‘Legs are supposed to start by touching lightly at the crotch’, she said, ‘then there should be a space…then they should touch at the knee again, then there should be another space, then they should touch at the calves, and separate at the ankles’ she concluded, all the while tracing out her words in the air as she spoke.
I immediately looked down at my legs.
Uhmm, nope. That’s not how my legs looked. At all. Fair enough I was not a small child listening to this older woman critically analyse how female legs are ‘supposed’ to look, but I was, and am, still impressionable.
If you are a woman like me, you have seen it, you have heard about it, you may have deeply thought about it and talked about it with your friends, heck, perhaps even googled it!
I’m talking about that (in)famous anatomical phenomenon popularly referred to as the ‘thigh gap’ which nearly seems to be its own fashion statement. Some women have it, others do not. Some women who have it hate it, while some who lack it, love it and desperately want it.
For a while now I have wondered when exactly we started paying attention to thigh gaps. On many occasions I have skillfully cornered my male friends into discussing it just to find out whether the thigh gap issue is pertinent to both genders. From the few I have spoken with, it appears that most men do not think about thigh gaps, or the lack thereof, at all. This is unlike some of the women I have spoken to.
So why does it bother some women as such? Just why?
Let me go back to my story. This lady was telling us how our legs were ‘supposed’ to be. We all know that African women come in different shapes, sizes and skin tones. So the need for someone to tell a room with African women how legs should be was quite irresponsible at best, and ignorant at worst.
Perhaps I was the only one who left that particular meeting feeling somewhat perplexed. This incident, which occurred years ago and introduced to me the concept of a ‘space between the thighs’, came to mind as I was pondering how to discuss thigh gaps.
We need to be respectful to nature and realize that some women will have a thigh gap due to their bone structure, while others won’t. It’s just the way it is. Who is to dictate what is beautiful?
A disturbing trend however seems to be on the increase: A sizeable number of women are feverishly searching for different ways and means of obtaining a thigh gap because they perceive it as ‘prettier’ than your average ‘touching thighs’. There are now numerous exercise routines geared at obtaining a thigh gap.
What brought us to this stage?
Sure the glossies and adverts we see every day bear a lot of blame for highlighting certain anatomical ‘preferences’, but by jumping on the bandwagon of all these trends, are we not ourselves perpetuating ‘fashionable’ fads that in the long run may be harmful to some? NB: we also need to call out these ‘beauty standard’ lies that are often subliminally superimposed upon us by the media; unfortunately some women have never realised how beautiful they are in their bodies because they never saw anyone who looked like them ever being celebrated as ‘beautiful’.
This needs to be said in a more direct way: if you’re healthy, the presence or absence of a thigh gap will not be your body’s biggest bone of contention.
Still, we may nitpick and occasionally delude ourselves into believing that we would look just that much better in that mini-skirt or those skinny jeans if we had a thigh gap. There is a choice: you can keep wishing for something that you will most probably never have (if you do not have it already) and hurt yourself more by thinking you do not look good, or you can rock your clothes and forget about it! Obviously it is not that easy, but as cliché as it sounds, we are only hurting ourselves by playing into any one-size-fits-all stereotype.
Your body structure was ordained by God, blessed by your heritage, transcribed from your genes, and here you are!
Thigh gap or no thigh gap, ‘healthy’ is what is best for your body. Every woman is a ‘real woman’, curves, thigh gap, or the lack thereof. There are some words and phrases that we all throw around carelessly on the offensive or defensive, when it comes to what ‘body group’ we may fall into. We all need to realize the effects of elevating one anatomical attribute to the point where everyone who doesn’t have it, and whom may only obtain it by unhealthy means, is reminded constantly that they are somewhat inadequate.
Fair enough, you are not responsible for the thought patterns of another woman, but you may knowingly or unknowingly stimulate a negative outlook she has on her body. This is especially dangerous today, where more than ever media and content transcends generations. Girls are listening to what women are saying, and will keep those things in their minds for a long time.
I cannot help but wonder if that lady was aware that she was talking to a room of young ladies who were hanging on to her every word. If I was to meet her again and she were to repeat those words to me, I can assure you I would challenge her now. I am not ‘supposed’ to have a thigh gap. And I like to believe I still look good in my skinny jeans, thank you very much!