Society needs to rewire thinking on thin

If you’re a woman working in corporate America, you’ve probably heard of the wage gap. If you’re a parent living with expressions such as “adorbs” and “bestie” on a daily basis, you’re familiar with the generation gap. And, if you’ve ever seen David Letterman or Madonna flash a smile, you’ve been exposed to a tooth gap.

But have you heard of the thigh gap? It’s raising alarm as the new body-image obsession among young women. The thing is, it’s not new at all, and the alarm is pointed in the wrong direction.

The thigh gap is that space created between two thighs when the owner of those thighs is very thin. Young girls, and women with young-girl minds, have been obsessing over it for ages. Therapists and model Robyn Lawley, who wrote about it in the Huffington Post earlier this week, have been quick to note this through statistics and personal experience, respectively.

But, it’s much simpler than that. Anyone who grew up in America, where swimsuit models decorate everything from new cars to boxing matches to sports magazines, knows about the thigh gap. Even if he or she doesn’t know about the thigh gap.

Remember the Thighmaster? “Squeeze, squeeze your way to shapely hips and thighs.” Suzanne Somers was selling the thigh gap. Jane Fonda before her, with her leg warmers and “feel the burn” motto, was selling the thigh gap. The friend who, after third period, slipped you those pills that helped you fit into your prom dress was selling the thigh gap.

The thigh gap isn’t about thighs; it’s about an unhealthy fixation with being skinny. And what girl doesn’t want to be skinny? Well, in a time that hails Kim Kardashian and Beyonce as ultimate sex symbols, it turns out a lot of them. Although half the impressionable young women in this country strive for cutting clavicles and gaping gams, the other half is Googling “butt implants.”

It doesn’t matter what shape it takes, society will find a way to push an unrealistic body standard on young women. And, if they have too much time on their hands and too little esteem in their selves, they will buy into it.

Is it alarming that there’s a “thinspiration” movement on Tumblr and Pinterest, where protruding hip bones are considered motivation? Absolutely. Even more alarming, is the mindset responsible for the endless scrolling, excessive exercising and insufficient eating.

Imagine all that could be accomplished if these girls re-evaluated their “goals.” If thigh gaps were replaced with athletic scholarships, or ample backsides were replaced with superior SAT scores, we could have a lot more successful, confident women in this country.

Dove is doing an outstanding job of fighting the unattainable standards cha-ching’d by Cosmopolitan magazine, Victoria’s Secret ads and all the Mean Girls in the schoolyard, but no matter how many “love yourself” campaigns it launches, it’s simply outnumbered.

There’s a reason 46 percent of 9- to 11-year-olds are “sometimes” or “very often” on diets, and 35 to 57 percent of adolescent girls engage in crash dieting, fasting and self-induced vomiting, according to the National Eating Disorders Association. They are consistently told their value is measured in pounds, dress sizes and thigh gaps.

So, how can they get a different message and from whom? It starts where most things start, at the beginning.

We need to stop telling little girls they are our sweet princesses. We need to start commending the smart women we see on TV, not for the new hairdo they’re rocking, but for the fact they’re smart.

We need to find adjectives other than “cute” and “pretty” to compliment little girls. Brave, strong and intelligent are fine ones with which to start.

It takes a brave girl to tell her friends a thigh-gap obsession is silly. A strong girl will see the Pinterest images with messages such as “skip dinner, be thinner” and “I’m hungry, but I’m hot” as pathetic attempts at stealing her self-worth. And, an intelligent girl won’t waste her time on goals that benefit an image-obsessed society more than her own future.

Contact Xazmin Garza at startswithanx@yahoo.com. Follow her on Twitter @startswithanx.