The Thigh Gap Obsession

by Austin

Without over thinking it imagine what you think a typical American woman should look like? If you’re living in the 21st century, a female most likely was pictured in your head as probably young, with blonde or brunette hair, wearing very little clothing, and tall and skinny with an enormous thigh gap. In today’s society if you don’t have a thigh gap you’re considered “fat,” and it has become a social norm that women and girls will go to great lengths just to fit in on this new unattainable fad.

“Thigh Gaps” have recently caused an increase in eating disorders and a change in women’s self-esteem1. But why do we think this way? Why do we as Americans never consider what it means to be beautiful in the eyes of others? In many different countries people view beauty as something different. If we asked someone in Italy to tell us about a woman they considered being beautiful they wouldn’t even consider a thigh gap; whereas, in Japan a thigh gap would be considered along with porcelain-like skin2.

Categories of identity help to explain this crazy phenomenon. Similar characteristics that each country shares differ from region to region. Different characteristics are valued and ranked through society. But no matter how different people are from having a thigh gap to having their thighs overlap they still remain equally human. According to Boasian Cultural Anthropology, anthropologists look at culture holistically3. If we were to look at this topic from a cultural relativist perspective, we would see thigh gaps as equally meaningful and all equally valid reasons that certain features contribute to their society. Salvage ethnography would be used to record what people’s ideas of beauty look like at specific times and record them before they change in order to see if there was any diffusion of beauty from country to country3. Over time people’s views change, and in the 22nd century who knows what will be expected of the average American, Italian, African, etc.

Geertz’s symbolic and interpretive theory would say the meaning of structures and institutions make culture, and how people behave when it comes to beauty allows us to interpret culture3. Our minds are socially and culturally constructed allowing us to decide the meaning of beauty, which fluctuates depending on the region we are from. As simplistic human beings we don’t look deep enough into the thick description. Thick description and deep play dig deep into the idea of thigh gaps and their meaning to people of different cultures and how cultures like a text, is open to different interpretations3. We don’t look deep enough into the background and the meaning of different body types to different people around the world and the change that’s soon to come. Who knows, something you see as ugly in the mirror could be a sign of great beauty just 1000 miles away from you.

 

1 Press, Associated. “‘These Things Have Taken on a Life of Their Own’: Eating Disorder Experts Slam Social Media for Fueling Dangerous ‘thigh Gap’ Trend in Teenage Girls.” Mail Online. Associated Newspapers, 04 Oct. 2013. Web. 17 Sept. 2015.

2 “Women’s Ideal Body Types Around The World.” BuzzFeed. Buzzfeed, 29 Aug. 2015. Web. 17 Sept. 2015.

3Lecture, Professor Carole McGranahan, ANTH 2100 Frontiers of Cultural Anthropology,12 September 2015

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55 Responses to The Thigh Gap Obsession

  1. Logan English says:

    I think this is super interesting and I agree with most of what was said about thigh gaps in American society. I did a similar topic on the “ideal woman” across cultures and had similar findings about Japan and other cultures valuing much different qualities. However, I think in the US, the “thigh gap” obsession is already changing significantly and almost going away. I’m sure many women today would agree that a thigh gap is something they don’t aim for anymore. -Logan English

    • Kei-Lynn Swindle says:

      I think you bring up an interesting point here that the thigh gap is not much of an obsession anymore. However, is that true for men as well as women? I don’t believe that the thigh gap is something that a man thinks about when determining if a woman is attractive. Does the woman think about it as being attractive or unattractive for herself though? When doing some research on this topic I even came across a website called thighgaphack.com ( http://thighgaphack.com/9-reasons-women-want-a-thigh-gap/ ) to counter this i found a buzzfeed video on men’s opinion of the thigh gap ( http://www.buzzfeed.com/lindabarsi/men-say-what-they-secretly-think-about-thigh-gaps#.ccRqv5DEO ).One interpretation says that women should desire a thigh gap because men think that it is “hot” while the men in the buzzfeed video can’t even recall if the women they have dated had a thigh gap. This begs the question do men need to be more vocal about their thoughts on a thigh gap or do women just need to stop obsessing over something so trivial?

      • Audrianna Bobo says:

        I think something that could possibily derived from this and the essay is that the idea of a “thigh gap” is something that people have created as a standard for beauty in American culutre. Where did this standard of attractiveness come from if men (or partners) are saying that they can’t even recall if someone they dated met this “standard” of having a thigh gap. If this standard is internal for a woman and directly relates to self-esteem, how was it decided or suggested that a thigh gap is a postitve physical standard that should increase self-confidence? The speculation on this topic, and even the statment that it is diminishing makes me wonder why and how it even came to be significant in the first place. It’s interesting how something that seemed so prevelant recently in our society, already seems to be fading away.

      • Amber Dombroski says:

        I think a lot of the “thigh gap” problem is that often girls aren’t even doing it to please men, but rather they are blindly following the trend because society has trained them to hate themselves unless they look like the girls in magazines. This entire trend could be more of a self-loathing issue than a “look this way to please men” issue. While men may say they don’t care, girls will continue to harm themselves in order to get the look, but why? Even if the men don’t care the girl will still look in the mirror and feel insecure because society has programmed female brains to think that way, to be unhappy with ourselves. I think the solution to this problem isn’t realizing that men don’t care, but rather learning to love ourselves first, just how we are.

    • Maya Heath says:

      I definitely agree that this topic of “having a thigh gap”, is disappearing slowly in our culture today. Although, I still believe there are plenty of girls that still struggle with their body image and although today’s fad might not be thigh gaps, I think it’s still something that doesn’t promote a good healthy lifestyle.-Maya Heath

      • Sam Freund says:

        I agree with you that it is disappearing as well. I think structural functionalism does a good job of dealing with changes in cultures such as this, how would one with a background in structural functionalism explain this?

      • Sam Freund says:

        Do you think a cultural evolutionary would view the “thigh gap obsession” as a more or less evolved aspect of society?

    • Alexander Billing says:

      The interesting bit of this for me is how fast this became a fad and how quickly it is already fading. It makes me think about how we can identity the next body image fad and possibly resist it if it can possibly lead to people being unhealthy as to achieve the image.

    • katemccort says:

      The thigh gap is not a huge thing in the media like it was a couple years ago. However if it is not the thigh gap it is something else that pressures women to change something about themselves- usually regarding weight- to become that “ideal woman”. I recently read an article online about what the ideal woman looks like to men and woman, whether she has “Megan Fox’s face” or “Emma Watson’s hips” it is always going to be something overly perfect to strive towards. The facts are women are born with a body type which is difficult to adjust, and no one is ever completely satisfied with what they have, not just in their physical appearance but in most things in our culture. It’s like the saying “the grass is always greener on the other side”, there’s always going to be something that you want that is unattainable.

  2. Paul Fox says:

    Though this argument about thigh gaps is so specific to one part of the body, it illustrates how unique each culture’s values are. I love this “Thigh Gap” topic because it is so relevant to american culture, but not many others. This topic gives us perspective on the rest of the world’s attitude on what being attractive truly means.

  3. Patrick Ingram says:

    I agree with Paul, the topic of the “Thigh Gap” is a really big thing in american culture, a lot of women are doing a lot of different things to their body to try to obtain the “thigh gaps” and even though cultures around the world may not see this as a desirable look, they still do many things to their bodies to reach their cultures ideal view of beauty. For example many people in the pacific south west will tattoo/ brand their faces to reach their cultures view of beauty. People do crazy things to achieve social excepted attractiveness all of the place not just in The United States.

  4. mia cupidro says:

    it’s pretty ridiculous that such a specific, strange part of the body could be targeted and obsessed over so much. I don’t necessarily think of a thigh gap as an actual marker of physical attractiveness. I don’t think people fantasize about thigh gaps or necessarily admire how big your thigh gap really is, but instead the thigh gap itself can be seen as more of a symbol of our obsession with upholding the latest beauty and body trends, no matter what they are or what lengths it takes to achieve them.

    In popular American culture we place a really high standard on bodies, fitness, and health in reference to beauty. This can manifest it self in so many different ways, including the thigh gap, 8 pack abs for men, the Atkins carb-free diet fad, kankles, muffin-tops and I could probably go on forever. So I would say that a thigh gap doesn’t place any importance on the thighs per se, but speaks to a higher power of media, beauty, and so on.

    I would also like to comment that I think a lot of women/girls who fall into this fad can see its’ ridiculousness, but are still blinded and almost overpowered by a subconscious communal-like pressure set by this “standard,” more of a “yeah this is stupid but everyone’s doing it” kinda thing.

    • Amber Dombroski says:

      I absolutely agree with your last comment that many girls realize this “thigh gap” obsession is ridiculous but still take part in it anyways and have known many girls who strive to conform even if it isn’t necessary. American culture has almost trained us to follow the crowd, even if they are headed off the edge of a cliff. I think that our culture has removed a lot of independent thinking and coaxed us into a lazier lifestyle of following and conforming. It almost seems as though we have gone backwards in evolution and are no longer being independent and creative beings who think for themselves but rather becoming a single brainwashed mass. I echo Sam’s question above in wondering what a cultural evolutionary would think of this?

  5. Anne Poirot says:

    I think this is a good opportunity to engage with Structuralism per Levi-Strauss. Although different cultures may engage with beauty differently, the aspect of being “ugly” versus “beautiful” is very prevalent in every society, as attractiveness is what maintains social order and leads to reproduction (at least in a very basic sense of the process). These are things which all societies seem to share and engage with in one form or another. This underlying form and pattern may be related back to Levi-Strauss’ ideas on binary opposition and continuous themes which can be said to somewhat universally apply to the undertone of every society.

  6. Francesca DeCarlo says:

    The ‘Thigh Gap Obsession” as part of a Categories of Identity perspective is a great start in this article. A next step may be to look at how these symbols of beauty change across not only space, but time. At various times in history, one’s weight and overall appearance was also subjective to how wealthy they were and thus, their particular position in society. Another important distinction that has come up in these comments is the difference in perspectives of beauty between women and men. I think it is fair to say that the majority of women in modern, Western society desire to be some variation of ‘thin.’ For men however, there is not such singular taste; some like women who are ‘curvy,’ and some like girls with more muscular bodies. Some of them prefer women with bigger breasts, and others prefer women with–for lack of a better term–butts. I have often heard guys of my age group say, “yeah she’s pretty and everything, but she’s way too skinny. It’s gross.”
    If we are to look at this subject and how it changes relative to time, culture, and society, we must not forget to look at gender as a contributing factor.

  7. Justin Wheaton says:

    Have thigh gaps ever been a ‘thing’? I mean, have regular men ever really cared if a woman has a thigh gap? We know that almost everything that is considered ‘beautiful’ comes from the media. I have never heard any man ever, myself included, ever talk about a thigh gap. If I have heard something it’s from the media. If women care about a thigh gap it is because the media told them that a ‘no thigh gap’ look is what men look for. I think what you are using to define what Americans think beauty is is nothing more than what the media wants women to look like. I don’t think any man that you talk too will care or even notice if a girl has a thigh gap.

    • Kelsey Krutsinger says:

      I don’t think the point should be “do men care,” because that’s really centric on defining beauty through the eyes of a man. You are basing your definition of beauty in society, not as how we as women define it for each other, but on how men perceive women. I think your comment on how its being defined by the media, which is our most prevalent and outspoken form of societal thought. In American society, men (“regular men”) do not define what is beautiful, but rather the media, and even more basically, those who control what is being published in the media, define what beauty is. One of the on going phenomena being pushed around media is the ‘thigh gap.’

  8. BethanyA says:

    I think the point is that the media creates the appearance of the norm and women are told they should value it, and eventually men are then expected to care about something they wouldn’t have otherwise thought about. This is a reoccurring pattern following many ‘things’ through history. In a society that appreciates physical beauty as a major identity vs. honesty, modesty, or bravery, there is pressure on women to fulfill standards they think are being put on them, weather or not individual men actually care or notice.

    • Amber Williams says:

      Bethany, I completely agree with your comment. In fact, it reminded me of the Structural Functionalism theory. Structuralism is based on social structures and relies on positive and negative effects as tools to preserve such structures. In this case with the thigh gap, American society idolizes these things because we idolize individuals deemed “higher up” on our social structure (i.e. Victoria Secret Models). The media promotes these appearances and, in a way, dictate our social structure. Like you said, “men are then expected to care about something they wouldn’t have otherwise thought about.”

    • Nick Kelly says:

      “In a society that appreciates physical beauty…”

      How many societies do you know of where they don’t appreciate physical beauty?

  9. Laura Hiserodt says:

    I really enjoyed your essay however I believe it pertains less to American culture now than it did in the late 1900’s, where heroin chic and the sticklike, skinny body was entirely more desirable. today we see a rise of popularity with “thick” women who have large butts and busts, and a petite waste. However, the demand of skinny is still very much alive in advertisements and media, creating a society of women who deem themselves unfit in society. The attraction of the “thigh gap” is very real for women who don’t have one. I, personally have space between my thighs and am very skinny naturally, and have heard comments like “real men like curves not bones” which can be equally as insulting and upsetting when one has no control over their body type and genetics. I hope one day we will be progressive enough to see individuality as beautiful, instead of specific features and body types.

  10. Cierra Russ says:

    One way in which I personally experienced the idea of “the thigh gap” was at a previous job. When first hired at Hollister, they require a picture be taken of each new employee. I was taken to the stock room and asked to smile, but my manager also asked that I point my toes inward because “corporate says it makes legs look skinnier or something.” I did it without even really giving it a second thought, but I fed into a culture that idealizes thin women almost unconsciously.

    That being said, I don’t necessarily agree that this phenomena is still an important part of how women see themselves today and that it has recently caused an increase in eating disorders. However, I do think this concept leads into the larger issue of female self-image and the way we believe women “should” look, which is very much still an issue today. Though ideas of what the “ideal woman” should look like do in fact change, they seem to ignore the larger problem: there doesn’t need to be an “ideal woman.” Women will always have differences in body types, weight, structure, etc. and these differences must be incorporated into our general idea of beauty. Idealizing one body type will never be the answer to this issue.

    • Nick Kelly says:

      I’m pretty sure there’s always gonna be an ideal of one kind or another for beauty. Sure, this specific trend might pass, but a new one will just come along and take over. In fact, there’s a movement today called the “plus-sized,” which basically tries to take fatter women and present them as beautiful. A slogan of this movement? “Real women have curves.” This trend is now being attacked by a group called the Body Positivity Movement for “skinny-shaming.” A few years from now there’s probably gonna be some girl writing about how absurd it is for society to idealize the 200-pound woman, claiming that this media-perpetuated ideal is unhealthy and unattainable. She’ll talk about how her friends pressured her to eat more to look pretty, and how she tried going on all-fat, high-butter diets in high school because she needed to gain a few pounds by the time of the next school dance. Some teenager will take it too far and either kill herself or require extensive medical attention, the media will hype this danger to our young women, and a moral panic will arise. Doctors will go on TV and comment about the dangers of underage kids using weight-gain drugs, preachers will start talking about the sins of today’s youth, parents will panic because they heard some rumor about girls engaging in some or other dangerous practice in the hope of meeting this impossible standard, and some kind of left-wing social justice group will start talking about how these idealized images of fat girls on TV are society’s way of oppressing women. Eventually, this will catch on to the degree that society will cheer on anyone who idealizes skinny women, or who promotes female thinness. Parents will weigh their daughters nervously, encouraging them to lose a few pounds. There will be some sort of awareness campaign, where pictures of skinny women are posted under the title “real women have thigh gaps” or something like that. Someone will show pictures of anorexic models from the ’90’s, asking “when did this become more beautiful than (picture of a morbidly obese actress who’s well-known and maybe a bit extreme, even for the day)?” More and more forms of media will depart from the normative, oppressive standard of obesity, and they will be congratulated by various people for showing our young women that skinny is indeed beautiful. And so it goes.

  11. Gillian Davenport says:

    I was intrigued by the title of your essay, and I think that you applied the two theories in a comprehensive and accurate way. However, I would like to know more about the cultural and social implications of the thigh-gap phenomenon. While you briefly touched on the increase in eating disorders due to this obsession, I am curious about the affect that this obsession has had on American women and their families. Are parents aware that their daughters have such explicit ( and skewed) perceptions of beauty? Are there regions of the United States where this obsession is more frequent, or cultural hubs like suburbs vs. urban areas? Does ethnicity play a role in the need for a thigh gap? This was a very good essay that sparked many questions to be further investigated.

  12. Emma Gerona says:

    It would be interesting to also look at how societal norms influence what we think of as the perfect male and of the prevalence of male eating disorders. It would be fascinating to see what a culture and personality theorist would say about this. They might ask if people in societies with higher beauty standards have similar personalities. They’d also look at how we were raised and whether this phenomenon was a result of our child rearing. Maybe looking at the impact of say barbie dolls and other things that were a big part of many of our childhoods and brought about unrealistic beauty standards as we grew up. They might also specify that what we have come to see as a “norm” is unrealistic in terms of beauty and that it is seen as the abnormal to not have a thigh gap, even though that is not statistically true, it is what many believe.

  13. Molly Mallgraf says:

    I think Geertz’s symbolic and interpretive theory was a good approach to understanding the thigh gap in American culture. To me the thigh gap is representative of a skewed standard that has been increasingly occurring here in the United States society. Thigh gaps are extremely unrealistic for most feminine body types, and obtaining them can lead to unhealthy and sickly BMI’s, yet this is still a trend seen as desirable. The fact that thigh gaps are such a fad while being so harmful, really strongly represents how messed up our cultures ideals of beauty are. Going off of that I wonder how many Americans are openly aware that many beauty ideals are corrupt? Or how many still go about their day to day life, being bombarded by high standards they desperately want to reach?

  14. Natalia Sabadell says:

    Being a female, I know about and have personally dealt with a lot of self-image issues. The concept of the “thigh gap” just added to a long list of things women have struggled over to be confident with who they are. I agree that this obsession has come and gone quickly and I believe part of that is pop culture. Music in particular has had an impact on trying to convey the message that every person is beautiful in their own way and they should not have to try to morph themselves into a picture of “perfection”. You also pointed out that the concept of beauty differs depending on where you are, which begs the question of how people come up with these notions of what is attractive. And why was the thigh gap such an obsession if it became almost irrelevant just a short time after it emerged?

  15. Larissa Hunt says:

    You brought up a really good point about cultural diffusion of the “thigh gap obsession”. I think many countries around the world nowadays have a very americanized view of what females should look like because of the media. And even if the culture itself does not idealize that specific body type, many young people who are very caught up in the media my start idealizing the thigh gap. In a way it has already spread and diffused all over the world to anywhere that receives any kind of social media and is crossing cultural gaps to become a worldwide ideal.

    • Haley Pflum says:

      I agree! The media definitely has a big impact on people’s views of themselves and others. The pressure to have the ideal physical appearance has increased because of the constant reminders of it from social media. It may be becoming a worldwide ideal, but everywhere in the world still has their own definition of beauty. With that being said, it is interesting that the cross-cultural ideas have such a big influence on young people and cultures today.

  16. Anna Bockhaus says:

    I thought it was interesting how a portion of your essay focused on “thick description”. You make a good, that we as people don’t dive deep enough into the thick description of things. Instead of asking why a thigh gap is ideal for women, we accept it as such and strive for it. What’s popular and ideal now, is not the same as what was popular and ideal twenty years ago. Looking back at styles from the past we may laugh and think their ridiculous, but twenty years from now a new generation may look back at the thigh and think the same. What factors cause these styles and societal norms and ideals to change?

  17. This was a very well-written essay! I definitely agree that the “thigh gap” is a current trend in attaining the “perfect” female body. We have seen so many of these trends/obsessions throughout history, so it would be interesting to focus on the change that has occurred in the American view of the female body. This would be a great essay to incorporate structural functionalism, because this theory does not search for universal truths but rather accounts for change. Think back to Marilyn Monroe and her much more curvy body that showed no signs of a thigh gap. Is the thigh gap merely just a short-lived trend in current fashion? Is it possibly that in ten/twenty-five/ninety years, the American ideal women will be more similar to Marilyn Monroe?

  18. Griffin Kauvar says:

    It is interesting how “beauty” trends change over time. More interesting is how they very across cultures and groups of people. I thought it was interesting and important that you brought up the perception of “thigh gaps” by those other then the individual seeking to attain it and how cross-culturally ideas regarding “thigh gaps” are astoundingly different. Your question, “Why do we as Americans never consider what it means to be beautiful in the eyes of others?” is so important for people to remember when they look at themselves in the mirror. A lot of beauty fads I feel are less about making yourself happy for your own benefit and more about making yourself look a certain way because you believe others will like you better because you look that way and thus you will feel more fulfilled and happy as a result. The topic of “thigh gaps” and beauty trends more generally bring up the vastly important question of who are we trying to impress? I feel like in our society there is a a greater dependency on how one is perceived by others then on how one perceived themselves. You noted that, “we describe the meaning of beauty”. I think it is important that more people remember this when they look at themselves in the mirror. If you choose to be happy with how you look what anybody else thinks shouldn’t matter.

  19. Jona Block says:

    The “Thigh Gap” obsession is a great example of how cultural values change over time. This beauty trend arose in the popular media only recently, and already seems to be dissipating. If we view this through the lens of Cultural Evolution, without bias towards ethnocentrism, we see how cultures perceptions of beauty change over time. Our perceptions of beauty, among other things, are constantly changing. All cultures value beauty, and although it’s expressed differently, is in a state of flux.

  20. Izzy Reynolds says:

    I don’t think that the “thigh gap” trend is fading, at-least within my social circle it’s not. Social media still sways more advantage toward the skinny. Though beauty trends to change, being thin has been a weird social standard for women for as long as I can remember. Different cultures do pursue beauty in differential ways yet I believe all cultures hold their particular stereotype.

  21. Phoebe Holasek says:

    I also wrote about the thigh gap fad in american society but instead of comparing it to other cultures I stayed within ours and compared it to the dad bod. I like how you brought in other cultural perspectives instead of staying within a single one. You did a good job emphasizing how culturally created beauty stereotypes are and how much they can vary. I was slightly confused about the Italy comparison because when I was in Italy none of the girls I met were over 120lbs and all of them ate as little as possible (VERY LITTLE) in order to stay that way. I think a more drastic comparison (maybe to a non-western, and there fore non thigh gap influenced, culture) would have left more of an impression, but the idea of variable beauty was still made well!

  22. Seaira Lee says:

    I thought this piece was well written and it was interesting how the theories like from “Thick Description” blended into this topic of beauty. I too think that the topic of thigh gap is becoming less popular and will probably disappear in a matter of time. I found it interesting that the essay highlighted how anywhere in world there is something like the thigh gap, something that demonstrates the perfect body for women and is embedded in the cultural of that society. I liked how “we don’t look deep enough into the background” was mentioned because I don’t think we really think about the popular ideas that evolve, we merely follow along. If we thought more deeply about the aspects like this or even deiced against things like thigh gap would the cultural of beauty around the world still be the same?

  23. Greta Schock (Recitation #11) says:

    While I do find the entire idea of the “thigh gap” thought provoking, one things stands out to me that was not mentioned in the essay: the anatomy of the thigh gap. As a female of a society that reverse thigh gap-liness close to godliness, When I first discovered the idea of the thigh gap, it was due to social media outlets, such as Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter, displaying girls with thin legs and thigh gaps as a thing of beauty. In revolt to this movement, I recall my peers rejecting this beauty standard, saying that it was not up to the individual’s weight loss ability, but the size and shape of the pelvis of the individual. While these anti-thigh gap articles were posted to Facebook walls, the lack of citations to prove the link between thing gap and pelvis size made these links questionable. I believe that the question to be addressed about thigh gaps is does genetic determine the ability to have a thigh gap?

  24. I think that your topic of the “thigh gap” was a great choice! It is such an obsession in todays society here in America and I like how you mentioned how people in the world consider different certain things as a sign of great beauty. My favorite part in your essay was when you spoke about how “we don’t look deep enough in the background”. You compared culture to a text and spoke about how people in whatever society can have such different interpretations about something and I believe that this is such an important point when speaking about the body. Overall, I enjoyed your writing. it was very well written and being a female in todays society, I think your topic was a very strong choice and one that should be discussed more.

  25. Emily Lane says:

    I think this is an interesting topic that is relevant to today’s society. As others have commented, this fad doesn’t seem to be as popular as it was perhaps a couple of years ago, but I still occasionally see mentions of it on social media (particularly Facebook and Tumblr). It’s very interesting to look at beauty fads through the lens of cultural anthropology. When comparing ideals of beauty throughout various cultures, it becomes evident that each culture has their own unique idea of what it means to be physically beautiful (like you mentioned in the essay) and beauty is largely a cultural construction. I think how we view physical beauty here in America is influenced greatly by the media, much of which promotes unrealistic goals. I wish I could see more of people accepting of one another and encouraging health versus unrealistic body goals. Every one is different and just because you don’t have a “thigh gap” doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be considered beautiful or healthy.

  26. sophiesquire says:

    I thought your essay was based on a really important topic in todays society and the way you analyzed this with reference to symbolic and interpretive anthropological theories was helpful in explaining why, in different regions, ideal beauty is thought of and displayed in different ways and how culture has a huge impact on how we view beauty.

  27. Nicole Mattson says:

    I think you chose a very interesting topic and one that is very relevant to what we see happening with body image in American society today. I like how you used Bosnian Cultural Anthropology to emphasize the fact that the ideal body image is different for each society and that it is crucial to use a holistic approach to see how these ideals have changed over time and across the globe. I think using practice theory is another approach that ties in well with the two theories you used as you could look at how while our societal structures are shaping us (as in how the media portrays the ideal body image), collectively we are also all transforming these structures within our society (as is evident in the comments here mentioning how the desire for a “thigh gap” seems to actually be decreasing and we as individuals may be beginning to admire and embrace new types of body ideals, which will ultimately shift the emphasis our society and particularly media puts on these new ideals).

  28. Meryl Balusek says:

    This is a great and relevant analysis of the “thigh gap”. I hear my sisters and friends talk about it often, especially when posing for pictures. I think that it has become such a fad due to how much our society cares about social media image. I loved Austin’s point involving the symbolic and interpretive theory because look at what life was like in early European times; being pale and fat was a sign of wealth and prosperity, and being tan and skinny meant you worked a physical labor job. It is even the same today in India and other Asian countries. I think it is definitely important to remember that there is no true definition of beauty.

  29. meghan drummond says:

    This essay took the time to explore the “thigh gap” phenomenon from an anthropological perspective, which is difficult to do regarding personal appearance. In our modern society, the thigh gap is highly valued and expected, therefor it was refreshing and beneficial to see it explored in a scholarly fashion. As an anthropology major, I am extremely interested in the different priorities of beauty across the globe and exploring what cultures value what traits. You did a wonderful job beginning to investigate this topic, and it illustrates how much more there is to learn. Last year in an anthropology class I had the chance to study the difference in what is considered “attractive” to people in individualistic societies compared to those in communalistic societies. This opened my eyes to just how bizarre some of our expectations and priorities are, such as the “thigh gap” obsession that you researched. In your essay you quoted that, “how people behave when it comes to beauty allows us to interpret culture”, which I thought was a very valid point to make. As we progress through this class and any further education in the field of anthropology, I think it is important to keep the understanding that every culture has their own values, morals, standards, and ways of life regarding looks, actions, and overall every-day life.

  30. Jenna says:

    I really like the way in which you address this topic. Beauty is not static, it’s a cultural concept that is socially constructed and constantly changing. The ideal of beauty is constantly evolving. Ancient Romans believed the epitome of beauty was a fully figured and voluptuous woman, in Japan, where tiny feet are considered beautiful and feminine, women bind their feet into near deformity, in the 1990s in American culture, ‘heroin chic’ was the sought after look, in which a woman so thin she almost looked sick was considered the height of beauty. We’re in an age of photoshop and touch-ups, models who aren’t perfect are made that way via computer programming. The ‘thigh-gap’ as seen in magazines is nearly always computer generated, engineered to look like the ideal we as a society have in out heads of what a woman should be, not the reality of what women are. I believe that the ideals of beauty are changing, and that women are deciding for themselves what a beautiful woman looks like, rather than men or society making that decision.

  31. Natalie Buchholz says:

    While I think the thigh-gap is losing steam here in the US, it just illustrates the levels to which women in our nation will go in order to obtain “beauty”. It’s a shame that we feel pressured to be so slim that it would be unhealthy in individual where this does not occur naturally. Most women can’t achieve a thigh gap because they are created based on how far apart your hips are. Thigh gaps are based on personal anatomy, not fitness, so judging attractiveness/health based on that curriculum has never made sense to me. I remember a friend of mine from high school (who had an eating disorder) telling me she needed to work out to keep her thigh gap or it would go away. She once said, “I get sick when my legs rub together, I imagine I can hear the friction between them and it makes me nauseous… it’s my body telling me I’m fat and I need to quit eating for a while.”
    I love my friend, it took us years (and a professional) to get her to accept herself as she is, and even still she’s obsessed with her fitness. It breaks my heart when people strive for the impossible just to “fit in”.

  32. Juan Guevara says:

    To be honest my personal opinion of thigh gaps is neutral. I mean, if a girl naturally has a thigh gap then okay, if a girl doesn’t naturally have a thigh gap then that’s okay too. It’s crazy to think how society is is so obsessed on something so trivial. If a woman has to change her life style for the worse just to obtain a “thigh gap” it’s ridiculous. Different women have different body types and I believe beauty is in the eye of beholder, not in the perception of what is culturally beautiful, although that is not very true unfortunately,

  33. Carissa Mann says:

    The topic of this essay is very intriguing. The “thigh gap” craze has been a point of discussion for a long time but I think it goes beyond just the thigh gap itself and more towards the fad standards of beauty society imposes on women (and men) like your reference to Italian standards. I also liked how you tied in Geertz’s symbolic and interpretive theory to describe why we, as a society, have a holistic idea of beauty and that we don’t individually have very different views. These kinds of unattainable and unhealthy beauty standards are not new concepts and while the specific fad may change, they are always replaced with new ones.

  34. Donia Hanaei says:

    While your argument is absolutely true in some places and among some people, I believe that we as Americans have moved towards skinny shaming. It’s as if we cannot praise one group of people without demeaning the counter-group. So when we praise this thigh gap, it’s instantly received as a hatred of women who don’t have thigh gaps or 30 inch waists, or slim figures. And when we praise the women I just mentioned who have curves, we regard the women who don’t have these curves and do have thigh gaps as starving, sick, self absorbed. Your argument is definitely valid but I think the problem isn’t thigh gaps and the obsession particularly but the obsession and inability of American society to embrace all people and not be jaded because at one moment in time at a certain place one group is being actively praised.

  35. Elise Tomasian says:

    I found your essay very personal to me, a sentiment is shared by many of our female class mates. Throughout junior high and high school I would often stand in the mirror picking away at all the things I perceived as imperfections. I feel like this behavior is certainly the product of the society we live in. In the media, I saw a myriad of diet pills and meal plans advertised, I never saw a female actress with my body type in a serious role, and I was so overloaded by the idea that if I did not look like Jessica Simpson, I was ugly. It wasn’t until I saw a video clip of a woman in rural Africa that I started to think about myself differently. In one scene, the woman is asked by the interviewer if she likes her body. The woman looked incredibly confused by the question and needed some explanation. The interviewer offered her some examples, asking if she thought various parts of her body were wrong or if she would like them to be different. The woman responded by asking the interviewer if he liked a nearby tree. Confused, the interviewer said yes, it was a pretty tree. Then the woman asked about several other trees dotting the landscape, all of which the interviewer thought were pretty. The woman then said bodies were just like trees, no two are exactly alike and each hold their own variation of beauty. Her advice to people who did not like their bodies was “love your tree”. There will always be a norm for what any given culture deems as beautiful, however in today’s society where the media has access to nearly every moment of our lives, I feel what is considered beautiful is more deeply ingrained into our culture’s consciousness.

  36. Karina Bonds says:

    I agree that when looking at american culture through the eyes of certain media, the thigh gap obsession is a very prominent trend. However, as someone whose only interaction with twitter is following political figures, only use of facebook is to check in on what my cousins are doing, only pins crafts and harry potter jokes on pinterest, doesn’t have an instagram, and gets all my news from CNN, I had never heard about the “thigh gap” thing until my sister made a joke about it and I had her explain. While I understand that it is a very real problem with some women, I think that it is a generalization to apply it to american culture as a whole, when , in reality, it is mostly prominent with only certain generations and modes of social media exposure.

  37. The “thigh gap” controversy is very interesting considering women like me can never physically achieve this without being anorexic. I do think society’s views on beauty have changed to curvier being more beautiful, but I think it is interesting how society gets to decide what the media believes is beautiful for a specific time being. The symbolic and interpretive theory does a great job with explaining this phenomenon and how different it is for each time period and culture.

  38. Marin Anderson says:

    It’s fascinating and sickening how having a gap between your thighs determines an aspect of your self worth as a women. This thigh gap thing is now something you notice in women. You did a really great job analyzing this societal trend with those anthropological theories.

  39. Kevin Kuptz says:

    Interesting topic, definetley a topic that is as relevant in modern society as it is controversial. I thought that your exploration of beauty in other cultures, and the comparison to our own interpretation of beauty in the United States was an insightful investigation. Emphasizing the subjectivity of what is beautiful made your essay strong.

  40. Sandeep says:

    I never thought of that before. Using the thigh gap to measure beauty is absolutely horrible, it dehumanize and objectify women. I like the flow of the story you are telling and I wonder what a post structuralist or feminist would say about the increasing trend of thigh gap.

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