Some of you may know that I am a parent of a 13-year-old daughter and occasionally vent about our adventures as a form of therapy. The very act of parenting is the most rewarding and difficult job that I’ve ever experienced. You never get a day off from this gig, but it’s completely worth every moment.
Even the dreadful moments when you feel as if you’ve failed as a parent.
Nearly every parent thinks their kids are perfect, and I feel the same way. My kid is whiplash smart. She’s empathetic and sensitive. She’s very athletic and towers over her classmates. She’s geeky and cool so much fun to be around. It is an honor to call her my kid. She will do great things someday. Most of the time, she really is the perfect child. She’s definitely the perfect child for me as a parent. We watch movies together. We lift weights together. We eat together. A lot. I’ve taken great care to promote a healthy body image to her. She loves being strong and wants more muscle tone so that bullies won’t mess with her. I am happy to oblige that whim.
Yet I cannot escape the inevitable: Peer pressure.
One day last week, my lovely girl bounded into the room where I was working. She had been nursing her newfound habit of staring into the mirror like teenagers do. She turned to the side and exclaimed, “Momma, look! I’m not even sucking in at all. And I have a slight thigh gap.”
I tried to hide my immediate reaction, but that was impossible. My face fell. I was crushed.
If you haven’t heard the term “thigh gap” before, then let me introduce you to this nightmare specific to the female species. Thigh gap is a phenomenon that occurs when a female stands with her feet touching; and one can observe a visible gap between her thighs. Some women are born with a thigh gap due to hip bone structure. More often, thigh gap is a goal made unattainable by anything else than starvation. My own hips are so straight-up-and-down that I will never have a thigh gap no matter what the number on the scale says. I have no issue with this. My daughter’s bone structure is very similar to my own, yet she’s somehow come to believe that a thigh gap is something she can achieve. And should achieve.
She hasn’t heard this sentiment from her family, I promise you. Where did she learn about thigh gap? At school. In the lunchroom. And on Facebook, where her school pals have linked to various Tumblrs and Pinterest boards that glorify the fabled phenomenon. If you google “thinspiration,” you’ll find out a lot about thigh gap too.
What are we to do for our daughters? There’s no parenting book to solve this dilemma. Fashion glorifies the thigh gap. Models are made to starve themselves in order to work. The problem isn’t going away anytime soon, but there may be some small spark of hope on the horizon. Here is a photo of a “plus-sized model” named Robyn Lawley. She’s 6’ tall and a size 10. She has been attacked online on pro-anorexia (a.k.a., “pro-ana”) boards for not having enough of a thigh gap. Most of us would agree that Robyn has a gorgeous body:
Robyn was criticized on the basis of this photo. Yes, this photo. Last year, she wrote a glorious essay for the Daily Beast on the subject. You should read the piece (if you’re moved to do so) because it offers insight into the fashion industry from a model who has been repeatedly told that she’s not good enough to walk the runway. Yet she fought and achieved her goals anyway. Robyn became the first “plus-sized” Ralph Lauren model, which was a bittersweet victory because the industry considers a size 10 to be a plus size. She’s an excellent model for body acceptance at all weights and sizes. Robyn also says, “The last thing I would want for my future daughter would be to starve herself because she thought a thigh gap was necessary to be deemed attractive.”
The dilemma remains. I don’t know what to do for my daughter except to continue encouraging her to be healthy and remain active while still enjoying food. Food is not the enemy. Thigh gaps are not a goal to be prized over health.
Bedhead lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She can be found at Celebitchy.