Politics & Policy

Thigh-Gap Shaming Is Not Body-Positive

Urban Outfitter’s controversial underwear images
Spoiler alert: You're just shaming another kind of body.

Earlier this week, the U.K.’s Advertising Standards Authority directed Urban Outfitters to remove an underwear ad – claiming it was “irresponsible” and “harmful” because the model was so “unhealthily skinny” that girls might hate themselves if they saw it.

How heroic! God bless these heroes and their fight against this body-shaming culture!

But wait a second. It’s not shaming to publicly proclaim that a girl’s body is so unacceptable that even looking at pictures of  her “inner thigh gap” could harm other people? Harm them so severely that it was “irresponsible” of the company to have used it? It’s body-positive and feminist to confidently declare that you know a girl is unhealthy based on a single picture of her without any knowledge of her actual medical situation or who the hell she even is?

Are you people insane?

The media has been blasting this poor girl for her body type — even going so far as to accuse her and anyone with a body like hers of being responsible for young girls starving themselves. That’s not body-positive. That’s bullying.

I have a thigh gap. Guess what? I’m also a healthy weight for my height. I’m not disgusting or scary, and I don’t look this way because an industry oppressed me into believing that I have to. I look this way because of my body structure: thin legs and wide hips. (Yep – hip structure, not starvation, is why some women have thigh gaps. I could gain weight and still have one. Some people who weigh less than I do might not have one. Crazy, I know.)

I realize that the fact that I’m thin means that I don’t have to deal with constantly seeing models who weigh significantly less than I do. But I do have to deal with constantly hearing that my body type is the indicator of an eating disorder, the bane of teen girls’ existence, and definitely not the body of a “real woman.” Because, you know, challenging my femininity based on my body isn’t the definition of shaming.

To be clear: I am not saying that these jabs are some kind of serious problem for me. They don’t bother me — but hypocrisy does; and considering yourself a body-image hero for shaming someone’s body is as hypocritical as it gets.

— Katherine Timpf is a reporter at National Review Online.

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