Negative Space: Policing Women’s Bodies

Recently, Gina Barreca, an English professor at UConn (and friend) who has devoted her career to women and humor wrote a piece and for the Hartford Courant that instigated a FaceBook thread addressing the Bikini Bridge. The Bikini Bridge, which the Telegraph and E! online have linked to an internet hoax perpetrated by our friends at 4chan, refers to the empty space created by a bikini bottom stretched between two hipbones. Hoax or not, a Facebook page was founded in 2012 for Bikini Bridge devotees and Instagram YouTube and Tumblr sites that glorify this negative space, some calling it the Thigh Gap of 2015.

My first thought–and I was not alone–had been to link the Bikini Bridge (which seems to have been a term in circulation since 2009) to the Thigh Gap, the celebrated space that remains between a woman’s thighs when the feet or knees are touching. The Thigh Gap was first linked to British model Cara Delevingne, but enjoys a diverse global following, according to The Times of India. Thigh gap exercise sites have proliferated (“How to get that luscious thigh gap” on Pinterest), along with alarming testimonials by young women willing to starve themselves to acquire one.

Mostly, though, I started thinking about the way women’s bodies are policed in terms of negative space, fetishizing spaces and gaps rather than the actual tissue, bone and fat that make up our bodies.  In the case of the Thigh Gap and the Bikini Bridge, bodies that do not fill out their own anatomical structure–that is, bodies with internal gaps–are eroticized and fetishized.

The oppressive and obsessive emphasis on access to the uterus by the anti-abortion movement is yet another manifestation of this form of policing.

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