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Don’t worry, we don’t understand #thighbrows either
Color us confused about this hashtag.
All these body-specific hashtags—one of which was popularized by a 4chan hoax—are meant to name and call attention to desirable parts of a woman’s body. But the purpose of the #thighbrow label on Instagram is less certain. A #thighbrow refers to the crescent-shaped fold of flesh that happens between the thigh and torso when the leg is bent forward when at the hip joint, appearing in photographs to look like eyebrows. The thighbrows Instagram account has only five pictures posted and the hashtag is itself poorly populated with only 158 images as of this writing—though it’s a newer hashtag than the others.
Is #thighbrows body-positive? Is it body-shaming? And wait, what is a thighbrow again?
As Elle senior beauty and fitness editor Julie Schott pointed out on Elle.com, the thighbrow is shown to best effect by the frong, a frontal thong or very high-cut leotard/bathing suit that leaves the hips exposed. Paper magazine and the Daily Mail reported on the term as a body-positive trend because celebrities renowned for being curvy, like Beyoncé, Rihanna, and Khloe Kardashian having been showing theirs off.
However it’s worth noting, none of these women have tagged their own posts with #thighbrows. It would seem that curvy women who are photographed doing something which occurs naturally to the body—that is, skin smushing together to create the “brow” shape—is enough reason to label something a body-positive trend.
A photo posted by Fashionista (@fashion.gen) on
Body image experts are skeptical. Courtney Marshall, a Women’s Studies professor at the University of New Hampshire, body-positive fitness coach, plus-size athlete, and fitness instructor, told the Daily Dot in a chat:
“I don’t see how this can be called a body-positive trend when it requires a high cut bathing suit. It also seems to require a flat belly, so that line about it being achievable for anyone seems fishy. It’s a new version of the same old ‘bikini body’ language. No thanks!”
Amanda Levitt, blogger at Fat Body Politics, thinks hashtags that focus on a specific body part all have the potential to be dangerous, including this one. Levitt told the Daily Dot via chat:
“The only purpose this serves is to continue to push a volatile relationship between women and their bodies by forcing them to focus on specific parts of themselves that need to fit a physical ideal instead of learning to accept all of their bodies no matter what they look like.”
Lesley Kinzel, a fat acceptance activist and author of the self-help memoir Two Whole Cakes: How to Stop Dieting and Learn to Love Your Body, would prefer to see an end to these types of hashtags entirely. (Disclosure: Kinzel is the deputy editor of xoJane.com, where I am employed as a contributing editor.) She had this to say via chat:
“People keep seeking validation from these weird manufactured “trends” and relying on comparisons with famous bodies to feel okay about themselves. When really we’d all be better off expending that effort on learning to appreciate our individual bodies on their own merits.”
At least the Internet is having a sense of humor about #thighbrows: One person used the hashtag to share pictures of their pugs, who are rocking their own rolls of skin:
A photo posted by The Pugs PLC (@thepugsplc) on
The #thighbrows hashtag may or may not take off on Instagram. We can be certain, though, that there will always be another women’s-body specific “trend” on the horizon. As Kinzel put it: “What’s next? Sexiness ranking of inner elbow folds? Is your navel the hottest shape for fall?”
Update 9:10am CT, Sept 17: A reader has brought to our attention that the term “thighbrows” has existed on Urban Dictionary since 2005. According to that site, the term refers to “When a woman’s bush sticks out from under her panties on each side.”
Photo via jacrews7/Wikimedia Commons (CC 2.0)
Marianne Kirby is a writer whose work focuses on women's issues and bodies. Her byline has appeared in the Guardian and xoJane, and she has appeared on the Dr. Phil Show and Radio New Zealand.