Cankles and Hip Dips: How Bullshit Buzzwords Are Weaponized to Make Women Feel Defective
And how corporations manufacture insecurities to profit from “fixing” them
This piece was originally published in the now-defunct and sorely missed Wear Your Voice Magazine in January of 2020.
In our culture, we’re constantly bombarded with the idea that any degree of “excess” fat or signs of aging are pathological and shameful. Fortunately, it’s become a bit more popular lately to call out blatant ageism and fatphobia. But it’s easy to overlook how deeply embedded these biases are in our language, particularly in the form of increasingly popular buzzwords such as cankles, crow’s feet, hip dips, (lack of a) thigh gap, gummy smiles, laugh lines, bunny lines, etc.
These buzzwords are often popularized by corporations and social media marketers (or “influencers”) who invent “flaws” that they can then “treat.” The mere existence of these ridiculous terms causes (mostly) women to internalize the idea that these completely natural and inevitable phenomena make them defective.
Although people often assume that women have been insecure about “problems” like thigh gaps and hip dips since time immemorial, many of these insecurities have been manufactured only more recently.
For example, “cankles” didn’t always have its own WebMD page (and never should have, because it’s not a medical condition!), and ankle liposuction to “treat” cankles has only become common in the last decade. Google Trends indicates that before 2012, “thigh gaps” and “hip dips” were not on people’s minds whatsoever (or at least not in their search history). The ubiquity of the term “thigh gap” skyrocketed following a Victoria’s Secret fashion show in December of 2012, at which several models displayed their dangerously thin thighs. And self-loathing related to hip dips only surfaced in 2017 when the obsession with this “flaw” (AKA natural part of human anatomy) went viral on Instagram.
Buzzwords like these are clearly problematic and harmful in countless ways, and below are…