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