Social media can be a place to gawk at bodies that seem prettier than our own. But it can also be a comforting place to find bodies that look like ours, lines and all.
That's the thinking behind the latest body-positive social media "trend," noticed by MTV News: #ThighReading photos.
"I wasn't thinking I was creating a hashtag, 'cause I post pictures of my body and my body 'flaws' ... I was just sitting on the couch with my legs crisscrossed and I was just looking at my stretch marks and feeling them, because they're kind of deep some places and yeah, I was just looking at it and I was like, 'oh, it's like a palm reading.'"
So she invited her 10,000-plus followers to share their own #ThighReading photos — and the photos of stretch marks, varicose veins, cellulite and scars started rolling in.
The bumpy, imperfect nature of women's legs is one beauty reality that's been fighting for acceptance as of late. After years of airbrushed magazines, leg tanner and panty hose that reaffirm the need to hide our natural legs, efforts from the projects like Love Your Lines and outspoken celebrities like Chrissy Teigen have shed light on a body feature most women feel compelled to keep in the dark.
The recent #ThighReading photos not only have women proudly displaying a body feature so many of us typically hide. Cheekily tagging the photos #ThighReading reframes stretch marks, veins, and all the other little marks on our thighs as a positive, shame-free reality.
Of course, as with so many body-positive social media campaigns, the mission statement is simpler than the reality. Snapping a selfies with a sassy caption about your thighs, while satisfying in the moment, is rarely an immediate self-esteem fix. Plus, posting photos to social media is one part celebration and another part validation, as we seek assurances from the Internet that we're beautiful — a most natural, blameless human tendency — when it would be nice to not have to be "beautiful" at all.
But striving to meet standards of beauty is an impulse that isn't going anywhere; and in the meantime, any efforts that can loosen our restrictive beauty expectations and expand the boundaries of what's "normal" can only be a good thing.
Stretch marks are "so frickin' normal, but because we never see any images in the media that are not Photoshopped or altered in some way, [we] feel the way the way we look is not normal, when we're the normal ones," @princess_labia told MTV News. The more photos "real" women post to Twitter, the more we can hopefully shift the norm.