though I don’t have a teenage daughter just yet, I will someday. It’s never too early to do my part to encourage my children—both daughter and son—to have a broader, all-accepting, healthy idea of beauty.

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As these images and trends will continue to dominate Tumblr, Instagram and the like, I hope to help build in my children such confidence and sense of self that they won’t feel the need to adopt unrealistic ideals, but instead will accept and be happy with the traits with which they were born. I want them to appreciate the beauty in knowing and owning who they are and to value that same trait in others. And I hope they can encourage their peers to do the same. Our children need to know that true beauty is found in loving yourself, with or without a gap between your thighs . . . or a Tiffani Amber Thiessen bubble ass.

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