In case you haven’t heard, Target recently came under fire for a Photoshop mishap in one of their ads. Clearly, the editing job had aimed to give a woman dressed in a bikini an ultra-wide thigh gap; but, instead, it resulted in her being overly enhanced to the point that part of her pelvis was cut off. Bothered by this fact and enthused by an article I read, I decided to investigate body trend idealizations, like the ever-so-coveted “thigh gap” further.
Nowadays, a time when eating disorders are more prevalent than ever before and 40-60% of girls in elementary school express concern over “becoming too fat,” even celebrities and models that are widely viewed as attractive are Photoshopped in order to better fit the same ideals society tries to push upon us. Sophia Vergara’s arms have been notoriously Photoshopped in Pepsi ads; Victoria’s Secret Angels are retouched intensely, especially for thigh gaps; and the bodies of models in fashion magazines are often airbrushed. If society is telling us that a model’s physique is not good enough to be left untouched by Photoshop, then what exactly is good enough to not be left untouched by Photoshop?
The problem with idealizing body trends, like the “thigh gap” and “bikini bridges,” or having “thinspiration” boils down to the fact that they are proof pro-eating disorder messages have taken advantage of the pervasiveness of social media in our everyday lives. Clinical psychologists who specialize in eating disorders have spoken out, emphasizing that social media has increased the prevalence of body image issues and eating disorders. They have observed that social media creates competitiveness between other women and makes thinspiration sites and images “more of a problem in the sense that there is greater access to difficult and disturbing content.”
Although social media websites like Instagram, Pinterest, and Tumblr have policies in place that are meant to limit “thinspo” content, it can be difficult for the companies to closely monitor these images that are thought to promote eating disorders. For instance, a year ago, Instagram announced that it would disable “any account or hashtag found to be encouraging eating disorders.” The site, however, is still rampant with “thinspiration” images, often accompanied by pro-anorexia quotes. Likewise, Pinterest and Tumblr are filled with images idealizing “thigh gaps” and “bikini bridges.”
Even physicians note that the body trends some women may strive for, such as the infamous “thigh gap,” have more to do with a person’s bone structure than their level of thinness. Is it beneficial, then, for a girl or woman to have an icon of thinness whose body is unattainable without her harming herself through starvation or excessive exercise? It’s normal to struggle with body image issues from time to time in some form or another: I’m too tall, I’m too short, I’m too curvy, I’m too thin. But what’s important to remember is to ignore the negative thoughts and just love the body you’re in.