Posted: Jan 17, 2014 8:00 AM
 
The bikini bridge started as an internet experiment, but hashtags and social media's obsession with thinspiration spread the trend like wildfire. Already being called "the thigh gap of 2014," the bikini bridge urges women to aspire for gaping spaces between their hipbones and their bikini bottoms. A body image expert weighs in on the latest body shaming trend — and we wonder if the space we should be concerned with is the one between our ears.

Now trending: Bikini bridge

A week ago social media couldn't stop talking about the polar vortex, but thanks to 4chan's popular /b/ board, bikinis are heating up the internet. The image board is known for pranks and hoaxes, and someone there decided to play around with creating viral content. They dug up the term "bikini bridge" and figured the best way to generate buzz was to play both sides — promote the bikini bridge and then burn the bridge by denouncing the trend.

If you haven't seen a bikini since last summer, the bikini bridge is the gap that occurs between a woman's abdomen and the edge of her bikini bottom. The idea is if you're "thin enough," the fabric won't touch your stomach because it will bridge itself between your protruding hipbones. 4chan /b/ didn't have to dig terribly deep to find photos that worked with their hoax. The bikini bridge has been floating around on Tumblr for at least four years, and photos of ultra-toned body inspiration photos are all over Pinterest and fashion ads. Last year, the thigh gap trended, and thighs around the internet pledged to take up residence in separate zip codes.

The problem with the bikini bridge hoax

The problem with the hoax, like nasty rumors spread by high school mean girls, is that once the viral content began to spread, the intent became meaningless.

We understand 4chan doesn't care if women have a bikini bridge — or a thigh gap or perky breasts created by silicone and a prayer. The purpose of their hoax was to create viral content and to get the internet talking, which they did, making their little social media experiment a booming success.

The problem with the hoax, like nasty rumors spread by high school mean girls, is that once the viral content began to spread, the intent became meaningless.

The contrived photos are peppering "thinspo" sites — pro-eating disorder rabbit holes filled with sometimes photoshopped, mostly unattainable images of rail-thin bodies used as "thinspiration" for girls and women to diet, exercise and purge their way to a better body.

An expert's warning about "thinspiration"

Some people shrug off the concern about thinspo images, but Jennifer Sommer, Registered Dietitian and Certified Eating Disorder Specialist at Eating Recovery Center, talks about the dangers of thinspiration images — whether they're of the trending bikini bridge or 2013's buzzed-about images of the thigh gap. She says, "It's a natural tendency for women to compare themselves to these 'thinspiration' images and then to feel inferior or uncomfortable in their own skin when they don't look the same way."

It creates a sense of inadequacy or that something must be wrong with their bodies, and for some, an urgent need to take action — that is, to diet, purge or over-exercise in order to try and fit that image.

If the average woman sometimes feels inadequate when looking at these contrived images, the effect is compounded for some women and can be physically harmful. She says, "For those already struggling with negative body image or disordered eating that discomfort is magnified. It creates a sense of inadequacy or that something must be wrong with their bodies, and for some, an urgent need to take action — that is, to diet, purge or over-exercise in order to try and fit that image."

How to fight back against extreme body trends

Develop positive body image:

  • Make a list of all the things your body allows you to do that you appreciate and keep adding to that list.
  • Make a list of positive affirmations.
  • List out all the things you like about yourself that don't have to do with how you look.

Fighting back against the bikini bridge is about more than accepting your body the way it is. Sommer suggests focusing on the positive things your body is able to do, not just the things you like about the way it looks. She says, "One way to develop positive body image is to focus on all the things your body allows you to do. It allows you to go for a stroll on a beautiful day. It allows you to hug your loved ones and to sing at the top of your lungs. Make a list of all the things your body allows you to do that you appreciate and keep adding to that list. Sometimes making a list of positive affirmations can help as well. List out all the things you like about yourself that don't have to do with how you look. Maybe it's your sense of humor or strength. Think about the women who have been impactful in your life, maybe a relative or a teacher… was any of that impact related to how she looked? Probably not!"

More about body image

How to better understand body dysmorphia
Why your body image matters to your daughter
The fine line between inspiration and thinspiration