Unrealistic Standard: The ‘Thigh Gap’

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160355874If you saw a line-up of celebrities and models before and after a photo shoot, it’s likely that you wouldn’t recognize most of them.

After the crew of stylists, make-up artists and photographers have worked their magic, a dream editing team gets to work on Photoshop, the photo manipulation computer program. Maybe there’s nothing wrong with a little “touching up,” but can the art of Photoshopping go too far? Many critics say yes. Old Navy and Target have been under fire for Photoshopping thigh gaps into their plus-sized models.

In a world where weight loss goals reign supreme amongst women of all shapes and sizes, does this new beauty standard pose a danger and encourage unhealthy weight loss?

The Thigh Gap – All The Rage

So apparently it’s all the rage… but what exactly is a thigh gap? When you stand up straight with your feet together and there’s a gap between your thighs above your knee – that’s a thigh gap. Countless blogs and social media sites indicate that this gap between the thighs is upheld as a supreme beauty achievement.

In The News

Critics discovered a pair of women’s plus-sized jeans on the Old Navy website which had been pinned on the mannequins to showcase the coveted thigh gap. The product? Women’s Plus Rockstar Jeggings, which according to the company are “great for all shapes.”

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According to an Old Navy rep, “[our company strives] to show our customers the most accurate representation of how product fits the body. This includes pinning garments on body forms to show how they will actually appear.” But many are arguing that this garment would not appear this way on the vast majority of women. So why set the standard as such? Making it seem that every woman can and should have a thigh gap is dangerous precedent-setting. People are weight loss obsessed as it is.

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Old Navy wasn’t the first to  make the thigh gap part of its advertising campaigns. Target did the same – it just used Photoshop rather than mannequin-pinning. Target was criticized when retouched swimwear photos left the model’s bottom half clearly and clumsily retouched. Even more shocking perhaps is the fact that the photos were promoting “Midkinis,” a junior swimsuit line aimed at teens and young adults. How’s that for not so positive role modeling? Target ultimately apologized for what the retailer called “an unfortunate error.”

Healthy – Or Not So Healthy?

When the vast majority of people stand with their feet together, their thighs touch. A tiny percentage of people have thighs so slim that they don’t come together. 

While some naturally thin women do have a thigh gap, most women well within a healthy weight range don’t. And that’s just fine.

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Unfortunately, because the “thigh gap” has become something of a beauty standard in the world of fashion and fame, many women feel that in order to measure up, they need to slim down. For some women, this has meant setting dangerous weight loss goals. This can lead to extreme dieting and even the development of eating disorders. A desire for weight loss can become all-consuming when you’re insecure enough.

According to a 2011 University of Haifa study, adolescent girls who spent the most time using Facebook were more likely to develop a poor body image and eating disorder. Images of stick-thin women abound on blogs and social media sites.

The fact is, whether or not you have space between your thighs is predominantly based on genetic factors. Even super-thin women may not have a body type that would enable such a gap. To be “gap-prone” you have to be super thin as well as wider in the hips. Many healthy, active people can forget about the thigh gap because their thighs have enough muscle that they touch.

Our Verdict

Companies should never promote a body standard most young women will never have. And healthy models shouldn’t be Photoshopped to appear thinner than they actually are. It’s detrimental to the body image of women large, small and everywhere in between. Loving yourself should begin with taking care of your health through healthy eating and regular exercise but, once you’re living a healthy lifestyle, don’t beat yourself up for not fitting a “thigh gap” mold or any mold for that matter. 

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