The ‘Ab Crack’? Seriously? A History of Awful Body Trends

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As if we really needed another update on the “thigh gap,” there’s now a whole new point of comparison to help women feel like their bodies just don’t measure up: the hideously named “ab crack,” as apparently coined by Elle (gee, thanks).

“Behold, the craziest new core look — an irrigation ditch divide down the center of your stomach, aka the Ab Crack,” noted Monday’s article. “While Ab Cracks vary in depth and definition, all Ab Cracks show us you’ve been in the gym. We get it. We’re very impressed.”

A photo posted by Emily Ratajkowski (@emrata) on Jul 1, 2016 at 11:51am PDT

We are most definitely not — and neither are many of those taking note of the look, including Metro, which called it “the all-time worst” and “the latest body-confidence crushing trend.” The Huffington Post dubbed it “the trend none of us need in our lives,” and an Elite Daily writer ranted (appropriately), “Look, I get abs. I get toned booties. I even get clavicle contouring, weirdly enough. What I don’t get is that we’re now supposed to be coveting a thing that literally does not appear naturally on anyone with more fat on their bodies than Emily Ratajkowski (so, everyone, really).”

We’ve certainly been down this road before — first with the aforementioned thigh gap, which refers to having thighs thin enough to have a space in between them when one is standing with feet together. The unfortunate buzz phrase first burst into social media consciousness back in 2012, apparently inspired by Cara Delvingne’s slender legs as seen on the Victoria’s Secret runway. And it quickly became the scourge of normal-size women everywhere — not to mention a disturbing ideal for “pro-ana” girls to look toward for “thinspo.”

Then, in 2014, came “bikini bridge,” started as a hoax by some very-pleased-with-themselves men via the 4chan imageboard but swiftly and sadly becoming yet another truly yearned-for trend. It seemed the look — that of the space created between a woman’s bikini bottom and her concave stomach, with protruding hip bones turning the material into a “bridge,” as she lay on her back — was too desirable to be ignored.

Last year, of course, brought us the “thigh brow,” with the Kardashian girls (who else?) the appointed ambassadors of a look that refers to the creases that appear at the tops of your thighs, just under the hip bones, when you bend over in a seated or kneeling position. The “brows” apparently indicate you’ve got a nice booty back there.

Whatever it is these various trends are supposed to signify, says Claire Mysko, president of the National Eating Disorders Association, they are unhealthy additions to an already crowded collection of body-obsessed messages.

A photo posted by TINASHE (@tinashenow) on Apr 9, 2016 at 9:26pm PDT

“The reality is that these ‘ideal’ body-image goals are simply unrealistic and unattainable for most people — and unhealthy to even strive for,” Mysko tells Yahoo Style. “Women are literally becoming sick in a quest for ‘perfection,’ requiring treatment, even emergency hospitalization. Eating disorders are not lifestyle choices but rather biologically-based, psychological, and socially rooted disorders with potentially serious — even life-threatening — consequences. And these fads can be triggering to people who are struggling with or are predispositioned to an eating disorder. It’s time that we, as a culture, recognize that fact, and promote being healthy and happy with who we are.”

Pamela Rutledge, director of the Media Psychology Research Center, notes that, while “comparing yourself to others over things that you can’t control can be problematic,” social comparison can be good when you switch the focus to things that can be changed, such as how much you study or exercise (rather than how “beautiful” someone is). “The good thing about social media,” Rutledge tells Yahoo Style, “is that for every new fad (ab crack, thigh gap, etc.), there is now a reaction against it that reaffirms women’s differences and celebrates different kinds of beauty. As each one appears, it becomes a little more ridiculous to have yet another standard of ‘beauty.’”

She adds, also, that the ab crack situation can serve as a good teaching moment for parents — if you sit with your daughter or son and make a list of trends old and new, discuss how unrealistic they are given how different people’s body types are, and use them as conversation topics. “Rather than just dismiss them with, ‘Oh, you’re beautiful,’ which sounds like you’re not listening, ask them also to share some of their strengths, what they are good at, and what qualities matter for different types of successes they value,” Rutledge suggests. “By listening, you defuse the anxiety, and by focusing on strengths, you defuse the importance of the superficial measures of beauty.”

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