Katrina Clarke | May 8, 2017 | CBC Life
If you’re wondering why Twitter has been flooded with photos of women flaunting their big thighs lately, look no further. It’s all thanks to #BigThighTwitter, a hashtag that took Twitter by storm in March when women started posting photos of their big thighs to the site.
“So #bigthightwitter is a thing??? My time has come,” tweeted one user alongside a photo of her sweatpant-clad thighs.
For many, it was a chance to celebrate their thick thighs, push back against pressures to have a “thigh gap” and create a public space they could feel represented in. The hashtag is part of the broader body positivity movement, which encourages people of all shapes, sizes, colours, abilities and disabilities to love their bodies.
By honing in on thighs, the hashtag is a direct response to the thigh gap craze – being thin enough to have a gap between your thighs – which became an unhealthy online obsession around 2015.
“It’s completely a response (to the thigh gap),” said Jill Andrew, the Toronto-based founder of Body Confidence Canada. “It’s an opportunity to resist the idea of what ‘good thighs’ look like.”
While there’s nothing wrong with having thin thighs, the problem lies in mainstream media’s tendency to only showcase one, typically thin, body type, she said.
“Representation matters,” said Andrew. “When you do not see yourself online…there’s a little bit of invalidation.”
The #BigThighTwitter hashtag follows a slew of other grassroots or celebrity-led social media movements celebrating body diversity, including #EffYourBeautyStandards, a campaign launched by plus-size model Tess Holliday to encourage women of all sizes to wear what they want, #EmbraceTheSquish, a movement created by a body-positive Instagrammer encouraging people to celebrate their bodies, squishy bits and all, and #BeautyBeyondSize, a movement started by model Ashley Graham – who recently worked with Mattel to create a Barbie with no thigh gap – with the message that women are beautiful at all sizes.
By posting images of their bodies online, women are using social media to create a space for body diversity that doesn’t exist in mainstream media, said Ben Barry, an associate professor of equity, diversity and inclusion at the Ryerson University School of Fashion.
“This is part of a much larger movement where people are inserting themselves into popular culture, talking back to media creators through online channels and social media,” he said. “People are returning a gaze that has excluded them by making themselves visible.”
The body positivity movement appears to be influencing mainstream media too, with 27 plus-size models gracing New York Fashion Week runways this year, Ashley Graham on the covers of Sports Illustrated and Vogue, and size 14 model Iskra Lawrence landing a gig as a spokesmodel with American Eagle’s Aerie line.
Body positivity activists applaud brands’ attempts to showcase body diversity, but say there’s still a long way to go and that body diversity is sometimes limited to advertising campaigns and does not extend to product.
In the meantime, activists are still focused on fostering their own community online.
“(Social media) has brought girls out of their comfort zones in more of a safe way. It’s a safe area to do it in,” said Torontonian Karyn Johnson, who writes the plus-size fashion blog Killer Kurves. “We’re all cheering each other on.”
Johnson said social media allows young women to take “baby steps” as they get comfortable with their bodies. She’s proud to see larger girls wearing trendy clothes, such as crop tops, in photos posted on social media, even if that photo is only taken in their bedroom.
“Maybe, one day, she’ll wear the crop top out,” said Johnson.