Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder

and I am the beholder of my own beauty...

Today I saw an article floating around my Facebook timeline about Target, "thigh gap," and how horrible they were for their ads which "promoted thigh gap." It doesn't take much common sense to guess what thigh gap is, but it wasn't a term I was familiar with. Naturally, I clicked the link to see what all the outrage was about. I was greeted with a picture of one of their ads featuring a girl in a bikini. The outrage ensuing over the use of photoshop to create a gap between her thighs. Personally, I thought the worst part of the image was her arm--that has to be photoshopped.

Anyway, looking at the photo was the first time I ever thought about "thigh gap" and as I read the comments of outrage at how unnatural it was, I began to wonder. I mean, I don't know about the average person, but I don't generally look at people's crotches let alone analyze the amount of space between their thighs. When I took a bathroom break, I took the opportunity to look in the mirror at my own thighs. Low and behold there it was, a gap between the thighs--perhaps not as large as the model above (of course I have on pants not a bikini), but there nonetheless. I stared for a second, wondering if the people outraged about the thigh gap (and not the arm--yes I'm still stuck on the arm!) would call me "unnatural." It's not something I'd sat around aspiring to have and I definitely had a cheeseburger for lunch... But being me, I quickly realized I had more important tasks to occupy my brainpower and scurried back to my desk.

Now that I'm not at my desk, I have the time to think about all the commentary on women and body image. It bothers me that so many of us are plagued with unhappiness over image. I tried to think back to my younger years, when I first became aware of my image, and what I thought about me. What did I expect to look like and how did the media influence it? Contrarily, most of what I remember in terms of comparing myself to others remained within the family. Would I be as tall as this cousin? Would my smile be as pretty as that cousin? Would I take after my mom, my aunts, my dad? I never looked at my barbie and thought, will I look like this?

Spice Girls
I remember the stars of my youth vividly. My friends and I loved the Spice Girls, we loved Destiny's Child, and so many others. From Britney Spears to Brandy, Aaliyah and Christina Aguilera, Janet Jackson and Toni Braxton. All of these entertainers were on constant repeat in my stereo. I watched their music videos on TRL and 106 and Park probably everyday. Yet, for all the protest surrounding the influence of celebrities on body image--the first time I remember comparing myself to any of them I was out of college. Again, it was in response to an article pointing out the unattainability of a particular artist's body type using terms I had never heard of...

Destiny's Child
Some people would argue my aloofness to the image portrayed by celebrities and models stems from the fact that I too am petite. I've heard the argument that if I'd worn a larger size I would be more aware. Perhaps this is true, it's hard to say, but I have my doubts. After all, body image isn't simply about being a size 0 (which I'm not), but a whole spectrum of things from eyebrows to feet... Like most girls, there were things I hated about my appearance growing up and even now I can point out the most unusual peculiarities that no one else notices. We're always hard on ourselves, but at some point very early in life, I realized that no woman fits the "ideal" media induced image of beauty. I would bet money, that even Beyonce looks in the mirror and finds something wrong with herself--after all, she's not about to do a TV interview without her make-up done, is she?

I remember having a conversation once about the hair of a particular actress in a movie. She was running through the streets sweating and all, but her hair was fabulous the whole time. But how? Because it's a movie and someone is walking behind her fixing it every two seconds... It's not real.

You see, we spend a lot of time emphasizing what we don't have, what we don't look like, and what we hate about ourselves. But what about the good things? Part of the reason I accept the things I don't like about myself--like having stretch marks even though I'm really small (who knew that was possible?)--is to counter it with something I do like about myself--I have a nice smile. The most famous quote of all time regarding beauty is that "beauty is in the eye of the beholder." Well, you are the beholder of your beauty. You are the one looking in the mirror at yourself. You define what beauty is.

We can fight from now until the end of the world over the images presented to us, and while I agree there's a lot that should be changed (really, her arm though!), at the end of the day we control how we feel about ourselves.  We as women can support each other, because let's face it, we all love hearing someone tell us how fabulous we are. Share and spread the fabulousness! People are so much more than physical beauty and even so, beauty comes in every shape, size, and color. Regardless of your size and thigh gap (gosh, that's a weird term...don't you think?), I hope you can look in the mirror and feel great about yourself, because you're pretty awesome.


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