The Tumblr trend of early 2013 was the "inner thigh gap" — the space between the thighs that appears when (very few) women touch their feet together. It's associated with anorexia and an obsessive desire to be as thin as possible. It's also been tacitly approved by the fashion industry (from Cosmo: "The Top 10 Inner Thigh Exercises For Sexy B*tches.") While #innerthighgap, #ITG, and #thighgap still turn up plenty of results on social media, a disturbing new iteration of the trend has recently emerged: the #boxgap.
The #ITG trend is female-focused: the photos are artful, often black and white, and pretty, even. Posters crib from fashion blogs, which allows them to feature nail art and emaciated legs all in one frame. The #ITG heroine is Cara Delevingne — she's a quirky-cool supermodel with thick eyebrows and a penchant for Bart Simpson. Fans have made a Twitter account called @CarasThighGap to celebrate her twiggy, fashionable legs (bio: "@Caradelevingne works me out everyday so I can stay this perfect.") Delevingne has called the account "pretty funny." (There's that tacit approval.)
The #ITG trend is, obviously, disturbing. It makes extreme thinness seem glamorous instead of scary. And women suffering from eating disorders find encouragement to keep doing what their doing in the easy-to-find photos. But #ITG is decidedly not sexual. The photos are typically shot straight on, with a focus on the thinness of the legs.
Since Internet terror knows no bounds, men have co-opted #ITG and made it sexual. #Boxgap (named for the slang for vagina) has been cropping up on Tumblr recently. While #boxgap still prizes thinness, the focus is on, well, the box. Photos are typically shot from behind, and the women in them are usually wearing thongs. It's #ITG porn. You can see some relatively tame examples at right (most of the photos aren't SFW). The Twitter account @BoxGap (ostensibly run by a man) posts photos daily. His bio: "I've stolen this idea from a guy off facebook, but it's too good not to share.... For lovers of...."
Perhaps what's most upsetting is the fact that women have started posting #boxgap photos themselves. While the trend started as a way for men to fetishize very thin women, it's being perpetuated by both genders.
Both #ITG and #boxgap celebrate a look that is unattainable for most women. As fitness expert Dr. Vonda Wright explained to the Associated Press in October, "the spacing between a person’s legs is based mostly on genetics. And even extraordinarily thin people may not have a body type that can achieve a gap. You have to be both skinny and wide-hipped."
Further, looking at these images all day is (surprise) horrible for your mental health. #ITG and #boxgap photos make women feel inferior and normalize a body type that is not normal.
One piece of encouragement? After searching #thighgap many times on Tumblr, this icon popped up on my screen: