So, #mermaidthighs is a thing now. In case you didn’t know, if your thighs touch this means you’ve got mermaid thighs. Unlike #thighgap thighs which have a gap in between, and are – it would seem -last year’s thighs. #mermaidthighs is apparently a glorious new internet movement enabling women of all different shapes and sizes to celebrate their individual beauty, and is therefore, by definition, a Good Thing.
So why, when I read about #mermaidthighs in the Pool this afternoon, did it make me want to throw my phone across the train carriage I was sitting in?
Seriously, I am angry about this. It’s several hours since #mermaidthighs came to my attention and I am still absolutely fuming about it. Maybe I’m just annoyed because it was the Pool – which usually takes quite a feminist stance on things – which brought the concept to my attention. If I’d seen it in someone’s Daily Mail on the other side of the train carriage, perhaps I could have thought ‘Well it’s the Mail, what do you expect?’ and shrugged it off. But it was in the Pool, which I was starting to think was a casual-misogyny-free zone. Guess not then.
Do I really have to spell it out? Are we so far gone down the road of judging and categorising women on the basis of what their body parts look like, that we can’t actually see why #mermaidthighs is part of the f***ing problem?
Mermaid. Thighs. Think about it. This is a term that we’re using to describe actual human beings, real individual people. They could be teachers, scientists, accountants, book lovers, musicians or runners. But words like those, well they only apply to the other type of human beings, don’t they? You know, the proper human beings with penises. Us girls don’t get to use words that refer to our talents or qualifications to describe ourselves. No, we get words like mermaid thighs. Or thigh gap. Or thighbrow. Cankles. Camel toes. Bootybrow. Muffin tops. Bingo wings. Chicken wings. A nice pert ass. Rump. Loin chops. Sirloin steak. Do you see where I’m going with this yet? If not, let me make it crystal clear: terms like mermaid thighs are part of the same problem as the thigh gap. They’re closer in meaning to the words we use to describe pieces of meat than they are to the words which describe male human beings. And they’re dehumanising women, not empowering us.
If any woman reading this is thinking ‘yeah, but it’s nice to feel good about yourself, what’s wrong with a bit of body positivity?’ – I’d just like to say this: even if #mermaidthighs is intended to be an ego boost, your body isn’t you, it’s the shell that you live in. The real you is what we should be celebrating – whether that’s a woman with a career or a full-time mum, someone who likes playing sport or baking cakes, reading books, flying kites, laughing with friends, whatever. If your thighs have helped you get round a half marathon, great, feel proud of how fit and strong they are. But otherwise, as long as your thighs are doing the job of keeping your lower legs connected to the rest of you, seriously, why not just forget about them? Wouldn’t that actually be even more empowering than #mermaidthighs?