Gina Mei
April 27, 2015 3:00 pm

Over the past few years, the words “thigh gap” have had a tremendous impact on the Internet and the body image of women everywhere. Since it first surfaced, the term has sparked everything from damaging “thinspiration” images on social media, to powerful backlash against retailers who Photoshop their models’ legs in order to make their proportions seem smaller. There has even been backlash to the backlash, from those who are naturally skinny and feel shamed by the ire the term has sparked.

Recently, there was a lull in the “thigh gap” debate. And then, last week, the term resurfaced; this time, with an empowering message that raises awareness about body positivity, without pointing fingers at anyone who doesn’t fit a particular mold — and it’s all thanks to our lady, Lena Dunham. The Girls actress recently shared a close-up photo of her leg in a pair of “shorteralls” with the hashtag #NoThighGap on Instagram, and her simple act of leg-baring sparked a movement of epic social media proportions. 

In a glorious moment of solidarity, women have begun sharing their own photos (both close-up and not) on Instagram, Tumblr, and Twitter, and have turned the #NoThighGap hashtag into a body positive movement across the Internet. The hashtag has become a hub of body love, and it’s wonderful to see so many women so proud of their bodies (as we all should be).

Of course, thigh gap or not, all legs (and bodies and humans) are beautiful. The hashtag isn’t meant to put down women who do have thigh gaps, but rather to celebrate body diversity and those bodies less commonly celebrated or represented in popular media. No one body type should be considered superior to any other — and the purpose of #NoThighGap is to remind all of us that regardless of our leg situation, we should be allowed (and encouraged) to love our bodies just as they are.

The movement is a part of a trend that we’ve been seeing lately, in which women are celebrating their bodies and refusing to let society’s narrow standards of beauty define their self worth. (Rachel Hollis’ bikini picture, Lane Bryant’s #ImNoAngel campaignJessica Kane’s swimsuit photo, and Cassey Ho’s “perfect body” video all come to mind.)

It’s important we remember that a thigh gap isn’t necessarily a measure of health (or even skinniness). We’re all built and shaped differently — and that’s a wonderful thing. What’s “right” (aka natural and/or healthy) for one body isn’t going to be what’s right for every body. If hashtags like #NoThighGap can help us to recognize that, they will also help us to foster an acceptance of all body types and encourage a more open-minded perspective of what “healthy” looks like. We can think of few things as essential.

Our worth should not be determined based on the space between our thighs, however wide or nonexistent that space may be. Whether or not any of us have a thigh gap, we should appreciate our bodies for what they are capable of doing, rather than how they look and if they adhere to a very narrow idea of what is acceptable and beautiful. By celebrating and normalizing body diversity on social media, we can begin to celebrate and normalize it in other ways, too — which is why #NoThighGap is so incredibly powerful for every woman.

Check out a few more of the photos below, and join the conversation and the movement by tagging your photos and tweets with #NoThighGap.

(Images via, via, via, via, via, via, via.)

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