Young women's internet-fueled obsession with the "thigh gap"—which is that thing where your thighs don't touch and therefore it's "better" (cool made-up garbage, beauty myth!)—is raising concerns among eating disorder professionals. For most women, a thigh gap is a physiological impossibility, not a goal that's attainable through some magic combination of pilates and willpower. But that doesn't stop the young women of Tumblr from fawning over one another's thigh gaps, trading tips on how to "get" one, and excoriating themselves for "failing" to achieve the unachievable.
Of course, there's nothing wrong with having a thigh gap, if that's just the way your thighs are built. And there's nothing wrong with not having one, if it's not in the cards. The danger lies in trying to violently rearrange your body, thinking that you need to be a different thing than the thing you are. (I can't recommend the body-positive Tumblr community enough—NSFW— for rebooting your concept of what women's bodies "should" look like.)
The obsessive, self-negating adulation of thigh gaps has experts worried.
"The intrusion and presence of social media in our lives really does make it very difficult," said Nancy Albus, chief executive officer of Castlewood Treatment Center, a suburban St. Louis facility that focuses on eating disorders. "The important distinction about thigh gap is it gives you an actual visual to achieve, this visual comparison of how your body does or doesn't stack up."
Vonda Wright, a Pittsburgh-based orthopedic surgeon and fitness expert, said the spacing between a person's legs is based mostly on genetics. And even extraordinarily thin people may not have a body type that can achieve a gap. You have to be both skinny and wide-hipped, she said.
Besides, Wright said, it isn't a goal worth chasing. Most fit people won't have a thigh gap because their thighs are muscular enough that they touch, she said.
"Skinny does not mean fit or muscular," said Wright, who works with Division I athletes. "I cannot think of one athlete I deal with" who has a thigh gap.
But I wouldn't want to take away your thigh gap obsession without leaving something equally arbitrary (though less destructive) in its place! I mean, people do need goals, after all. So here are a few ideas I drummed up for some new female beauty standards—ones that you can fixate on and fetishize without dying over.
Tongue weight: Eh meh gehd. Carmen Electra has some serious work to do before tongue-bikini season.
Bellybutton volume: Nothing kills the moment like reaching up for your mid-coitus emergency granola bar and discovering that she can only fit a wheat thin in there.
Eyelid girth: Thin eyelids make your eyes look fat, obv. And nobody wants to date a fat-eyes.
Curly nails: Nice straight nails, Poindexter. What are you—VP of Not Skateboarding?
Butt extensions: Yes, doctor, I'd like them longer and flappier. WHATEVER IT TAKES.