OPINION: Say no to the thigh gap

Photo credit: Taylor Shanklin

The fashion industry has always had a skewed vision of what it means to be beautiful – many “plus-size” models are, in reality, thin women labeled as plus-size.

Runways are filled with women with a thigh gap, a feature growing in popularity that is almost unachievable without naturally thin genes. The thigh gap is the space between a women’s thighs while she is standing with her feet together. The fashion industry shoves skinny into the minds of women everywhere, yet we are expected to love our bodies and be comfortable in our own skin.

The average female model is 5 feet 11 inches tall and weighs 110 pounds. The average woman, who is 7 inches shorter and 30 pounds heavier, does not even come close to these standards.

On Monday, Jan. 12, Fox 4 Kansas City reported that an all-girls Catholic school in Kansas City, Missouri fell victim to this growing skinny trend after students’ school ID photos were apparently altered. Students at St. Teresa’s Academy said that their faces looked edited, airbrushed and slimmed down. Many of the students were offended by the retouches.

The alterations were made by DeCloud Studios in Overland Park. DeCloud Studios was recently acquired by the photography company Lifetouch.

“Our purpose was only to enhance and to never to change the reality of the individual, the pure natural essence of who the person is,” Kelvin Miller, Lifetouch vice president, said. “Our object is never to change that.”

Regardless of the reasoning behind the changes, the women felt hurt and confused by the alterations.

Eating disorders and low self-esteem have become epidemics in today’s culture. In the U.S., 20 million women and 10 million men will suffer from an eating disorder sometime in their life. Such eating disorders include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder. These feelings and disorders can begin as early as 6 years old, when “girls especially start to express concerns about their own weight or shape.”

Not all women, when faced with such unrealistic expectations, feel like they are not the norm. Lily O’Neill, a senior at St. Teresa’s Academy, is one of these women.

“It was really weird,” O’Neill said in a Jan. 12 Fox 4 Kansas City article about the incident. “I didn’t like how I looked like a totally different person. I definitely think the one that wasn’t Photoshopped was better.”

Point fingers all you want, but the blame falls onto the consumers’ shoulders just as much as it does on those promoting such unrealistic body images. As easy as it may be to simply blame the fashion industry, it is time for women everywhere to look in the mirror. We are picking up copies of beauty magazines and following only the skinniest and most famous models on social media outlets. If women refuse to read publications that only highlight models of a certain size, the publication would be forced to make a change.

Some women are naturally skinny, some women are naturally curvy, and some women are somewhere in the middle. It is up to the media and consumers to decide how to portray a happy medium of all body types.

Kelly Iverson is a senior in mass communications.