Fashion

10.28.13

Robyn Lawley: Why The Dangerous “Thigh Gap” Trend Makes Me Mad

A disturbing trend online encourages girls to be so thin they can see a gap between their thighs. Model Robyn Lawley reacts.

“Thinspiration” has always been a scary subject online -- when unhealty images and messages proliferated on social networks such as Pinterest, Tumblr, and Instagram are used to encourage users to be unhealthily thin.

There is now a disturbing breed of thinspiration that pressures women and girls to pursue a “thigh gap,” which is defined as the space between one's thighs. Everywhere online, users are posting aspirational pictures of thigh gaps, used as inspiration for weight loss and dieting. “I want the thigh gap. Right now, I could start a fire b/t my thighs,” one user laments on Pinterest. “No goal was ever achieved without thigh gap.”

The sad reality is that I’ve known about the “thigh gap” since I was 12—and there is nothing about this trend that’s new to me. Watching countless fashion shows as a teenager, I was unfortunately inundated with images of women and girls who had pronounced space between their thighs. The models’ legs would never come close to touching, even as they stomped down the runway. Staring down at my own thighs, I can safely say that has never been the case for me. I’m now classified as a “plus size” model in the fashion industry.

You can image my surprise when, a year ago, I was featured on a pro “thigh gap” Facebook page. The page displayed an un-retouched photo of me in lingerie. From the photograph, there appeared to be a gap between my thighs. Degrading and humiliating comments followed. I was called too “hefty” to be featured. The word “PIG” was often used to describe my appearance and my thigh gap was said to be not big enough. In the end I couldn’t keep silent, and after 900 or so comments about my body, I decided to chime in. 

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This photograph of Lawley inspired bullying on a Facebook page. (Courtesy Robyn Lawley)

After thanking those who defended my curves, I addressed those who thought it was OK to comment negatively on a girl in her lingerie. I wrote: “You sit behind a computer screen objectifying my body, judging it and insulting it, without even knowing it.” Fortunately for me, thousands of people respect my body, which means I get to travel the world advancing the ideal that healthy is beautiful and true acceptance comes from within, not from comments on a Facebook page. 

The truth is I couldn’t care less about needing a supposed “thigh gap.” It’s just another tool of manipulation that other people are trying to use to keep me from loving my body. Why would I want to starve and weaken my natural body size? I’m not saying women who have it naturally are unattractive. But I would have to change my entire frame just to achieve something that seems so trivial.

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Robyn Lawley (Gary Gershoff)

I’ve been trying to do just the opposite: I want my thighs to be bigger and stronger. I want to run faster and swim longer. I suppose we all just want different things, but women have enough pressure as it is without the added burden of achieving a “thigh gap.” 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.

We have the power to change perceptions about body image—and we have the power to stop harmful trends like the “thigh gap.”